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

Empowering progress: charting the path to gender diversity in the JSE Top 40 companies

Written by Staff Writer

October 3, 2023

By Sinazo Mkoko


The findings on gender equality in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s top 40 companies were released by Just Share recently. 

In its report titled Women in Leadership: Assessing Gender Equality in the JSE Top 40, Just Share states that despite making up 46% of the economically active population, women are still notably underrepresented in positions of power in South African corporations.

They said the government’s efforts to address unfair discrimination in the labour market have had only limited success, and “this is true for gender diversity as well as for transformation from the perspective of race and disability.”

“Despite the considerable strides made in reducing gender gaps in education, there remain significant gender disparities in labour market outcomes. This is reflected in the underrepresentation of women in senior decision-making roles in the private sector.

“Despite these legislative measures being in place for more than 20 years, the 23rd Commission for Employment Equity Annual Report 2022-2023 (CEE Report) shows that in the private sector, women’s representation at top and senior management levels stands at just 25.3% and 35.8%, respectively. Gender transformation has progressed slowly, and women’s representation in the workforce declines with seniority.”

The report also showed that only five of the chairpersons of the Top 40 company boards are women, and only four of the Top 40 companies (10%) have female Chief Executive Officers.

At board level, the report showed that women are represented slightly more in the basic materials sector than the average across the top 40, but representation is below average in executive roles, at only 21%.

“BHP Group is the only entity with gender parity in top management. More than 50% of board seats are held by women at Exxaro Resources and Impala Platinum, and AngloGold Ashanti and Impala Platinum have female board chairs. Exxaro and Anglo American Platinum have female CEOs.”

However, looking beyond South Africa, in 2022, there was a study done by Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE), a UN initiative, together with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to analyse the status of gender equality in corporate leadership (board members and CEOs) of 3246 issuers on 35 stock exchanges in seven regions.

The report stated: “The findings for the top 100 listed companies on the JSE are similar to our findings in relation to the top 40, with women occupying 32% of board seats and 15% of CEO roles. Even these low figures are “leading” in comparison with other markets, indicating the extent to which gender inequality in corporate leadership roles is a global problem. The JSE has the highest overall number of women on boards for an emerging market, and Africa has the highest percentage of female CEOs, even at the extremely low level of only 9%.”

The Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication – your guide to South Africa’s Top Gender Empowered Companies is out, read it here:

Topco Media recognising and awarding excellence 

Topco Media has had the opportunity to work with leading women in the JSE-listed companies and the JSE itself. To celebrate gender empowerment we’ve featured these iconic business leaders in our publications, at our events, and our Standard Bank Top Women Awards. 

Dr. Leila Fourie, Group CEO, JSE Ltd.

Leila was the 2021 Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication cover icon. She was also awarded the Standard Bank Top Business Women of the Year Award at the 18th Standard Bank Top Women Awards in 2021. We’ve also featured her in our Top Women newsletter and the Top Women podcast. Upon receiving the Top Business Women of the Year award, she stated:

“Although a lot has been done both locally and globally to drive gender equality, there’s still so much more that needs to be done. It’s the responsibility of each and every one of us as individuals and organisations to play our part in that journey.

“Women in finance, the world over, have a really powerful role in promoting and creating an investment environment with a gender lens. We have the ability to influence and reshape systems and structures to generate genuine, long-term transformation. 

“As leaders, we are uniquely positioned to act as agents of change by taking the lead on measures to close the gender equality gap. The JSE has, for many years, heeded this call, and I am really proud of the progress we’ve made in striving for gender equality.”

Bertina Engelbrecht, CEO, Clicks Group Ltd.

Bertina was a finalist in the Future of HR and National Business Awards in 2014. She has also scooped two Standard Bank Top Women awards and has been featured in different publications, including Public Sector Leaders, Standard Bank Top Women Leaders, and the Top Women newsletter.

She is the first female CEO at Clicks Group, positioning the organisation as a powerhouse at the forefront of gender empowerment in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. She shared that transformation is an ongoing journey for Clicks Group rather than an end destination.

“Clicks is heavily focused on preferential procurement—by supporting local suppliers, black and female-owned enterprises, and investigating how we can advocate for equity equivalence programmes that benefit local suppliers,” Bertina said.

Val Nichas, CEO, SPUR Corp.

Topco Media featured this business leader in its publication, Standard Bank Top Women Leaders, where the organisation emphasised the importance of transformation in the organisation: “Transformation is a key pillar that underpins our purpose, as it addresses our intent to play our part in significantly shifting practices, behaviours, and processes to a different and evolved organisation with a consumer-focused approach.”

Yolanda Cuba, Vice President, SEA Region of the MTN Group

Yolanda has formed part of our Standard Bank Top Women conference; she’s been a guest on our podcast and was featured in the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders and Top 500 publications. She also won the Top Empowerment Business Woman of the Year Award in 2006 and was a finalist in the Standard Bank Top Women Awards in 2019.

Just Share is a non-profit shareholder activism organisation using responsible investments and sustainable finance to drive urgent action to combat climate change and reduce inequality.


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