Womenomics is a movement that calls on South Africans, especially corporates, to make a concerted effort to accelerate women’s participation in the economy.
“What we are saying to corporate SA is that, if there’s any favour you will do for women on Women’s Day, it is not to send them flowers and chocolate. It is taking the Womenomics test and publishing your findings, then telling us what your plans are in improving your Womenomics scorecard.”
The Womenomics is a spin-off from Olwethu’s Womenomics segment of her Podcast, The Sit Down with Olwethu Leshabane. The segment entails having various conversations with thought leaders and industry experts to inspire, motivate, and equip women with the tools to manage and improve their financial and economic conditions.
Amanda Dambuza, Sihle Bolani, and Ipeleng Mkhari are three of the multiple women that believe in the Womenomics agenda explains Leshabane. “Beyond the launch of this campaign, we are focussing on the three streams (HR/Employment, Funding, and Procurement) in our backend that will work alongside corporates to improve their Womenomics scoring. Sihle, Ipeleng, and Amanda form part of the advisory panel we have put together.”
“We are a few days away from another Women’s Month. From more flowers and chocolates, more (online) seminars, more talks on transformation, more on promises of change,” she says. “Yet statistics show the gender gap in corporate South Africa is very large.”
51,1% – the women population in South Africa
32,4% – the women unemployment rate in South Africa
20.7% – of women directors on the JSE
30% – the gender pay gap in South Africa
11.8% – chairperson positions on the JSE held by women
3.31% – companies on the JSE with women CEOs
In South Africa, the percentage of CEOs who are women is lower than the global average which is 12%. According to the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (BWASA) annual census (2017), South Africa produces more female graduates than male ones and the research has shown that South African women in the corporate environment have a strong desire to succeed. “So, then we need to ask ourselves some important questions,” says Leshabane. “If the skills AND ambitions are there amongst us as South African women, what or who is holding us back?”
“Well, I will tell you,” she says. “It is organisational and societal factors that limit the abilities of women reaching the top, not their own personal ones – we actually want growth. And it seems as each day goes by, we realise that the glass ceiling is, in fact, man-made. “
In a country with staggering numbers of absent fathers and even more shocking statistics of how underpaid women are, “We (are expected to) take on the primary roles of the 3Cs (Cooking, Cleaning and Caring) for the children in our homes – roles that yield zero compensation. We do this whilst maintaining the fine, but a near-impossible balance of keeping up with our Careers. That makes it 4Cs – Cooking, Cleaning, Caregiving, and Careers.”
Women perform roughly 66% of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn only 10% of the income.
“Gender equality” and “women’s empowerment” are huge buzz words in the South African workforce, yet the pay gap is still huge – this is arguably one of the biggest barriers between women and career progression.
As an author, public speaker, and transformation advocate, Sihle Bolani eloquently puts it: “It’s not empowerment that women need. We have always had power. What we need is for organisations and society to stop the erasure of women’s experiences and to put an end to the disablement of women’s progress, ability to successfully and safely pursue their dreams, and create wealth on their terms.”
“We’ve seen a wave of advocacy for gender equality and the emphasis on the importance of having women in business and leadership roles. We have seen the media coverage and the solidarity campaigns, we’ve seen the feminist mobilisations, but even with the greater awareness in the corporate world of the need for – and benefits of – promoting women, the progress isn’t fast enough,” adds Leshabane.
“Some women may find themselves having to move roles and change companies or move around departments in order to navigate the proverbial glass ceiling or even be victims of discrimination based on their sex, femininity, and age around boardroom tables; and I myself have had to tuck away my femininity in the name of the climb.”
‘’The only thing that sets women apart from men is the opportunity, and in such an economically divided world, we should not take lightly the endless struggles waged by women to just be,’’ says businesswoman Ipeleng Mkhari.
Leshabane feels that “as women, we are judged for the maternity leave, and on the other hand also judged for the late nights we put in at the office, judged for having to dash off to pick up your little one from school and then expected to get on with it during a global pandemic that has seen us balance care, cooking, cleaning, and careers.”
Has anyone taken a look at the policies that disfavor women and sideline them? Asks Leshabane.
“As women and as mothers, we need to put our energies and strengths behind the Womenomics agenda. An agenda that seeks to see women’s economic inclusion at the heart of corporate policies. The Womenomics agenda “is the idea that women’s economic advancement will improve the economy as a whole” as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once said.
“Economic empowerment of women is without a doubt the biggest step towards resolving some of society’s ills. There can be no prosperity without the economic emancipation of women,” says entrepreneur Amanda Dambuza.
“So, what do we want from Corporate SA?” Asks Leshabane.
- Review and take stock of the policies relating to employment, upskilling, and supplier/funding opportunities of women.
- Take accountability for the shortcomings, internal biases, policy biases, and the structural and systemic oppression that has allowed women to be overlooked for so long. Thoroughly interrogate them and take the real and tangible steps necessary to address them.
- Publish findings within the organisation and to the public and let us know what the way forward will be.
- Take Action
Define and publish a sustainable plan for how the Womenomics will be grown to a desirable level over a realistic timeline. Stay accountable and be transparent throughout the process and journey.
- Execute the plan!
“With that said, dear CEO, CIO, COO, CMO, HR practitioner, and all that are pivotal to the hiring, funding and giving women business opportunities, what do your Womenomics look like?”