With its progressive constitution and its focus on diversity, South Africa has taken great strides towards gender equality in all spheres of life, from parliamentary politics to business. Yet women are still under-represented in the higher echelons of power and still bear the brunt of poverty and unemployment.
Stats SA, for example, finds the highest unemployment rates among black women at just over 34%, while PwC last year found only one female chief executive among the Top 40 JSE listed companies - Barclays Africa Chief Executive, Maria Ramos.
Recognising this picture, many companies are focusing their social investments on creating opportunities for women and girls—whether that’s by seeking to help girls from poor backgrounds to excel in science and maths at school, financial literacy programmes for underbanked women in rural areas, supporting township women to become entrepreneurs or fast-tracking women managers in corporate settings.
Do these programmes have the scale to make a real difference and what more could South African organisations do to help advance gender equity at every level of society?
Corporate Social Investment (CSI) is most definitely an effective way to promote gender equality in South Africa. Whilst South Africans are taking great strides towards bridging the gender gap through financial inclusion, empowerment and the education of women, we still have a long journey ahead of us as a nation.
That said, IRESS South Africa has a vested interest in promoting gender equality by supporting females to aspire towards a career within Technology. In 2017, in lieu of corporate gifts, IRESS took remarkable strides to allocate the budget to a CSI initiative and, as such, have embarked on a journey to sponsor a deserving female student with a tertiary education spanning three years in the field of Information Technology.
IRESS recognises that every little contribution or gesture helps to make a difference and is committed to having a meaningful impact on local communities. A simple stride such as allocating a client gift budget towards a CSI initiative that can benefit a young woman to succeed is exactly the type of corporate transformation we require to help us build gender equality.
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