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Are women the future of business in emerging markets?

In BBBEE terms, women are twice as important as men in our country. As a result of The Adjusted Recognition for Gender clause on the BBBEE scorecard, black females score double the points of their male counterparts.
Keith Levenstein, CEO of BBBEE consultancy EconoBEE, believes that this is a deliberate attempt to assist the most vulnerable of South Africa's population through long-term empowerment.

Black women should account for 50 percent of certain targets on the scorecard. So, according to Levenstein, the general rule to maximise the effect of adjusted recognition for gender on your scorecard is simply to include black women in the mix, whatever your activity, be it skills development, selection of service providers or recruitment of top to middle management and general staff.

The only motivator?

But should strengthening your BBBEE scorecard rating be the only motivator for including more women, of any race, into the mix? Gender balancing should rather be seen as a lever for performance, not compliance.

Several concerns are typically raised when addressing gender goals in the workplace. Some organisations believe that there is a lack of educated women to perform effectively. Others believe that women are not strong enough in emerging markets due to a history of abuse. The other concern, often expressed quite strongly, is that women lack ambition and prefer to have families and tend to children, rather than work full time in challenging jobs.

While existing research tends to cast women in emerging markets as victims, recent studies have proved that while women are still victims of abuse in these developing markets, they are also enrolling and graduating from university - in numbers that often match, and even far outstrip, males - and voicing ambitious career plans.

Women are ambitious, survey finds

In the article entitled "Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women are the Solution" (Harvard Business Review), it states that, after conducting a survey with 4350 men and women in the BRIC countries and the UAE, two-thirds of women in China and Russia, and 85 percent of women in India, find themselves to be very ambitious. Women no longer have to apologise for their ambition. More than 80 percent of survey respondents reported loving their work and being willing to go the extra mile for their companies. The article's authors, Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Ripa Rashid, argue that corporate leaders are overlooking one of the most enthusiastic, capable sources of talent in the world - women in emerging markets.

Like our emerging market counterparts, South African women too display ambition, capability and a readiness to impact performance in organisations and in society. While it is an alarming statistic that one in every four women in South Africa is a survivor of domestic violence, women are certainly not playing the victim card, but rather bringing determination and a can-do approach to organisations. In the previously mentioned article, Goldman Sach's president, Valentino Carlotti, is quoted as saying that when women solve problems, it sends a signal of openness, creativity, forward thinking and an innovative approach to potential hires as well as clients. He added that when you look at who's coming into the workforce and what that means for the development of human capital, it's a no-brainer that women are the competitive advantage.

A sense of possibility and optimism

The benefit of being in an emerging market is just that - it is emerging - and amplifies a sense of possibility and optimism. The number of women aspiring to top jobs is increasing. Although companies are encouraged and incentivised to hire women, they should do so in the knowledge that they are adding value to their organisation and investing in a talent pool that will continue to strengthen in the future. CEOs should also be considering driving change management strategies for gender balance within their organisations. All employees, male and female, should be held accountable for their role in the change process.

Women in high-powered positions in South Africa and emerging markets should see the importance of sharing their successes and lessons learned with those women following hot on their heels. Female leaders and role models are already taking the lead in emerging markets and will play a significant part in the economic growth of these markets. The time is now to instil a sense of leadership and responsibility in those women who will play pivotal roles in South African organisations in the coming years.
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About the author

Natalie Maroun is chief strategist and senior partner of LRMG Performance Agency.

Read more: BBBEE, BBBEE Scorecard