Noluthando Ngqandu – Head of Claims Procurement, Assessing & Salvage at Bryte Insurance
Gender equality continues to be a key driver for countries to enhance their economic productivity and develop policies that can maintain long-term socio-economic development. In light of this, several countries are working hard towards achieving gender equality, guided by the Sustainable Development Goals. According to the 2022 Sustainable Development Goals Index1, more than three billion girls and women still live in poverty-stricken countries with poor scores for gender equality. This shocking figure further contextualises the amount of work needed to address the issue.
Within South Africa, there continues to be a lot of focus and investment put forth towards bridging the inequality gap. More men are likely to participate in the labour market than women, so more emphasis is required to fastrack the inclusion of women in the economy.
Some key contributing factors to achieving this include:
Facilitating access to education and information
The importance of education in advancing gender equality remains a crucial lever which has enabled many countries to fastrack gender equality. The positive effects of education include improved maternal health, a reduction in infant mortality and increased opportunities for women and girls. UNESCO reported that education was disrupted at the pandemic’s peak in 2020, affecting 1.5 billion learners across 190 countries. The severe impact of the pandemic also saw over 66% of low/lower income countries reduce their educational budgets, which is likely to affect and impact girls more negatively.
The form and quality of education women receive are also essential, as it is vital to ensure access to post-basic and secondary education for girls and women. The increasing rate of women in income generation programmes and the economy requires specific skills that tertiary institutions specialise in.
More investment in public services and social infrastructure
Significant and impactful change requires substantial investment in public services that can assist in achieving gender quality. Increased public spending on practical measures and programmes greatly impacts women worldwide. When governments place austerity measures on social programmes, they are likely to increase the burden placed on women due to unpaid care work, reduce their engagement in paid employment, and adversely impact their health.
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Public work programmes have always been a policy instrument to promote economic growth and employment creation. This has also seen international organisations such as the United Nations emphasise the benefits countries can experience and unlock when they adopt a developmental approach that seeks to create more employment opportunities through regular public and social infrastructure investments that boost sustainable growth and poverty alleviation.
Promoting women’s leadership and participation
The involvement of more women in the economy is a critical factor in a country’s social and economic health. In South Africa, women face several challenges in achieving equality in the corporate world and the economy. According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey of the 2nd quarter of 20212, the country’s labour market is more favourable towards men than women. Furthermore, South Africa continues to see women having a higher unemployment rate, which stood at 36.4% in Q1 this year.
Equipping and empowering women has greater benefits for society, and there are simple ways to build a sustainable future for all women and girls, including:
Creating decent work for women
Women are more likely to be employed in the informal sector and dominate domestic work that lacks protection and substantial living wages. Therefore, it is essential to provide women equal access to education, training, new skills and management positions. Businesses that offer more employment and leadership opportunities are proven to grow and be more effective.
More commitments toward the inclusion of women
As more women enter the corporate world, businesses must ensure they commit to creating an inclusive environment that allows women to take up more senior positions. PwC’s 2021 report showed that only 13% of South Africa’s executive directors are women, including CEOs and CFOs.
Companies need to work towards identifying and taking the necessary actions to promote women and expedite gender and racial diversity in senior leadership. And while women continue to make strides in the corporate world, businesses should be encouraged to build on this continuously.