More Women Non-Exec Board Directors Needed


Whilst the number of women who sit on boards as non-executive directors in South Africa is largely better than the global position in respect of female representation, we still have a long way to go as women face the constant challenge of the culture of patriarchy which is pervasive in this country

Women are generally up against boardroom gatekeepers where gender and social stereotyping, as well as the informal referral systems work against them, and companies are facing pressure from both shareholders and institutional investors to take on the mantle of greater diversity to improve decision making. A clear example of this is the PIC, who as the single largest investor on the JSE is using its muscle to counter the lack of gender and racial transformation it faces in many South African businesses.

This skills shortage is further contributed to by the new corporate governance recommendations. These recommendations require much stricter adherence to the principle of independence as there is a need for a more effective induction process and ongoing development of directors. This ensures that companies in both the private and public sectors remain competitive with effective boards, and directors well versed in their duties and obligations.

In addition the demand for female board directors is particularly high as businesses try and score a double whammy in respect of BEE requirements by appointing black, female directors – consequently the demand far outstrips the supply. This is because historic gender and diversity discrimination makes this talent grouping the most disadvantaged as they are least likely to have had the adequate business and executive experience for board roles.

What is clear is that there needs to be effective talent development for board director level roles, and that specific interventions are needed to bridge board director skill gaps. When better representation is achieved in respect of gender and racial diversity, studies have shown that such diversity produces better business results.

This is achievable generally because women feel the impact of the gender diversity they represent and have higher expectations of themselves than men; they do not take their board roles for granted and are highly motivated and prepared.

Another factor to consider in board director selection is that the board needs to represent the customer base. As women are 51% of the population and are consumers, entrepreneurs, managers and investors in their own right, female board representation is essential as a business imperative for many industries.

About Sam Deuchar

Sam Deuchar leads the Rebmormax team. She is a seasoned HR, talent and change management executive with extensive corporate and consulting experience across the finance, IT and construction industries. She provides consulting expertise specifically in talent acquisition and people strategy.