South Africa Outperforms on Female Directors, With Work to Do

South Africa’s push for female empowerment has led to an outperformance against emerging-market peers when measured by gender diversity in listed company boards, along with a realization that much more needs to be done to pursue equality.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange is the only exchange from a developing country to beat the Group of 20 average for female representation among directors of companies traded on the bourse, according to figures from Sustainable Stock Exchanges.

Women hold 29% of the board seats in the top 100 listed companies in South Africa. That compares with an average of 20% on major G20 exchanges and figures of 12% in Japan, 10% for the Shanghai bourse and 7.4% in South Korea. South African women chair 11% of the companies, beating the G20 average of 5.5%.

South Africa Outperforms on Female Directors, With Work to Do

The relative success is helped by charters in South African industries ranging from mining to finance, that have set targets for gender representation, said Shameela Soobramoney, chief sustainability officer at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

“Those targets start to inspire action, because you are given something that you must report against,” Soobramoney said during an online panel discussion this week at the launch of Bloomberg New Voices. The program is a global initiative to increase the visibility of women and other under-represented executives in finance across media platforms.

South Africa Outperforms on Female Directors, With Work to Do

While South Africa’s ranking is an achievement, it’s not enough, according to Soobramoney. The exchange is seeking to drive greater transparency around the issue through mandatory gender reporting, she said. “Once you need to disclose in the public domain, that in itself is an incentive to try and push those numbers.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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