Leading an organisation has never been as demanding and complex as it is today, with COVID-19 redefining leadership roles – putting the workforce in an uncharted environment with far-reaching impact. In this era of widespread disruption, businesses and organisations need to develop and scale responsible leadership, as well as respond with continuous innovation in order to succeed. According to Accenture, a culture of equality is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth.
Globally, women are still scarce at the top, comprising only 2.8 percent of FORTUNE Global 500 CEOs. Locally, the majority of boards now consider gender diversity as a core to their businesses, however, JSE listed companies are not prepared to effect such change without a nudge from the JSE. It is now more important than ever to move the country forward by evolving leadership roles and bringing women on board. Not long ago, Melinda Gates announced that she is pledging $1 billion to promote gender equality over the next 10 years.
Accelerating a culture of equality has never been more critical and must be at the top of any business leader’s agenda. It starts with the trust that diversity is not only the right thing to do, but a business imperative that is treated the same as any other strategic priority. When a strong, equal workplace culture is prioritised, everyone benefits and as a result, the organisation unlocks greater innovation and growth.
Leading organisations – Accenture, AECI, Aspen, Business Engage, Imperial, Nedbank, Pfizer and RMB – share the same sentiment. Individually strong, collectively powerful. On August 7, these organisations are going to host the Voices of Change virtual event to encourage men and women to play leading roles on gender parity in the workplace. The event also aims to inspire organisations, irrespective of their business purpose, to work together towards common goals.
These organisations are setting an example of how organisations should work together to address pertinent issues affecting society. Gender equality in the workplace means celebrating the fundamental role of women, creating real opportunities for them and driving an understanding at every level that it is a business imperative, not a nice to have. Imperial stands by this thinking and have ingrained this into the fabric of who they are, with clear goals and objectives to not only achieve and improve gender equality and female empowerment, but to maintain it over the long term.
For Nedbank, transformation remains a strategic imperative and the company’s leadership acknowledges that women have in the past been unfairly discriminated against in society and in employment. Employment equity at Nedbank is not just a compliance matter, nor is it a burden. Rather, it is a necessary vehicle in driving a successful organisation through fairness, justice, equality and inclusion.
Pfizer, RMB, AECI and Aspen hold similar views. They believe that diversity and inclusion are moral imperatives. The organisations appreciate the uniqueness that each person brings to the organisation and ensure that the workplace is a place where everyone experiences a sense of belonging, is heard, and can make a positive impact.
Business leaders have the power to close the gender gap and unlock human potential, creating an environment in which everyone can thrive and advance. Collaborations are important and together, we can influence and adopt new policies, tools and procedures to attract, develop and retain female talent inside and outside our organisations, and ultimately, unlock the growth potential by achieving true gender equality in the workplace.
By Colleen Larsen, Chief Executive of Business Engage and President of 30% Club Southern Africa