When equity meets culture and change: how do regional perspectives differ?
08 March 2023
The theme for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2023 is “embracing equity”, encouraging people to actively support and embrace equity within their own sphere of influence.
Signium Global Board Chair and Director of Executive Search at Signium Africa, Annelize van Rensburg, says: “It’s important to note that ‘equality’ means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities, while ‘equity’ recognises that each person has different circumstances and allocates the precise resources and opportunities required to enable an equal outcome.
“As a global entity in diverse countries, International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to see how far we’ve come and what we still need to do to level the playing fields.”
She notes that executive search can play a role in promoting or furthering equity in the workplace by creating programs for clients that drive success. “When a client says they want equity in an appointment, our executive search specialists first determine what they mean by ‘equity’ to establish whether they need assistance with training of their own staff or as part of onboarding diverse candidates.”
Van Rensburg adds that both gender equality and equity is currently being driven extensively in state owned enterprises in South Africa, with the private sector largely seeking “best fit” appointments.
Based in Manila, Philippines, Signium Director, Jade Jalmasco notes similar trends, with 90% of HR appointments being women and the country having a good share of female leaders. “However,” she says, “women are still typecast and clients request a specific gender for certain roles. Preferences usually also include age and the educational institutions candidates attended.”
Jalmasco believes executive search can help influence these choices and guide an understanding of alternative possibilities. “It’s our obligation to provide clients with a holistic view of available talent. We understand the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) needs in their organisation and encourage them to look past stereotypes.”
Even so, women face age issues on two counts, Jalmasco asserts. “Those who take time off to have and raise children for a few years often find it difficult to get back into the workforce,” she says. “Then there’s ageism, which in women starts at around 40. On the positive side, Government has increased the length of maternity leave.”
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2023, Jalmasco shines a light on equity and equality in the Multinational Pharmaceutical sector, which has four strong women CEOs, mainly in their 50s. “This means barriers have been challenged and overcome and we hope this continues.”
She also says her greatest wish at this crucial time for women in business is that more companies develop a pipeline of succession for future women leaders. “There should be no barriers for capable, talented people, now and in the future.”
Encouraging diversity through awareness
Further afield, Hisham El Badawy, Chairman Signium GCC speaks from a dual perspective – that of Egypt and the UAE – and highlights the reality that across the region, every country is very different on so many levels.
“In Egypt and the Gulf Region, equality and equity in the workplace is often based on social standards” he says.
El Badawy points out that in business, equity and equality is about treating every employee with fairness, while ensuring all meet the same standards of productivity, regardless of gender.
As for women at Signium Egypt, El Badawy notes with enthusiasm that the company comprises “almost 80% women”. The company Board, he adds, is also similarly diverse with a balanced ratio of men to women.
“This was not engineered to meet diversity requirements – it happened naturally”.
El Badawy asserts that women in top positions are there because of their capabilities, productivity, and value. What is important, he says, is creating awareness of empowerment and equity for women in businesses. “It must be noted that clients may request specifics in a candidate, which may sometimes appear to be discriminatory in some ways. This could be age, education, religion or nationality.
“In this regard, we set out to challenge why a client may want these specifics included. It’s not under our authority to change what a client believes is best for their company, but we are able to discuss a candidate’s potential even if they do not meet the criteria requested. For us, this encourages a new view of a ‘perfect fit’ candidate.”
Overall, El Badawy says, “encouraging our clients to view candidates on their merit alone reflects our drive to engage all stakeholders in the creation of a level playing field”.
“As a long-time advocate for DEI in its entirety, Signium around the globe looks forward to continuing its commitment to the principle of equity, especially on International Women’s Day,” concludes Van Rensburg.