Launch of SABPP Gender Equity Award: Accelerating women empowerment at work by Thandi Thankge

March 8, 2018
SABPP standard on employment equity and diversity management sets a clear transformation agenda for creating inclusive workplaces By Marius Meyer
March 9, 2018

Today is #InternationalWomensDay.  This day reminds us how much work is still needed to empower women at work and in society at large.  But as SABPP representing HR Professionals, we are rising to the occasion by launching our first Gender Equity Award a part of the Employment Equity, Diversity and Transformation Awards. These prestigious awards will be issues on 14 May, followed by a summit featuring case studies of the winners on 15 May.

There is no doubt that over the years the contribution of women in the world economy has grown immensely. The 2015 Mckinsey Global Institute estimates that the world may achieve as much as 42% of the full potential or up to $12 trillion of annual output in 2025. South Africa seems to be even more aggressive in that according to the Status of Women in the South African Economy Report 2015, it estimated that the women’s contribution to GDP is currently somewhere between 35% to 45 %. This obviously excludes the contribution of women through unpaid work, which is quite common.  This is not an insignificant contribution, however this indicates that still much more need to be done, if we are to advance our economy by using its full human capital. Forward-thinking leaders understand that human capital is core to having a competitive advantage. Countries that focus systematically on talent competitiveness tend to do better economically.

We further acknowledged that when more women are involved in the economic activities the economy grows faster. Politically, South African women have played a significant role in shaping the future of this country. We are reminded of this, as we commemorate Women’s Day on 9th August, wherein 1956, a total of about 20 000 women of all races marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the discriminatory pass laws which had restricted the movement of black people in the country. Fast-forward to modern day democratic South Africa, one sees an opportunity to further accelerate the role that women play in shaping, the country we all want politically and economically. As much as we acknowledge that progress has been made in the public service, so much more is yet to be addressed in the private sector, when it comes to women under-representation at senior managerial level. Industries such as construction, mining, finance, technology and transport sectors are some of the areas of concern.  According to Global Talent Competitiveness Index, women are mostly over-represented as employees in community and social sciences where we see, with a split of 61% women compared to 39% males this year (2017).

In the workplace, our role as HR Practitioners is to promote women’s economic empowerment through education, training and skills development initiatives. One can argue that a significant amount of money is spent annually on skills development interventions, but the question is whether this is done in a structured and integrated manner so as to yield meaningful benefits not only for the company but for the entire country. South Africa is ranked 67th overall on the 2017 Global Talent Competitiveness Index, whereas the country’s ability to retain talent South Africa is lowly ranked at 101 – out of 108 countries. This indicates that organisations should pro-actively adopt a professional approach to managing and developing talent in a sustainable manner.

The SABPP HR standards have so far indicated that out of all the audits conducted, Talent Management remains a challenging standard for most companies to accomplish. So, the challenge remains with us to embark on the audit process – in our own respective companies – so as to identify areas of development such as talent management, learning and development, performance management standards and others. These should be addressed for the benefit of upskilling and uplifting the country’s proficiency level in all disciplines. In most organisations, women who are normally at the bottom of the rank require more attention, not only in terms of development but also in terms of promoting family friendly policies that encourage flexible working practices as well as diversity and inclusion management practices.  Imagine a South Africa that will have the lowest rate of unemployment and poverty ascribed to HR practitioners, having played a significant part in advancing the country’s overall human capital. This is even more so because over the years the HR profession has seen females progressing fairly well into senior management roles in a number of companies nationally. Consequently, the right decision-making processes have taken a progressive positive turn with regard to management practices, where encouraging female development is and should be lesser of the challenge than it used to be in years gone by.


According to the recent World Economic Forum on Africa 2017, African leaders have recognised the urgency of investing in the continent’s women to ensure they are productive agents of their growing economies, and have articulated the African Union 2017 Roadmap around that theme. Beyond policy, governments are encouraged to work very closely with the private sector, multidimensional organisations and civil society to scale up the things that work, and make that agenda a reality.

On behalf of the SABPP Board Exco it is also my pleasure to announce the SABPP Gender Equity Award today on International Women’s Day. While a lot of work remains, we are also aware of some sterling work done by HR Managers at some companies to advance women at work.  I am inviting you to share these success stories with us and to submit your work to be considered for the Gender Equity Employer Award.

Women empowerment is a must for the betterment of South Africa’s future!

Thandi Thankge

Vice-chairperson: SABPP


For more information about the gender awards, visit the awards website or follow SABPP on Twitter @SABPP1 or on Instagram @sabpp_1