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Mercer’s First-Ever Survey Into Gender Parity In The Workplace For Africa

Titled ‘When Women Thrive 2020 Sub-Saharan Report’, the survey paints a hopeful picture of the continent. The international consulting firm has carved a niche in gathering data and providing a global picture of gender inequality in the workplace. Respondents of the survey included multinational companies with a footprint on the continent across several industries. 

“The highlight of this survey is that people always think that Africa is a dark continent, where women are abused and oppressed. But actually, the data doesn’t show that, data shows that there are strong women’s movements and advocacy towards parity.” – Tamara Parker, Chief Executive Officer, Mercer South Africa.

When compared to global results, Africa has shown the biggest improvement in creating policies that promote diversity and inclusion. The report defines diversity as a “variation in backgrounds, attitudes, values, beliefs, experiences, behaviors and lifestyle preferences with respect to gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, language, age, cognitive and physical abilities and characteristics, sexual orientation, education, religion, socio-economic situation, marital status, social role, personality traits, and ways of thinking.” And defines inclusion as “practices that provide an equitable and fair distribution of resources, such as jobs, income and access to opportunities and information, which ultimately drive and support a culture where all members can thrive.”

However, challenges around the implementation of these policies remain. For many respondents, traditional gender roles mean many women do not occupy positions that make key decisions. Policies around maternity and a flexible work environment for mothers is also an area of improvement. 

Parker says the report has highlighted gems on the continent, “Mauritius is far ahead in terms of legislation with its policies on empowering women; not only in the workplace but in society in general. That is a combination of legislation, women’s advocacy, and commitment by leadership in organizations to drive diversity and the advancement of women.”

The report recommends programs that can improve the respondents’ working environment for women. But notes how the COVID-19 pandemic could set back some gains, as women have bore the brunt of job shedding brought on by lockdowns.