Accenture, Thomson Reuters and Nedbank gathered together yesterday for an open collaborative call to action on issues affecting women at work and at home. The event provided African perspectives about the importance of cooperation to accelerate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5 and 17, which aim to revitalise universal partnerships and gender equality.
Themed Voices of Change, the event delivered a diversity of insights from men and women of different backgrounds, professions and industries, as well as from all levels of their organisations, to strengthen the value proposition of gender equality, activate awareness, share learning, and identify interventions that will help empower women and embed a new sustainable set of values across organisations.
Addressing over 200 female and male professionals, Bastiaan Smit, Finance Executive for the Card, Payments and Transactional division at Nedbank said that while the road to achieving the bank’s gender equity still required work especially in the senior and top management levels, a lot has been done from just one female bank manager in a small town some years back, to an overall 62% female representation in the bank.
Smit highlighted that senior executives need to mentor and coach the up and coming women managers. “We need to find more role models for our female employees,” said Smit. He reiterated that the bank is striving to ensure that there is equal pay between male and female employees.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of Accenture Africa, Vukani Mngxati, an equitable workforce is a key priority for Accenture and the company committed to achieving a gender-balanced workforce, with 50% women and 50% men, by 2025 – globally. “With this goal, we are sending an important message to our people and our clients confirming our commitment to a gender-balanced workforce,” said Mngxati.
“We embrace diversity as a source of creativity and competitive advantage. At Accenture, we have taken a number of steps to attract, retain, advance and sponsor women on our path to achieving a gender balanced workforce.”
The Voices of Change South African chapter is the result of the 2017 One Young World Summit where Accenture and Thomson Reuters’ attendees identified an opportunity to leverage their networks and collaborate to achieve gender equality. Similar events have already happened in Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States as part of International Women’s Day in March 2018.
Sibongakonke Fumba, Regional Business Lead for Thomson Reuters called on corporates to take bold steps to realise their gender parity policies. He said that similarly societies also needed to change their perceptions about the roles for males and females. “In essence, we as a community are not creating an environment for women to thrive. We, as a society, are all responsible for creating that change. It does not start and end with corporate.”
Themba Kalua, Deputy Representative of UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office said countries would see their GDPs grow by up to 12% if they close gender gaps. Companies that have more women are performing much better and are realising more profits. “Even during peace negotiations, delegates that had women representation achieved better peace deals than those that had only male representation.”
Keynote Speaker Catherine Peter, Chairwomen for One Young World Africa, called on women to be bold and to use their positions and voices in the boardrooms. She said knowledge is power and women should always ensure they are knowledgeable in their fields of expertise and be consistent in transforming their organisations into a women-friendly environment.
The second panel discussed how women can be empowered to counter gender-based violence. The conversation mirrored the demands presented to President Cyril Ramaphosa this week by thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings as part of the Total Shutdown Campaign.
Nonhlanhla Sibanda-Moyo, a Gender Specialist with the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, who was at the Union Buildings in Pretoria said that South Africa had failed women in the past 24 years of democracy. Woman abuse has costed the country up to R40 billion. While the corporates contribute through corporates’ social responsibility programmes and often assisted NGOs addressing women abused victims, the country was not doing enough to fight the scourge.
In fact, “gender violence alone takes away 1% of South Africa’s GDP. We all need to take decisive action,” said Sneha Shah, Managing Director for Africa at Thomson Reuters.
“Women should be allowed to craft their solutions to this problem and we hope you’d be part of the conference on gender issues that affect this country,” added Sibanda-Moyo referring to the campaign’s plea for President Ramaphosa to fund and host a conference that will seek solutions to end gender discrimination and violence against women in South Africa.
Lizzy Mogale, Strategy Executive Retail Business Banking, Nedbank commented that “we have a generation of men who feel they have lost their level of significance because women are finding their voice. The empowerment of women should not be seen as a disempowerment to men, instead we should work to build an equal society”.
Sandy Mohonathan, Africa Human Resources Leader at Accenture Africa urged organisations to move faster on their journey to becoming the most truly human organisation by helping their women to be successful both professionally and personally. She also asked women to lead with a heart and be better than their male counterparts by lifting each other rather than chasing profits.
All women and the few men that attended the event pleaded that the change needs to start from management level. With South Africa having a long way to go on gender inequality and inclusion, the society at large needs to continue having discussions about pertinent issues which matter most to women.