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There have been a number of reports over the last few years detailing the issues of gender equality and women’s economic development in relation to corporates worldwide. These include reports from private concerns such as McKinsey & Co., PwC, Deloitte and Eversheds; Organisations such as the European commission and the World Bank; and institutions like Harvard University.  

The reports generally look at gender equality from two aspects; quotas and the business case.

  • From a global point of view countries like Norway, Italy, France, Kenya, India and Canada either have enacted  or have tabled legislation in terms of gender equality. 
  • Countries such as Germany, UK, Australia, Malawi and Nigeria have governance codes and / or voluntary efforts.
  •  International companies like Deutsche Telkom have their own “in-house” requirements. 

On average the gender requirement is between 25% to 40% gender diversity on decision making structures within companies over generally a five year period. South Africa is above the norm at 50% which is in line with the SADC Protocol mentioned above.

Many of the reports of the private concerns concentrate on the business case for gender equality and women’s development. The McKinsey & Co. reports Women Matter are insightful for two reasons. Firstly they have issued reports four years in a row from 2007 to 2010, each report building on the previous one. Secondly, the reports encompassed the periods just before, during and slightly after the economic crisis.

A few of the observations from the reports are;

  • The study suggests that the companies where women are most strongly represented at board or top management level are also the companies that perform best.
  • Women now have a major influence on purchase decisions.
  • Capital markets and investors are paying more and more attention to corporate performance in terms of gender diversity.
  • Companies with three or more women in senior management positions produce better results in terms of organisational excellence than companies with no women at the top. Performance increases once a critical mass is attained, namely 30%. Below this no significant difference in company performance is observed.
  • Companies with a higher proportion of women on their management committees are also the companies that have the best financial performance.
  • It is more important than ever for companies to promote diversity of leadership behaviours. Increasing the participation
  • A majority of leaders, both men and women, now recognise gender diversity as a key performance driver.

Whilst Norway led the pack with legislation in 2005 the majority of the legislation, codes and reports relate to a period from 2007 to 2011. It is considered by most too early to start talking about causality, but McKinsey notes in one part of a survey;

“while this link does not demonstrate causality, it does provide a strong factual basis to continue to argue in favour of greater gender diversity in corporate top management.”    

 It can be argued that this is true across the board when discussing gender equality and women’s development.