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Report shows that SA leads the way in public sector gender diversity

Kearney’s recent ‘Gender Equality Report’ provides insight into the progress of diversity in private and public sectors across nine key regions globally – South Africa, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, India, France, Spain, Germany, and Singapore.

While South Africa has the most gender diverse parliament with a gender representation of 44% female MPs, the private sector sees South Africa fall to seventh position with only 28.5% of women represented at board level in the JSE 40.

The gap between private and public sectors is attributable to national campaigns for women’s representation in the public life at the national and provincial levels as well as voluntary party quotas, increasingly since 2006.
The gender quota system, in place in its early form since 1994, undoubtedly helped by a forward-thinking attitude towards gender diversity explains why South Africa takes the lead in the public sector.

“Seeing South Africa take the lead against other nations in the public sector with an increasing number of women elected as MPs, is a positive sign of what can be done with the right policies. However, whilst encouraging, there is still a deep parity that remains within the private sector,” says Theo Sibiya, Partner and Managing Director for Kearney Africa.


% Female government representation by country

South Africa44.0%
Spain42.0%
Australia38.0%
France37.0%
UK34.0%
Germany33.0%
Singapore30.0%
US27.0%
India14.0%

Sibiya added that despite ranking seventh out of the nine regions analysed for overall board diversity, South Africa has the highest percentage of the very top-level female board representation with 14% of its total female board members occupying senior positions e.g., Chairperson and member of the C-Suite.
The report also analysed the sectors which showed the most promising levels of gender parity in South Africa. Of the 140 female board members across the JSE 40, 35% are in the Non-Energy Materials sector. Finance is the second most representative sector in South Africa and holds 25% of the total female board members, whereas in Australia, the UK, Spain, the US, and Singapore it is the most gender diverse sector.


% Female board level representation by country

France43.8%
UK36.0%
Australia34.0%
Germany32.5%
Spain29.8%
US29.8%
South Africa28.5%
Singapore17.3%
India17.0%


This year’s annual report demonstrates modest progress compared with 2020. Female representation in the private sector has increased marginally in the United States (1.2%), United Kingdom (3%) and Australia (0.6%), as well as in the public sector in Australia (1%) and the United States (3.5%), which had a record year for female representatives elected. India remains the least gender diverse country studied with female representation under 20% across both public (14%) and private sectors (17%).

Sibiya ended by saying “Over the coming years, it’ll be important that companies are held to the same standard and encouraged to bring more women to decision making roles.”

“Research has shown time and time again the impact women have on boards, it’s not only important to be inclusive but it ultimately leads to better financial performance.”

Theo Sibiya, Partner and Managing Director for Kearney Africa

About the research: Kearney’s Gender Equality Report 2021 was based on research using publicly available data across nine markets – UK, US, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, India and Singapore – regarding female representation at board level and in their respective governments. Board information was gathered using the support of Factset. 

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