The latest Global Gender Gap report from the World Economic Forum shows that gender equality will not be achieved until 2095. If this slow wheel of transformation is not pushed to move faster, the result will be a limited number of role models for young females seeking to enter and make it big in the finance sector.
Though the transformation has been slow, South Africa has seen a lot of females climbing up the corporate ladder and making significant change. Their rise has not only benefitted them, but it serves as inspiration for young female graduates who are working hard to be among giants in the finance sector and business world as a whole.
Educating companies of the benefits that come with gender balance in leadership roles needs proper focus. The ACCA report titled gender diversity to boost performance highlights barriers to gender diversity; it is this mind-set that creates the imbalance. They are:
- Lack of commitment to diversity initiatives around the business
- Pressure to focus on short-term financial results
- Failure to recognise and challenge one’s own ‘unconscious bias’ that influences the way one views other people and their potential (for example, assuming confidence equals ability or assuming all women will be the main childcare providers in their home)
- Recruiting people like oneself (i.e. in one’s own image) and from one’s own network
- Recruiting from limited talent pools, for example, graduates from the same universities
- Promoting those who are cast in one’s own image
- Referring to standards and criteria for recruitment and promotion that have traditionally been set by men
- Lack of opportunities for flexible and part-time working
- Failure to establish diversity champions empowered to initiate changes in policies and procedures
- Lack of investment in training and mentoring
- ‘Local context’ and ‘cultural norms’ used as reasons for inaction and complacency
As these barriers are actively combated by companies, transformation will not have to wait until 2095 as the research results showed. Dealing with barriers will allow companies to draw talent from a greater pool, and this will ensure success in meeting the business objectives and strengthening the economy of the country because as businesses thrive so does the economy of the country.
The commitment to combating these barriers will help deal with two audiences: the companies that need to embrace gender diversity, and young women seeking to make a valuable contribution in the business world.
“Thousands of women are working hard on becoming the female business leaders of the future”, says Helen Brand, ACCA chief executive. “Businesses need to take action in response, not just to avoid breaching regulatory requirements, but because diversity is great for business”, she adds. The potential in women in the finance sector and the business world as a whole needs to be nurtured and exploited. A commitment to diversity initiatives will see businesses benefit far more than if they choose to protect the current status quo.