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The authority on gender empowerment in business for nearly 20 years.

5 top companies acing gender policy implementation

Written by Staff Writer

November 23, 2020

by Charndré Kippie


As we celebrate our 15th edition of Top Women fully digital edition, we’d like to accolade inspiring success stories such as these…

According to The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Gender Gap Index for 2020, South Africa’s women only occupy 38% of senior level positions in business organisations – that is managerial and CEO roles. Shockingly, also, of all the enterprises recorded on the JSE, a meagre 3.31% of CEOs listed are females. The most important question, at this point, is: How do we get this right for a better future?


Where we’re at

The journey towards achieving gender equality in the workplace has been more than challenging over the past decade for most companies, globally and nationally, to say the least; this can be traced back to ‘traditional legacy’ norms and ideological cultural practices. In 2020, women still remain under-represented within many sectors, and most patently so at leadership levels in organisations.


Despite the broad acknowledgement that gender and diversity concerns should be addressed, there is a lack of clarity as to what steps should be taken to effect lasting change.” ─ Anelisa Keke, PwC Senior Manager: People and Organisation Division


The National Development Plan (NDP), pinpoints women as the demographic that is most distressed by inequality, poverty and unemployment. The NDP Executive Summary (2030) presents detailed accounts of future equality objectives which government is actively working on obtaining for the nation. The following aspirational milestones have been outlined:

  • Increase employment from 13 million in 2010 to 24 million
  • Ensure that skilled, technical, professional and managerial posts better reflect the country’s racial, gender and disability makeup
  • Reduce inequality – The Gini coefficient should fall from 0.69 to 0.6
  • Broaden ownership of assets to historically disadvantaged groups
  • Realise a developmental, capable and ethical state that treats citizens with dignity
  • Broaden social cohesion and unity while redressing the inequities of the past
  • Play a leading role in continental development, economic integration and human rights.


We need to move beyond the planning stages, and towards transformative action in the fight for gender equality across our nation. As it stands, South Africa has considerably more women graduates than men, and our statistics show that South African women (within corporate settings) have determined aspirations for success. Transformation has, unfortunately, been a slow process for corporate South Africa. Previously, the counter was that South Africa is still in the early stages of its democracy. Today, more than a quarter century since its inception, the pace of change needs to accelerate.


Achieving gender parity throughout the workplace is one of the most crucial challenges that business leaders face today. The quality of women’s talent and leadership is very important to business – the skills and experience that they bring, including those gained outside of the workplace, have proved to be essential in strategic decision-making and ethical, sustainable enterprise.” ─ Anastacia Tshesane, diversity and inclusion leader for PwC Southern Africa.


What we need to move towards

The best way to remedy the pace of change in untransformed companies, is to track existing trends and strategy outcomes of enterprises who are thriving and leading from the front in terms of gender policy implementation.



1. Aveng-Moolmans Mining



Business group Forbes recently published a ranking of the 750 best companies to work for in the world. Along with four other South African companies, Aveng-Moolmans Mining (Moolmans being the South African contract-mining subsidiary of Aveng) made it onto this list, coming in at 604th place. This ranking is allocated based on a Statista survey, which polled and interviewed more than 160,000 anonymous, full-time and part-time workers, from 58 countries. This year, it was acknowledged that employers’ counter strategies to the COVID-19 pandemic factored in substantially, when determining how employees felt, working at any given company.


“Aveng’s high position may come as a surprise, as the company has faced uphill to survive South Africa’s crumbling construction sector, while also dealing with its own operational issues which have seen it fall from being the biggest construction group in the country, to just recently managing to pull back from an operational loss.” ─ Business Tech SA


Aveng was one of the establishments recognised for its speedy response to safeguarding the well-being of their employees during this time especially. As of their Sustainability report (2019), Aveng has:

  • Achieved level 2 BBBEE contributor status
  • Increased black representation in their middle management from a previous 40,3% to 41,21%
  • Spent R3,4-billion with black-owned suppliers (20% with black women-owned suppliers)
  • McConnell Dowell Constructors Ltd. embedded a diversity and inclusion policy across its operations


The upskill and development of employees has been a key focus for Moolmans. Their training facilities currently provide certified training in the essential engineering trades. At the end of 2019, 11% of the apprentices for their training programme were female, of which 94% were historically disadvantaged South Africans (HDSA). The gender scale for their learnership and apprenticeship programme currently sits at 6% women and 94% men  ─ shockingly slanted, but still a step in the right direction for the previously exclusively-male mining sector. Via their apprenticeship learning programme, employees received their National Certificate: Business Administration Services NQF 4, of which 51% of the learners are female. This serves to equip more and more women in SA with the necessary skills and qualifications to advance to leadership positions in mining.


