(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s biggest companies have made minimal progress in closing the gender gap when it comes to senior positions, with women making up just a quarter of new executive appointments over the past 2.5 years.

As at June this year, only seven of the top-100 companies on Johannesburg’s stock exchange had female chief executive officers, according to a study by PwC. Across all JSE-listed companies, women make up 15% of executives and 30% of non-executives directors. 

Given the findings of the PwC study “it is fair that many continue to question whether female representation is being appropriately addressed, and wonder whether rebalancing gender representation within organizations is a genuine priority,” the firm said Tuesday in its annual Executive Directors report.

Figures from Sustainable Stock Exchanges do show South Africa’s record on female board representation is above the average for the Group of 20, though that includes non-executives who typically have a minimal role outside monthly meetings. France tops the list with 44% of board members in the top 100 companies, with South Africa at 29% and the average sitting at 20%. 

The integrated reports of many JSE-listed companies include minimum percentage targets, most often 35% to 50%, in female representation in management positions, within a specified number of years, PwC said. That may actually have intensified the war for female talent, with many companies struggling to retain their key and critically skilled women employees in the face of a serious bidding war, the firm said.

Female leaders spend between one and five years in their roles, compared with males who often hold positions of between three to eight years, said Makhosazana Mabaso, people and organization reward partner at PwC South Africa.

“In driving the retention of female talent over the longer term, employers need to take active steps to ensure that sound and effective succession plans are in place to cement a strong pipeline of female talent,” she said in an emailed statement.  

 

 

 

 

 

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