While key areas such as advancing and retaining female employees have shown some progress over the past few years, there is more work to be done in other areas such as equal access to leadership roles.
This is according to Mercer’s When Women Thrive 2020, Sub-Saharan Africa Report, which finds that women in about 94% of organisations in sub-Saharan Africa have equal access to roles that lead to advancement into leadership positions – significantly higher than the global average of 79%.

“In our findings, 88% of respondents in this region report that their organisations are already focused on improving diversity and inclusion. This is an incredibly positive sign that backs up progress we have seen in a few countries such as Rwanda, South Africa and Ethiopia,” says Tamara Parker, CEO of Mercer South Africa. “More women are becoming CEOs, joining corporate boards, and being appointed to high-level ministerial positions in said governments,” MS Parker added.

Another positive aspect advancing workforce gender parity is equal access to opportunities – 56% have talent management practices in place for high-potential women, compared to 35% globally. Additionally, 78% of organisations say women are equally likely as men to move across business units and/or geographies, as compared to the global average of 71%.

Pay equity initiatives

Additionally, and with the rising pressure to address areas where organisations appear to fall short, Mercer highlights that 82% of respondents say pay equity is part of their organisation’s compensation philosophy or strategy (compared to 74% globally). Moreover, 78% of organisations have a team formally responsible for conducting pay equity analysis (compared to 72% globally).

In organisations where a diverse workforce and inclusive culture is flourishing, senior leaders and board members play an important role. Senior executives in sub-Saharan Africa are helping to support cultural transformation by sponsoring meetings, publicly positioning diversity and inclusion (D&I) as a business imperative and participating as members of internal diversity councils (48% in sub-Saharan Africa versus 43% globally).

Driving culture from the top

Meanwhile, managers in Sub-Saharan Africa are significantly less involved in supporting D&I efforts than senior executives, which is a major barrier (and missed opportunity) to achieving progress. For instance, the figure for middle managers is 65% in sub-Saharan Africa, outpacing the global average of 53%.

A critical part of the solution involves driving culture and tone from the top, a feat that can only be achieved by embracing a deep leadership commitment to taking action and engaging employees.

Real D&I in the workplace could become a force for change, particularly in Africa where gender inequality remains high across the continent.That’s why women are better represented in organisations that view women’s health as critical to developing and retaining women and that offer targeted programs, including gender-specific health education campaigns and parental leave.

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