A big factor in Aveng-Moolman’s Forbes ranking, was the implementation of its gender equality plan. Representation of women in senior leadership positions has improved since 2019. Their gender equality plan aims to bridge the gender gap, focusing on core areas, such as leadership accountability, gender composition, gender pay equity, flexible practices, and a gender inclusive culture. In 2020, their key milestone areas were:

  • Focusing on recruitment processes corresponding with employment equity policies to achieve black and female representation targets in Moolmans
  • Continuing to advance gender representation through workplace transformation committees
  • Increasing and retaining black and female employees in senior and technical roles
  • The appointment of women and local/nationals into key senior roles across McConnell Dowell



2. Nestlé



This year, Nestlé was acknowledged by the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI) for its transparency in gender reporting and enhancing women’s equality. This highlights Nestlé’s efforts in empowering women across its value chain, and continuously creating opportunities for equal opportunities and access for all its employees. Nestlé’s diversity and inclusion programmes, globally, continue to be a leading strategy across the majority of the GEI reference index’s five core gender equality pillars:

  • female leadership and talent pipeline
  • equal pay and gender pay parity
  • inclusive culture
  • sexual harassment policies
  • pro-women brand


Nestlé’s new Global Parental Support Policy facilitates the company’s strategy for fostering a more inclusive workplace environment. In 2019, Nestlé presented an action plan to grow the number of women in senior executive positions globally by 2022.


“We launched a new Global Parental Support Policy, recognising that parental roles are no longer solely defined along gender lines. The policy extends parental leave for primary caregivers from 14 weeks previously to 18 weeks fully paid, establishing a minimum of four weeks for secondary caregivers.” ─ Béatrice Guillaume-Grabisch, Executive Vice President Nestlé S.A & Global Head of Group Human Resources and Business Services.


Nestlé has prioritised gender balance in all its HR practices globally, and is now building momentum in its fight for gender parity, and positioning new targets to accelerate transformation. 


The Gender Balance Acceleration Plan prioritises the following actions:

  • Training management leaders to build an inclusive work environment
  • Encouraging employees to utilise Nestlé’s paid parental leave program and flexible work policies
  • Preparing high-potential women for senior executive positions via mentors and sponsorships
  • Recruiting and campaigning for more women in senior executive positions
  • Holding senior leaders accountable to deliver gender-balanced results, with clear targets
  • Equal pay in working towards mending the existing gender pay gap
  • Recording and publicising progress in the Nestlé’s annual Creating Shared Value report


The Nestlé Gender Balance Acceleration Plan strengthens our existing commitment to enhance gender balance in our workforce. We are confident that everyone, men and women, will play a key role in advancing gender equality and creating a better place to work.” ­­- Béatrice Guillaume-Grabisch, Executive Vice President Nestlé S.A & Global Head of Group Human Resources and Business Services.



3. Johnson & Johnson



Although they are busy developing a COVID-19 vaccine (300 million doses of a proposed new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could be produced in a Port Elizabeth factory next year), Johnson & Johnson has been empowering women across the globe for 130 years, and keeps making significant strides in addressing gender parity.

Today, Johnson & Johnson is certified Gender Fair for Empowering Women to Innovate Global Health. As a leading company in the employee gender policy space, Johnson & Johnson was listed as a company that meets Gender Fair standards due to promoting gender equality in terms of female leadership, employee policies, philanthropy and advertising. With this accolade, Johnson & Johnson joins a select group of enterprises accelerating equality, namely Microsoft and P&G.


