It’s International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021, a global day celebrating the achievements of women while highlighting the urgency of realising gender equality. SAICA, as a voice for women empowerment, is creating a platform for leadership development of female members in 2021.
Apart from the moral and social case for gender diversity, the business case is stronger than ever before. For diverse companies, the likelihood of outperforming industry peers on profitability has increased over time, while the penalties are getting steeper for those lacking diversity. Companies in the top quartile of gender diversity in executive teams were 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability than peer companies. This according to McKinsey & Company’s Diversity Wins 2020 report, which further indicates that the impact of COVID-19 has resulted in one in four women contemplating reduced work hours, moving to a part-time role, switching to a less demanding job, or leaving the workforce entirely. Downscaling career ambitions or leaving the workforce will impact gender diversity and therefore profitability of businesses. Creating and nurturing paths to female leadership is a business and economic imperative.
PwC’s 2019 Practices and Remuneration Trends Report highlights the failure of businesses to close the gender gap. Within JSE-listed companies, women constituted 3,3% of all CEOs, 12,8% of all CFOs and 8,1% of all executive directors. An analysis in the PwC non-executive directors report 2021 shows that there is still a heavy weighting (71%) towards male non-executive directors among JSE-listed companies.
For many years, SAICA has worked tirelessly to ensure transformation and growth within the industry. This includes a focus on women empowerment − not just because it is the right thing to do but because SAICA has a uniquely talented membership body of the type of future leaders needed in business and our country.
While SAICA will continue to provide appropriately qualified professionals to play a vital role in serving the economy, a greater contribution is required to help female members attain senior leadership positions and helping to balance the leadership scales.
Sustainable development goals
Formulated by the United Nations, the SDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked goals designed to be a ‘blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all’. The fact that women empowerment is a feature across many of the SDGs highlights the value to be gained through gender equality.
SAICA plays a pivotal role in creating platforms for members to collaborate in solving some of society’s most pressing problems. Providing access to high-impact learning to enhance female leadership will contribute to the outcomes of SDG 5.
SDG 5: Gender equality
According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2020 report, at entry-level, 47% of the workforce are women. This reduces to 38% at management level, 33% at senior management and 21% at C-level. The largest drop-off of women occurs at the first major rung of the corporate ladder, the leap to management. Supporting women to stay the course to management positions will make a significant difference in balancing the leadership scales.
In 2018, SAICA Eastern Region identified that attrition of women at management and mid-management level was negatively impacting the number of women CAs(SA) in leadership positions in the region. Naeem Asvat, SAICA Eastern Region executive, spearheaded engagements in search of an initiative that would support female members to overcome these barriers to leadership.
This led to a collaboration with Usha Maharaj CA(SA), executive and leadership development coach who had shattered the glass ceiling to become a director in a Big Four audit firm in KwaZulu-Natal. Utilising her extensive personal experience, experience coaching female clients, training and research, Maharaj developed a programme, The Leadership Evolution Masterclass Series #LEMS.
SAICA LEMS, hosted annually in Durban since 2018, is a flagship women empowerment initiative that has seen 60 participants taking the journey since inception and has a goal of escalating its impact and reach in the future.
CPD policy alignment
Any intervention should be aligned to the SAICA CPD policy, an output-based framework within which members commit to ongoing learning and development throughout their careers. The SAICA LEMS programme incorporates the following elements from the CPD framework: personal ethics (personal values), self-development, adaption and agility from professional values and attitudes. The elements of relational acumen included are communication skills, leadership skills, people skills, relationship-building skills and emotional intelligence. Teamwork, self-management and managing others, while not individually featured, are covered through relevant programme content. In addition, the programme features deep reflection exercises that practically engage participants in deep thinking about their learning and development journey. Ongoing learning is encouraged through recommending of further reading on topics covered, homework assignments and group discussion.
A SAICA LEMS journey may be incorporated into a CPD reflective plan and will cover various elements and proficiency levels for each participant. Also, improvement in proficiency levels could be incorporated into the 2−3-year development plans of participants.
‘LEMS has been an amazing journey for me and continues to be so. The skills and tools I learned in LEMS will be something I use throughout my journey in life and career. I have gained the confidence to run meetings, to give speeches without staring down at the floor and most of all to believe in myself and know that nothing is impossible, Kershne Rayappen CA(SA), SAICA LEMS participant.
AUTHOR | Usha Maharaj CA(SA)
SAICA LEMS 2021
SAICA LEMS has been instrumental in the transformational breakthroughs experienced by participants. It comprises five masterclass sessions and a graduation session where participants reflect on their individual journeys. Each session is expertly facilitated by Maharaj and participants share a blended learning experience with teaching, practice and reflection.
For the first time since inception, SAICA LEMS will be conducted online and accessible to all female members globally in 2021. This six-part, uniquely transformational journey will help to leverage leadership potential, unlock accelerated career growth within the female membership and contribute to the retention and development of women in leadership.
The programme is best suited to supervisory, mid-management and management level female members.
Topics covered in SAICA LEMS:
- Session 1 The Psychology of Success − Unleash the Power of Self-awareness
- Session 2 The Psychology of Success − Chart Your True Path to Success
- Session 3 Network with Purpose like a Pro − Build Trusted Relationships
- Session 4 Brand and Market Yourself − Increase Your Influence
- Session 5 Body Language Tricks that Inspire Confidence − Awaken Your Inner Warrior and Unleash Your Physical Energy
- Session 6 Celebrate Your Journey, Embed Your Learning