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|Employment Equity hearing: Western Cape – 23-24 May 2012 Press Release|
In assessing gender transformation among provincial departments in the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town municipality, it is apparent that there is a need for business unusual. Despite renewed focus and commitment towards revising employment equity plans, setting concrete targets and identifying accountability for performance, tracking employment equity statistics, putting in place executive coaching and mentoring programmes, we are still not observing compliance regarding women and persons with disabilities at the top and senior management levels of government departments. On average, women comprise 35% of senior management appointments in the public sector, and people with disabilities 0% at this level.
A key causal factor would appear to be the inherited male-dominated domain of the public sector in the Western Cape, and entrenched attitudes and conservative perceptions towards gender transformation. Practical obstacles to transformation include inadequate recruitment mechanisms to identify and draw in suitable candidates from designated groups, as well as inadequate measures to address scarce technical skills to build a greater pool of candidates for appointment. Across the board, employers appear to be disregarding a key provision of the Employment Equity Act which requires employers to audit policies, practices and procedures to identify employment barriers to people from designated groups, and put measures in place to address these.
This raises the question of accountability for compliance with employment equity legislation. Departments appear to be adopting the approach of “inspiring and encouraging” senior managers to meet targets, as opposed to holding them directly accountable for failing to meet targets. Some departments have included transformation within senior management performance agreements, while others have located this responsibility at Head of Department level. Across the board, departments have implemented solid systems to track monthly employment equity statistics, review these at quarterly EE meetings, and include these in recruitment and appointment processes.
All departments cited as a challenge the lack of provincial coordination within the Western Cape government, for human rights, inclusive of gender, youth and disability. This has posed a challenge to the coordination of and support for gender transformation in the public sector. Department representatives raised concern at responsibilities for gender transformation constituting an add-on function at district and institutional level, noting that this limits the sustainability and impact of programmes. Respondents identified poor monitoring, evaluation and review mechanisms at all levels to monitor gender transformation.
Most departments have established a slate of measures to raise gender awareness, and accelerate leadership skills and opportunities among women. These include awareness-raising interventions, the creation of gender forums and development of women’s empowerment strategies and gender action plans, coaching and mentoring measures, talent and executive management measures, provision of bursaries and learnership and internship opportunities. Some departments have put measures in place to encourage school girls to consider career paths traditionally dominated by males.
The CGE noted that the focus of gender transformation measures should not be purely on numbers, but also on the implementation of policies, the full participation of women within the workplace and the creation of an enabling environment for working women. However, very few departments have implemented flexible working hour and child-care facilities, apart form the provincial Departments of Agriculture and Health. In addition, it is apparent that transversal human resource policies set by the Department of the Premier do not adequately address gender equality, or target the advancement of women and people with disabilities.
With regard to the private sector, it is clear that a mindset shift is required to embed the principle of transformation, to shift from seeking compliance with – as opposed to adopting the spirit of – employment equity. Despite in some instances targets being set for recruitment and appointment, women remain underrepresented in top management, sitting at merely on average 10-20%. It is encouraging to note that there has been a substantive increase of women’s representation in senior and middle management, representing an increase in the talent pool, but there is a clear need to escalate recognition and promotion of women from this tier to top management. Persons with disabilities continue to be grossly under-represented.
In this regard, employers cited operational pressure to fill vacancies, conceding that their recruitment processes do not broaden the range of candidates to include designated groups. Noting the extremely low turnover and attrition rates among non-designated groups at senior level, respondents stated that there are very limited opportunities for transformation, in the sense that this hinges on retirement of top executives. The CGE was encouraged by the fact that companies have established high level accountability for transformation. One entity has included responsibility for BBBEE in their corporate score card, and linked this to their performance bonus and management processes. In some entities, all senior managers have employment equity and transformation as key performance indicators for individual performance scorecards.
Sexual harassment policy and measures appear inadequate, in that few cases are reported and limited awareness and information dissemination measures are being implemented. It is clear that employers need to review policy, mechanisms and awareness on such measures to determine why cases are not being surfaced and addressed. In this regard, only one entity indicated that they have taken on board the Section 9 requirement of the Employment Equity Act to review and audit their policies and practices to identify obstacles to designated employees’ employment and advancement. Some entities have developed flexible measures to accommodate working mothers, including flexi-time, childcare and aftercare facilities.
The CGE was encouraged to see proactive measures to recruit and build capacity within the disability sector, the allocation of budgets for training and transformation processes, including leadership, learnership, apprenticeships and bursaries, with some entities ringfencing funds for female employees. Further encouraging were attempts to revise recruitment measures to broaden the range of applicants solicited, and put “talent pipe-line” measures in place. Unfortunately, the CGE was dismayed with the performance of Vida e Caffe, which despite employing 420 employees, has not formulated an employment equity plan in accordance with the Employment Equity Act. Findings and recommendations for this current set of hearings will be incorporated in the CGE’s report to Parliament, the Department of Labour and the Employment Equity Commission.
Date: 24 May 2012
Contact Person: Javu Baloyi
Tel: 083 579 3306
The Commission for Gender Equality is established in terms of Section 187 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in order to promote respect for gender equality and the protection, development and attainment of gender equality.