Although South Africa has made significant progress in the gender empowerment stakes and was ranked in the top 20 (17th) out of 136 countries in the 2015 World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Gender Gap Report’, there is more work to be done. V anessa Rogers taps into the superb programmes of multinationals, which are empower ing local women in the fields, spaza stores and boardrooms.

Women in the know

KPMG’s continual appointment of female professionals is not only a credit to the firm’s commitment to transformation and diversity in the workplace, but is symbolic of the transformation milestones it has achieved and its ongoing commitment to this progress in SA.

In a marketplace defined by complexity, disruption and change, today’s most successful enterprises are those that bring diverse perspectives and experiences to each new challenge. Along with being the right thing to do, gender diversity and inclusion offer a strategic advantage – especially at a leadership level. During
2015, a panel discussion between KPMG SA and the International Women’s Forum revealed that SA ranks among the best in the world in terms of women on boards; the problem is that this is off a low global base (30 percent or less).

The value of women on boards is that they take a different approach to men, see things in a different light and are often more likely to ask the difficult questions, thereby getting to the nitty-gritty of an issue. McKinsey & Company’s research has shown that women bring dividends in the form of profitability and share performance.

It is against this backdrop that KPMG regards women empowerment as an opportunity to cast its net wider and embrace the diversity of views and thoughts in the boardroom, instead of considering this a compliance burden and tick-box exercise.

Beyond this, KPMG serves as a dynamic vehicle for transformation as numerous women in the country are brought into the mainstream economy, especially in areas that are still often viewed as the exclusive reserve of men. For example, women make up 56 percent of the Firm’s workforce.

This is no mean feat as the percentage is also reflective of women at its senior management levels, providing a pipeline of capable and experienced leaders of the future. The executive team comprises 25 percent female representation, with 30 percent female representation at board level.

Additionally, commitment to developing women in the workplace is linked to the overarching dedication of going beyond the confines of daily operations in building capacity and success. In this regard, the Firm has established programmes that serve as spring-boards for women.

One such programme is the KPMG Network of Women (KNOW), established in 2003 to enhance the personal and professional objectives of women professionals. KNOW focuses on practical and sustainable approaches in educating and advancing women in the workplace. The programme strives to advance women leadership across careers and cultures, while facilitating networking opportunities for women at the firm.

While KPMG’s female talent pool looks healthy, the firm’s gender statistics are in stark contrast to many other South African corporates where gender equality at top management remains a concern.

According to director: KPMG Advisory Services, Farzanah Mall, who is also the national president of the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa, BWASA’s recent census highlights a rather bleak picture for women on the corporate ladder in SA.

“It is very concerning that only 8.79 percent of JSE-listed companies have 25 percent or more women directors. People are our greatest asset. Organisations must adapt strategies and innovate in order to remain relevant and competitive. If we are unable to retain and develop our top female talent, SA will not be able to compete in a global business landscape. We need bold solutions and workplaces, where the best talent can flourish,” she stated.

At KPMG, women are not only provided with an economic voice but a base from which their interests can be broadly and tangibly promoted. This is facilitated by actively providing a platform from which women can participate as strategic players in the country’s economic development and by MNCs, such as this one, which demonstrate how doors can be opened for women with the determination, drive and work ethic to succeed.


A Universum Talent survey from August 2015, which shows how professionals view employers, ranked Coca-Cola
as the fourth best company to work for in SA. One of the reasons for this perception could be the Coca Cola 5by20 programme, which showcases the company’s global commitment to the economic empowerment, by 2020, of
five million women entrepreneurs acting across its value chain.

Here in SA, Coca-Cola’s goal is to reach 110 000 women by addressing the skills gap they face in ‘small retail’. Targeted women entrepreneurs will receive business skills and leadership training, mentoring and peer-networking advice.

