Women in finance talk industry transformation

3 min read 11 October 2018

SA’s financial services sector is one of the industries in the spotlight for slow transformation. But it’s by no means alone. In SA, one in five businesses still does not have women in senior roles. And only 2.2% of JSE-listed companies are led by a female CEO. Despite the fact that a 2016 study of 22 000 companies worldwide revealed that businesses with women leaders (30%) made 15% more profit than businesses with non-diverse leadership teams.

To address the situation, companies like Santam have a clear strategy in place to groom continuous succession pipelines of high-performing diverse talent, to foster sustained socioeconomic inclusion.

This women’s month, some of Santam’s women in finance share their experiences and how they believe the industry can become more transformed:


  1. Create an enabling environment for everyone: I believe we still have too few women in high paying and senior roles in the financial services industry and in SA in general. To change this, we need to start with the education of girls and the mentoring of women at home and in the workplace. All genders need to be deemed as equal in the workplace. Notice the focus on the plural here – genders – it’s not just about men and women, but about making space for everyone, no matter their birth sex, chosen gender or sexual orientation. To do this, we need a strong legal framework. But the work that is needed for real progress is personal and subtle:
  1. Self-reflect on stereotypes: We also need to self-reflect on stereotypes we may have unconsciously internalised. Often women leaders are subjected to a double standard: if you’re too friendly and collaborative, you’re weak, if you’re decisive and driven, you’re bossy. That’s a no win position. We have to let go of old leadership stereotypes to widen the scope to get the leaders we need for the 21st century challenges we face.


  1. Transform the whole value chain: To bring about real change, we know that the whole value chain needs to be transformed, across all key stakeholders in the business – from our staff, suppliers and business partners, to the greater community – which requires lots of teamwork and consolidation. Ultimately, you have to commit to a transformation agenda across every sector of the business and the greater network of systems you operate in. That way, the transformation is amplified, bringing about benefits for the country at large.


  1. Promote then provide support: South African legislation supports us in our mission to invest in equity from a race and gender perspective, which allows us to be a bit more binary in providing opportunities. This means that if a woman has the capabilities but not necessarily the experience, she’s often given the chance to prove herself. Importantly, she’s also never left to do this alone. All too often, women are promoted and then receive very little in the way of support.  It’s vital women leaders are given continuous constructive feedback, along with ongoing mentorship.
  2. Let talent fly:  Importantly, talent development needs to be a live, dynamic process that creates sponsored learning and growth opportunities across the organisation and with senior stakeholders in the industry at large. I don’t think talent development should happen in isolation; I believe we should not think of talent management as a dam but as a river People should be encouraged to gain a wealth of experience both within the organisation and in other organisations. This way, we build a better-skilled SA and support economic growth and talent mobility. The aim is to build an enabling environment that high-performing talent will want to come back to.


  1. Diversify a board for big benefits: Collectively, I think SA businesses are beginning to appreciate that women are competent and talented. The more we enforce this in our organisations, the more we’ll see the gap closing in our country. From our experience we know that having more women on a team improves organisational effectiveness. And a diverse team comprising multiple perspectives is the best way to secure long-term growth and sustainability.