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The Factors Of The Under-Representation Of Women In The South African Corporate Sector

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As they say in baseball: “step up to the plate!” Are women capable of moving up the corporate ladder? Can they fight for what is right in the corporate arena or is this step too high in a typically male dominated world? They do call it a “Man’s world” after all.

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This paper serves to discuss the main reasons that contribute to the under-representation of women in the South African corporate sector and suggest alternative measures which can be put in place to address this phenomenon.

Women play important roles in South Africa’s Economic Development. Unfortunately, they don’t enjoy the same freedom as their male counterparts and are often paid less for the same work. Women in the corporate sector have come a long way since their original oppression in the workplace, however they still face an uphill battle to gain similar benefits to those of men. Even today, women are still abused and often made to feel less worthy. To make things worse, men are still seen as the bread-winners of a family. This leads to women having to sacrifice their ambitions to take care of their children.

The main reasons that contribute to the under-representation of women in corporate sectors are: Health Care; Education; how women are portrayed in media; Poverty; Violence against women; social impacts on gender inequality; oppression by piers; stereotyping; lack of confidence, to name a few. Let us dive deeper into some of the reasons mentioned above. When it comes to Health Care, South Africa still has some of the highest HIV and AIDS figures in the world. This has a direct impact on families and the economy. Women find it hard to find decent jobs, especially when they must take off from work to stand in long queues at government health care institutions. This has a tremendous impact on job security.

Poverty and education usually go hand in hand. It is extremely difficult to find good education without the needed capital to further your studies. You also cannot find a good job without the necessary qualifications. As a result, the women that do get employed, usually only find work in low paying jobs like domestic workers or tellers. This leaves them with low prospects of economic advancement.

Climbing the corporate ladder can often be very daunting. Women usually feel more comfortable at lower levels, thanks to fairer work environments for all genders. However, when women start to move up the corporate ladder, the realities of gender inequality start to set in. How women are portrayed in society also plays a role. Women that climb too quickly, are often viewed as “sleeping their way to the top”. This leads to women being branded unfairly for their sexuality over working hard. Stereotypical positions like secretaries, are usually associated with women and often seen over for promotions, due to oppression from their peers. This has a direct impact on the confidence levels of women that aspire to move up the corporate ladder.

How women are portrayed in the media and in society has the biggest impact on gender inequality. Some women find it difficult to find jobs because they do not fit into the picture of what society conforms. A pretty woman might get employed far easier than someone that is a bit over weight or has skin problems. This is a problem that must be addressed.


Alternative measures that should be considered to counter the under-representation of women in workplaces in South Africa are, mentorship programs. These programs could aim at addressing the youth in poor areas and motivating girl children to strive to bigger things. Creating sponsorships for these young ladies, to further their studies and educating them against stereotypical prejudices. Building safe havens for women that might have been abused through violence or even emotional abuse. The South African Government should invest in better health care facilities and run awareness campaigns to address gender inequalities, this to lower the amount of teenage pregnancies and the spread of HIV and AIDS.


Hope is not lost. There are plenty women that have started stepping up to the plate. Inspirational women, inspiring young and old. Jennifer Lawrence is one of those, fighting against Hollywood over the inequal pay gap between male and female movie stars. Another inspirational woman is Oprah Winfrey, who constantly inspires people through everything she does.

15 July 2020

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