Several South African companies are featured in the 2018 Global Diversity and Inclusion Index by Thompson Reuters Financial & Risk (now known as Refinitiv); including Woolworths Holdings, Vodacom, Nedbank and the Clicks Group. These companies were assessed based on their commitment to embedding diversity and inclusion (cultural, gender and concessions on people with disabilities) within their respective business strategies.

In this part of the series, we discuss how diverse the South African workplace really is, where the challenges in transformation lie and solutions to drive change.

Currently, top management positions in SA’s private sector are held by white people at 67%, followed by black people at 14%, and Indian people at 9%; an Employment Equity Commission report reveals. Black people in the public sector occupy 71% of top management positions, followed by white people at 18%. In terms of the gender divide, only 23% of top management positions in the private sector are held by women; whilst the public sector shows improvement with women in 33% of senior management positions. For people with disabilities, their presence in top management positions is limited to 1,3% in both the private and public sectors.

The SA workplace still needs to do a lot of work in combating the typical attitudes met in the workplace around diversity and inclusion. When these biases around inclusion and diversity are confronted, Dr Liziwe Masoga of Old Mutual Holdings says they are met with three common attitudes:

(1)There are many with unconscious bias, but who are willing to improve;

(2) Others have an unconscious bias but are in denial; and

(3) Finally, there are those who are consciously or explicitly biased and want to “leave the past behind.''

Dr Masoga says businesses will do well by being diverse because their sustainability in the current climate relies on being relevant, and a substantive part of this is through a diverse workforce. To take on a more effective role in creating a fairer economy and addressing the inequalities of the workplace, Roy Gluckman, of the Solution Lab, suggests there should be social education programmes that should be taking place within the corporate and academic institutions in order to build trust amongst teams, management and employees. These programmes would include workshops, training, and other activities to address the cross-cultural issues across race, gender, sexual orientation, language and religion within your workplace.

“While creating social education classrooms at the workplace can positively affect the company’s bottom line, it also prompts business to model good governance, moral leadership and positive social change strategies,” Gluckman says.

With regards to the public sector, Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant said the national department would intensify their efforts to do more inspections to enforce equity in the workplace and deal decisively with non-compliant employers. As it currently stands, the national department has a Director-General review list for inspection of 1500 companies. The report shows skills development as a big area of development with black semi-skilled workers sitting at 76%, and black unskilled workers at 83%; thus despite their being the most economically active population group.

Do you think South Africa’s private and public sectors are doing enough to place diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their business strategies?