S. Africa Proposes New Gender Equality Bill For Businesses

S. Africa Proposes New Gender Equality Bill For Businesses

Some business organizations are questioning a proposed new gender equality bill in South Africa that calls for half the decision makers in public and private sectors to be women, according to a report in BizCommunity.

South African women earn up to 33 percent less than male counterparts for the same work, the World Economic Forum reported in its 2013 gender gap report. The international pay gap average is 13 percent.

South Africa already has gender equality legislation including the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment and Employment Equity acts‚ which seek to have more women represented on executive structures, the report said.

An additional bill on gender parity is questionable because larger businesses are already taking gender equality seriously, said South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Neren Rau.

“Should we not rather be addressing existing laws and implementing those?” Rau asked.

The Department for Women‚ Children and People with Disabilities tabled the proposed, heavily redrafted Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill during the public comment phase.

Big business is making progress in promoting gender equality, said Thoko Mpumlwana, deputy chairwoman for the commission for gender equality. Businesses forced the government’s hand as it had not taken gender transformation seriously, she said.

The bill is expected to be tougher than others such as the Employment Equity Act. If it becomes law‚ the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill will allow the government to fine or imprison executives who contravene requirements. The government hopes to implement the act by 2015.

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Lack of skills and affordability are possible explanations for why other gender equity legislation had not been successful, Rau said. “The availability of appropriately skilled women to take on those senior positions is a challenge.

“Those (few women) who have the skills and the training are very highly priced.”