“Gender Fair® is a public benefit corporation that reports on how companies serve and treat women as leaders, employees, customers, and citizens, using metrics based on the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles.” ─ Genderfair.com


Johnson & Johnson is the only pharmaceutical company to receive a perfect score in the Gender Fair Index for family-friendly policies, as they advocate for extended maternity and paternity leave periods, pushing management leaders to utilise inclusive practices with employees, such as unconscious bias training. They’ve also spent millions on various business suppliers, starting a women’s mentoring program which connects women-owned businesses with top-tier women front-runners and procurement.



4. T-Systems South Africa



Gender Mainstreaming Award (GMA) winner, T-Systems SA, has shown exemplary behaviour when it comes to investing in young women. The GMAs is a programme of Business Engage which exists to motivate and publicly celebrate businesses (listed and non-listed) for their meaningful representation of women in the workforce.


“We believe in inclusive transformation, not only for the betterment of our country and its people, but also for the creation of a culture that recognises and celebrates individual diversity to the benefit of the individual and the company. These accolades are an affirmation that we are continuing to make a positive impact with our Nation Building Strategy, which outlines our commitment to embracing the magic of ‘all people’, regardless of gender, race, age or disability.” ─ Gert Schoonbee, MD of T-Systems SA.


The T-Systems executive committee has dramatically transformed over the past ten years, having undergone expressive gender constructive changes since then. T-Systems’ Board has experienced related positive changes, now comprising 67% female representation. Winning the Executive Committee in Multinational award, and taking second place in the Women on Boards category, is indicative of T-System’s devotion to maintaining these improvements. T-Systems also invests heavily in the skills development of rural residence via its Hazyview Digital Learning Centre (HDLC) in Mpumalanga – an initiative which benefits women from disadvantaged backgrounds, and where women make up 86% of all HDLC non-paying students.



5. Unilever



Unilever, one of the world’s leading suppliers of Beauty and Personal Care, Home Care, and Foods and Refreshment products, with sales in over 190 countries, just recently won the 2020 Catalyst Award for their inclusive, safe, fair and purpose-led gender parity mission. The award came as no surprise after the recent appraisal of their ‘Changing the Game, Unlocking the Future’ global initiative.


Changing the Game, Unlocking the Future is a core component of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, which is a proposal for developing the business and making a positive social impact. The initiative lengthens across and boosts Unilever’s 2013 Catalyst Award-winning initiative, by setting a goal to achieve gender steadiness across management levels by 2020, through developing a mindful and sustainably inclusive culture. Senior leaders analysed workforce metrics across the company, discovering the distinct functions and domains with the most room for growth. Africa was listed as a ‘hotspot’, where Unilever could purposefully target its efforts towards the enhancement of women’s representation across the board.


Unilever’s Award-winning initiative highlights:

  • Tools and processes that drive gender equity in recruitment and advancement, including the Gender Appointment Ratio, which is a measurement used to track senior leaders’ verifications in recruiting women.
  • Customised work-life and flexibility assistance, based on the function and position held by women employees – Unilever’s tea plantations and factories are great case studies in this regard.
  • Mentoring, sponsorship, and coaching programs for women – offered both formally and informally.
  • Safety measures and need-based accommodations are used to ensure comfortable and inclusive working conditions, especially in hot spot areas.


So, what can we actually learn from these leading enterprises? Take a look at this checklist:

– It is not enough to merely abide by gender equity policies and legislation. Companies need to heavily invest proper training and skills absorption of women employees to further mend the gender gap.

– There needs to be a higher level of transparency in gender reporting amongst companies ─ all heads of business must be held accountable for delivering gender-balanced results.

– Businesses should align themselves with the benchmark criteria of Gender Fair®, keeping themselves on track with gender equality practices and trends.

– There needs to be meaningful representation of women in the workforce – long term rather than periodically or via once-off awareness campaigns.

– Businesses need to invest in the necessary tools and processes for tracking growth and trends within the organisation – measurements and analytics can be used to identify pitfalls and better the quality and execution of gender equality strategies.


If your organisation has a gender empowerment success story that they would like to share in our upcoming 16th fully digital edition, please contact Judy, Head of Brand: judy.chileshe@topco.co.za or cell 064 006 0621




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