Fresh opportunities for women as South African Equity Act amended
As the amended Employment Equity Act comes into force, Liz de Wet, convenor of the University Of Cape Town Graduate School Of Business Women in Leadership programme, has outlined how businesses can seize the renewed opportunity to reduce the gender divide, despite some disheartening statistics.
In short, the Act: “Protects workers and job seekers from unfair discrimination, and also provides a framework for implementing affirmative action.”
One of the most telling aspects of the workplace gender divide was revealed in study of Hewlett-Packard employees; it found that women applied for promotion only when they met 100 percent of the job requirements, whereas men put themselves forward if they met just 60 percent of the criteria.
De Wet summed up these gloomy findings, she said: “One of the biggest issues for women leaders is confidence.”
Moreover, a 2014 report by Grant Thornton, noted that the number of senior business positions occupied by women in South Africa actually declined by 2 percent to 26 percent that year.
The report also highlighted the stark fact that nearly a quarter of all local businesses had no women in senior management positions at all; the recently amended Employment Equity Act will potentially see businesses fined heavily for non-compliance.
De Wet noted that companies can only benefit from compliance with the new amended act, she said: “There is a lot research that shows that gender diversity at board level correlates to better business performance across a wide range of success indicators. Boosting the confidence of women boosts the bottom line.”
Her words are supported by a recent Gallup report that shows that female managers are more likely than male managers to be engaged in their work. People working under women tend to be more dedicated to their jobs, translating into high productivity and better performance.
“The Women in Leadership programme looks at developing women as leaders but in their own way, focusing on the skills and qualities that they bring to the job and how this can be developed into a very particular signature that is authentic. In this way the programme builds confidence and helps women to learn how to stand out,” said De Wet.
While government acts and well directed business programmes support the empowerment of women, it is clear that a broader, cultural change is required, starting with men proactively supporting the successes and ambitions of their female colleagues.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.