Uncovering gender bias within companies: Corporate SA urged to act against workplace GBV

A recent study by KPMG shows gender-based violence continues to pose a significant threat to women in the workplace.

KPMG’s Southern Africa CEO Ignatius Sehoole used to believe KPMG was the best company to work for, until he consulted with the female partners of the firm

 It was then, he admits he realised there was so much male managers miss when it comes to the female struggles in the workplace.

Sehoole emphasised that unless they make a concerted effort to find out and address these issues, they generally go unnoticed.

GBV dialogue

He was speaking at a recent gender-based violence (GBV) dialogue, following the release of the findings from the firm’s recent study of its investigations into South African Employer’s responses and responsibilities around gender-based violence in society and inequality in the workplace

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Sehoole said the company had discovered corporate South Africa is slowing waking up to the role it needs to play in addressing the scourge of gender-based violence in the country.

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The study also set out to measure South African employers’ readiness to respond and relevant gaps in relation to GBV in the workplace, as well as the respondent companies intent to drive change and strengthen collaboration across sectors to combat this pandemic.

“Gender-Based Violence in the workplace continues to pose a significant threat to women. Sexual harassment and assault in the professional setting disproportionately affect female employees, subjecting them to distressing and humiliating experiences,” he said.

Sexual harassment

“We also knowsexual harassment claims can have a substantial influence on a company’s reputation. It is, therefore, unsurprising to find all the employers we engaged with acknowledge GBV as an issue they need to help address.”

Key trends from the pilot study include:

•             100% of the respondents believe employers have a duty to combat GBV;

•             100% of the respondents expressed the need for wider cross-sectoral collaboration;

•             78% of the respondents had insufficient GBV awareness training;

•             94% of the respondents had no, or insufficient, GBV policies and safety plans;

•             94% of the respondents expressed the need for a GBV standard;

•             89% of the respondents didn’t have GBV support groups, even though most did have general employee support programmes; and

•             83% of the respondents didn’t have a working knowledge of the existing legislation.

According to UJ Vice-Chancellor Prof. Letlhokwa Mpedi, creating a more even playing field involves not only changing how things are set up, like structures and systems, but also “completely reimagining our entire world.”

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Embracing the process

He said the reason gender inequality continues is because society struggles to fully accept and embrace this process.

“If we fail to do so, it leads to differences in wages, unequal opportunities, and gender-based violence”.

Prof. Mpedi emphasized the need to actively and purposefully work towards promoting fairness and justice between genders.

“This requires us to be resolute in our commitment to increasing openness and accountability regarding gender-based violence within our schools, campuses, and workplaces. Only through these efforts can we effectively address and rectify the existing unequal systems,” he said.

“Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but also a critical factor for reducing poverty and promoting sustainable economic growth. Today there is substantial evidence to indicate gender-based inequalities have a restricting effect on both economic progress and poverty reduction. 

“However, multisectoral collaboration is key – which means well-coordinated collaboration among stakeholder groups (e.g., government, NGOs, civil society, universities, and private sector players) to jointly achieve a positive outcome”.

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Gender-based Violence (GBV) KPMG South Africa

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