One notable 5by20 networking and community-building event was the latest ‘iBusiness Journey Yami’, where beneficiaries came together to share their inspirational stories and the lessons they had learnt (**). According to Zipporah Maubane, Head of Communications at Coca-Cola SA, “The biggest issue we face in addressing gender equality and skills development is that many female micro-entrepreneurs do not have the business-skills training to allow them to manage, market and grow their initiatives successfully.”

She adds, “By learning stock and finance management, customer service and the other skills provided by the 5by20 programme, these ambitious entrepreneurs are able to improve their daily business practices so as to increase their profits.”

Women participating in the programme tend to be self-employed, running spaza and tuck shops to provide for their families. When they’ve acquired the skills offered on the course, growth is stimulated, trainees make better business decisions and there is a positive impact on the livelihoods of their families.

Because women tend to form the backbone of their communities, particularly in the developing world, investing in their entrepreneurial skills boosts local economies, provides jobs, increases child survival rates, and improves overall welfare and educational opportunities.

Case studies

Nonhlanhla Mabe, a widow and single mother, owns Malang Tuck Shop in Katlehong. She claims that the skills and training she’s gained from the programme have empowered her to keep more accurate records, and to price products in an enticing way for new and existing customers.

Owner of Barolong African Food, Noko Makganyele, says she’s gained a better understanding of how to manage her finances. Through the training, it is not just her business that’s developed but also her self-confidence. According to Coca-Cola SA, the ‘golden triangle’ approach to such programmes requires a high-level collective commitment from the private sector, civil society and Government to reach the necessary women-empowerment targets.

5by20 is The Coca-Cola Company’s global commitment to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women
entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain by 2020.

A-maize-ing women

The South African Breweries (SAB) has partnered with the Department of Small Business Development and the Agriculture Research Council in a R20-million initiative involving black emerging women farmers. The initiative will fast track their inclusion into the formal economy by granting access to finance, providing technical expertise and capacity building, and ensuring participants have received the mentorship to act as suppliers to SAB.

A division of their long-standing ‘Go Farming’ programme, SAB’s Women in Maize takes “a holistic approach to
afford maize-farming women-owned cooperatives the opportunity to access support structures [that] will strengthen their capability as agricultural enterprises, [enabling them] to be integrated into the brewer’s supply chain,” comments SAB executive director of Corporate Affairs and Transformation, Monwabisi Fandeso.

Around 100 emerging farmers will be selected from the maize-growing regions of Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, based on size of farms, unrestricted access to land and its farming history, and investment readiness. The project could deliver as much as 16 000 tons of yellow-maize cultivar, which SAB plans to buy via selected agencies.

According to Fandesco, “This is just one of the ways in which SAB is strengthening its response to government’s call for big business to take responsibility and a leading role in the creation of sustainable jobs in the agriculture sector. [This will address] the increasing challenge of unemployment.”

Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, added that Government would continue to call on multinationals to play their part in strengthening small business: “I commend SAB for their contribution and hope other players will emulate this fine example.”

Numbers & stats

Five timeless components related to empowering women in society and the workplace

A United Nations paper ‘Guidelines on Women’s Empowerment’ draws out the following five timeless components related to empowering women in society and the workplace. They are:

  • women’s sense of self-worth
  • their right to have and determine choices
  • their right to have access to opportunities and resources
  • their right to have the power to control their own lives, both within and outside the home
  • their ability to influence the dir ection of social change to create a more just social and economic order, nationally and internationally
  • What business, civil society and government do not realise, when they lose focus on the matter, is that specifically “women’s economic equality is good for business” according to McKinsey & Company, in their research ‘Women Matter’ (2014, p.6).

    “Companies greatly benefit from increasing leadership opportunities for women, which is shown to increase organisational effectiveness. It is estimated that companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher in all dimensions of organisational efficacy.”

    While South Africa may rank highly in a global sense when it comes to opportunities for women in boardrooms and Parliament – where in-house training, mentoring and peer-networking is provided – multinationals also need to look outside their own staff contingent to programmes for suppliers and micro-entrepreneurs in their business niches. Often these women have an even greater need for business-skills training than those that they permanently employ.

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