Highlighting the benefits of gender diversity at WEF Africa


The World Economic Forum in Durban, South Africa, covered many topics related to gender parity, including education and training

“Achieving inclusive growth through responsive and responsible leadership” was the theme of the 2017 World Economic Forum on Africa held in Durban, South Africa, last week. Several of the panel discussions touched on the topic of how ICT can be used to spur inclusive growth across the continent and address the important issue of gender equality in the workplace.

A recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) states that gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa an average of $95 billion a year, jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth. The report further states that 61 percent of working African women still face economic exclusion as their jobs are underpaid and undervalued. Ericsson’s report on Gender Parity in ICT shows that a tendency of gender parity exists in developed countries where ICT solutions and internet access are widely available and affordable.

It’s clear that bringing an end to gender inequality in the business world requires full recognition of the value both men and women bring to the workplace, as well as concrete actions to bring about real change. Several studies show that companies with a high representation of female board members significantly outperformed those with no female directors. With these findings in mind, it is obvious that more diverse companies are at a significant advantage.

Long-term female empowerment requires the active support of public and private sector leaders who recognise the importance of striving for gender equality at senior levels. Jeff Radebe, the South African Minister in the Presidency, made a powerful statement on this topic recently: “When we empower women, we empower a nation. A nation that is empowered is guaranteed to prosper.”

Without diversity in the workplace it is difficult for businesses to adapt, innovate and progress. Women have different talents, attributes and bring varying skills to the public and private sector. Without female representation, organisations lose out on half of the talent pool available and the unique attributes that female workers can introduce, from entry-level positions through to the boardroom.

I believe that it is our role as business leaders to continue encouraging people to go beyond stereotypes and recognise the contributions that each individual, male or female, can make to the workplace. A recent study by PwC cited that 83 percent of women seek careers with businesses that demonstrate strong records of diversity and equality. Business reputation is a key definer for overall success among key stakeholders, including employees, investors and future talent pool.

I hope that last week’s discussions at WEF Africa will act as a springboard, helping more African organisations in the public and private sectors to take the step toward setting firm commitments in the area of gender equality. Personally, I am proud to work for a gender-intelligent company that has succeeded in increasing the number of women at senior-level positions globally to 35 percent in 2016. There is more work to be done, of course, but it all starts with setting ambitious goals and then working to achieve them. Our next target is for 30 percent of all employees to be female by 2020, including leaders and executives. Beyond achieving our own internal goals, we are determined to use our technology to help other organisations in both the public and private sectors, in Africa and elsewhere, to empower women and make full use of their skills and competence across the continent and around the world.

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