Great progress has been made especially in South Africa for women to take up executive positions in the public sector. However, this development of more women taking leadership roles in the private sector needs to be accelerated. Herein lies the need for the radical economic transformation bias towards women. A female president in South Africa must show this bias.
Hillary Rodham Clinton was just not right for the United States. While this statement may suggest that her politics were not right enough for the far right who eventually helped Donal Trump into the White House, it could not be that this person was not viewed as the correct person for the job. After all, she was a lawyer by profession, former first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the US, a two-term senator and secretary of state.
It would be incorrect to neutralize Clinton and call her a person. She is a woman. The US was simply not ready for a woman as commander-in-chief and instead, they chose a racist, misogynist and a billionaire to lead their country. Trump had no competition with Clinton as far as governance was concerned, the last six months of his presidency has proven just that as it wades through public relations crisis after crisis.
Yet there remains a fundamental truism about democracy and that is that the people get the leader they deserve. It would not be far off to suggest that the election of Trump reflects the values that ordinary voting Americans hold. Their rejection of breaking history, as they had done just eight years earlier by electing the first Black president, this time by electing the first female president, must indicate American attitudes towards women. It took the Americans nearly two-hundred and fifty years, since the presidency of George Washington, for a woman to emerge as the first the presidential nominee for a major party and to win the popular vote.
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women indicates that by June 2016, only twenty-three percent of the total number of members of Parliament across the globe were women. Rwanda continues to be the country topping women as members of parliament, with nearly sixty-four percent of members being women. In thirty-eight countries, women account for less than ten percent of parliamentarians whereas in four countries there are no women at all. About forty-percent of members of the South African Parliament are women.
As of January 2017, eleven women were serving as heads of state while nine were heads of government. Currently, Africa only has three countries where in two, Liberia and Mauritius, the head of state is a woman and in one, Namibia, where the head of government is a woman. Whilst globally, women accounted for just over eighteen percent of cabinet posts. In South Africa, the figure stands at forty-one percent.
While women may play a leading role in the public sector in South Africa, in the private sector the situation is dire. As President Zuma highlighted at the Woman’s Day celebration in Galeshewe, women hold only twenty-two percent of top management posts and a third of senior management posts. This trend is often a result of women being paid less than men. While we are not sure what these figures may be for South African women, UN Women indicate that in many countries women are paid between only sixty to seventy-five percent of what men are being paid doing the same job.
HERS-SA, an NGO working with women in higher education, citing figures of 2007, indicate that only three out of the twenty-three Vice-Chancellors in South Africa were women. Only five out of 23 universities had women as registrars. These figures have not changed much.
Therefore, one can go on and on citing figures, especially from outside the public sector, where the leadership roles or the executive positions of organisations remain largely controlled by men. South Africa had not necessarily seen the development of women into leading positions outside the public sector.
The ANC at its policy conference highlighted the importance of the National Policy for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality points to the need to accelerate affirmative action, economic empowerment for women, ensuring the implementation of policy which facilitates women empowerment and appropriate gender training to improve the skills and analysis of policy makers and operations management.
The impact that the economic empowerment of women will have on our economy would shift radically as far as growth was concerned. UN Women, for example, estimate that should women be elevated to the same level of economic participation that men are at, then the global economy would see an expansion of at twenty-eight trillion US dollars or at about twenty-six percent growth.
UN Women also cited an analysis of Forbes 500 companies indicating that those companies who had a higher representation of women in their top management, on average, yielded a dividend of approximately thirty-four percent to shareholders compared to companies where women were lower represented in these top management structures.
Even more so, women continue to bear the brunt of unpaid work in respect of doing at least an hour to three hours house work more than men every day, two to ten times more the about of care, for children, elderly or sick, and at least an extra hour to four hours on market activities. Work that all goes unpaid.
The facts and figures that UN Women put out in respective of women playing an active role in politics and taking up senior leadership positions give us an indication of the type of society we wish to live in. At one stage, before the enactment of our liberal Constitution and pro-market neo-liberal policies such as GEAR, there was a great hope, through policies such as the RDP, that South Africa would become a social democratic state mimicking the Nordic countries.
The Nordic countries, in these figures from UN Women, unsurprisingly indicate that forty-one percent of parliamentarians are women. The South African figure is the same. Yet it therefore suggests that while South Africa may be breaking glass ceilings for its women, especially in political office, it must ensure that radical economic transformation, in the private sector, works for its women.
The current challenges facing our country exacerbates the very real challenge of the abuse against women in our society. If vast unemployment, structural poverty and chronic inequality continue to plague our landscape then it is must be acknowledged that women bear the brunt of these scourges. The emancipation of women, therefore, remains critically in the eradication of these triple challenges.
A number of women have entered the race for the presidency of the ANC and this must be acknowledged and applauded. However, we, both men and women, cannot afford a woman president who does not commit to the overhaul of government so as to be biased towards the emancipation of women. It must be the time for women! Why else should we then encourage a female candidate if she is not going to be biased towards the plight of women?
What we need is not another president for all South Africans. Rather just as we needed a Black president in 1994, so too in 2019 we will need a woman president who will roll out concrete policies to address the plight of women and ensure that we do not take two-hundred and thirty years before we offer women their place.