Home Opinion and Features Pink cupcakes don’t cut it

Pink cupcakes don’t cut it


It’s baffling that we’re still having discussions about the benefits of more women in leadership positions when volumes of research make this point.

Basetsana Kumalo. Picture: Instagram

SOUTH African business has a serious diversity problem – only 3.3% of listed companies have female chief executives, and 85% of chief executives are white despite an increase from 2018.

According to an analysis of thousands of 360-degree reviews, women outscored men on 17 of the 19 capabilities that differentiate excellent leaders from average or poor ones. There’s mounting research that women are better leaders.

The study showed that women are thought to be more effective in 84% of leadership competencies that are most frequently measured, particularly taking initiative, acting with resilience, practising self-development, driving for results and displaying high integrity and honesty.

However, when women are asked to assess themselves, they are not as generous in their ratings. This aligns with my understanding from hundreds of conversations with women in the workplace.

Women’s Month is being observed to honour a profound act of dignity and unity, when in 1956 women of all races from all over South Africa marched to the Union Buildings to protest the pass laws.

In my view, we should honour the actions of the women of 1956 and our leaders by improving the lives of South African women, instead of turning August into a time to succumb to pink platitudes and pink cupcakes on desks “to recognise our women”.

It’s baffling that we’re still having discussions about the benefits of more women in leadership positions when volumes of research make this point.

And yet here we are. I

t’s time for South African employers to look at their businesses. It’s time to make at least one bold move.

Start to measure something you haven’t previously measured. Actively investigate whether institutional barriers for women have crept into your organisation.

What are you doing as an employer of women? What’s the gender pay gap in your organisation? Do you have flexible working options? Are women being recruited, promoted and retained in your business? Is your workplace one in which women are free from unwanted attention? Do women have a voice in your organisation?

Creating a workplace which works for women has the bonus of working for men too. Workplace cultures that place an emphasis on respect are good for business. Diverse workplaces are more creative, happier and more productive.

My challenge and yours is to do something tangible this Women’s Month instead of participating in patronising marketing activities that frivolously celebrate women. This comes across as trying to make women feel better about the fact that nothing significant is happening, rather than getting to the crux of the issue.

Donna Rachelson is a

branding and marketing specialist, chief executive of Branding & Marketing YOU, and author of best-selling

South African book Play to Win: What women can learn from men in business