How do Women fit into the BBBEE debate in South Africa?


Dr Ivor Blumenthal | CEO | ArkKonsult | mail me |

It is only fitting that in the month of August, we examine the strategy of Government in positioning Women, front-and-center towards Broad Based, Black Economic Empowerment, or as it is commonly referred to, BBBEE.

It may surprise readers to know that from 2000 to 2010, White Women were classified as BLACK, for BBBEE purposes. This was because from 1994 onwards, we recognized that women of all races, including white women, had previously been downtrodden and disadvantaged to the extent that there was at that time, no pay parity in the workplace where men were receiving significantly more pay, for the same work which women were doing. Added to that, women were significantly under-represented at the Boardroom Table and as Shareholders.

From 2000 companies which sought to comply with the BBBEE Scorecard, and therefore achieve Measured Entity status which allowed them to tender for Local, Provincial and National Government contracts, and to supply companies in the Private Sector, which in-turn were dependent on Public Sector business, were encouraged to recruit, train, and develop and importantly to promote women throughout their businesses and to sell shares in those businesses to women, of all races.

By 2010, when the first BBBEE Scorecard was revised, Government produced statistics to show that companies had massively over-invested in white women to achieve Measured Entity Status, but not in their Black, Indian or Coloured counterparts to the same extent. For that reason, from that time when the second version of the BBBEE Scorecard was introduced it was no longer possible for companies to continue this decade long streak for the same purpose. White Women where from that time excluded and not considered for BBBEE Scorecard purposes.

In the latest BBBEE Report released by our Minister of Employment and Labour, in June 2021, women constitute 45% of our Economically Active Population in South Africa, referring to those in the Job Market, or unemployed but seeking to enter the Job Market, or in the Job Market but massively underemployed where they may have a Legal Qualification but are employed as a secretary because they cannot find a fitting position.

It is however not possible to talk about BBBEE and to leave Race out of the conversation. It is in the devil, of the race investigation where the real trends emerge. It is this complexity that causes the turmoil which we have experienced in KZN and Gauteng in July and the ticking time-bomb that needs to be addressed in South Africa urgently if we want to avoid a recurrence of that nightmare.

Firstly generally, while Males of all races occupy 75% of Top Management jobs in South Africa, women collectively only account for 25% of those incumbents. Remember that women account for 45% of the Economically Active Population of South Africa.

What is more astounding is that whereas before 2010 companies hid behind and massively over-achieved in the employment and development of White Women, avoiding doing so with Black, Indian and Coloured females, since 2010 companies seeking BBBEE Recognition have tended to do the same with the recruitment, empowerment and advancement of Indian Women in the workplace.

This is not my interpretation but the outright statement as an issue to be concerned about, from the Ministry of Employment and Labour.

Relating to women in-particular, the Ministry has pronounced that whereas the breakdown of women amongst our Economically Active Population or EAP, is as follows:

  • African: 36%
  • Indian: 1%
  • Coloured: 4%
  • White: 4%

Examining the distribution of Women employed at a Senior Level in the workplace, the following picture emerges:

Race Group Economically Active Population Uptake in the Economy Under Utilisation Over Utilisation
African 36% 10% 27%
Indian 1% 4% 300%
Coloured 4% 3% 1%
White 4% 18% 450%

According to the Minister of Employment and Labour, the reality is clear. An insufficient amount of Black and Coloured Women are being taken seriously at Senior Levels in business, while at the same time Indian Women have become a token for Females who are recruited, employed and promoted to the Boardroom at the expense of primarily their Black and Coloured counterparts. The percentage of White Women represented here has reduced marginally by 1% between 2019 and 2020.

The age-old argument since 1994 against transformation in South Africa has been that there are simply not enough Professionals from these previously disadvantaged groups entering the workplace to achieve this demographic requirement. In-reality, the Minister has revealed that this argument is no longer true, if one was to look at the representation of these races amongst current registered Professionals.

Our Economically Active Population of graduated, qualified and Professionally Designated Women in the Workplace reveals that there is Transformation and enough women of all races available to be recruited and promoted. Namely, 24% Black Professionals, 5% Coloured Professionals, 4% Indian and 14% White Females.

So ultimately dear readers, the reality is that until Employers commit to transforming their businesses to reflect the demographic of demand and supply of trained and qualified human capacity and in-particular Women in the Workplace, until they stop struggling against the reality staring them in the face, this country will continue to be characterised by social turmoil and imbalance.

We have to look to those Women who are being recruited and promoted and becoming decision-makers in our companies to bring about the kind of Transformation which will make this country proud.



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