Picture: JSE
Picture: JSE

JSE-LISTED companies have less than a year to report on what steps they have taken to increase female representation on their boards.

The policy was introduced in August last year and now forms part of the listing requirements of the bourse.

Listed companies have until January 1 next year to comply.

JSE director of marketing and corporate affairs Zeona Jacobs said: "We are hoping to see consciousness at board level. We have no set targets in mind, but are hopeful that the listed companies understand the imperative for women’s inclusion.

"The idea was inspired by the National Development Plan and broad-based black economic empowerment policies."

The bourse introduced the policy shortly after the Business Women Leadership Census, commissioned by the Business Women’s Association of SA, bemoaned in a report the fact that only 8.79% of JSE-listed companies had 25% or more women as directors. Women remained excluded from decision-making positions and mostly held nonexecutive directorships, with only 9.2% of women holding chairperson positions and 2.4% appointed as CEOs.

Ms Jacobs said: "The policy will work on ‘a comply or explain’ basis. If you haven’t done it, you will have to explain why you have not done so. We hope to see some form of transformation for the inclusion of women from this."

A Grant Thornton report released last Tuesday, International Women’s Day, showed that SA was trailing in the gender equality stakes, especially at top management because fewer women in the country held senior positions than in previous years.

For the 2016 reporting period under review, SA saw a 23% plunge in senior roles held by women, while 39% of businesses remained without female representation in senior management roles.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers Executive Directors Remuneration report, which was published in 2014, showed that the gap between male and female executive directors had widened.

Only 13% of women worked in executive roles in the basic resources sector, compared with 87% of men who fulfilled such functions in the sector.

Men dominated in the financial services sector, especially at board level (85%), and women (15%) were in the minority.

Ms Jacobs said the goal with the new policy was to achieve a 50-50 diversity balance, factoring in both gender and race at board level.