SA makes progress towards gender equality but more still needs to be done: Pandor

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Despite some progress towards gender equity, Minister Naledi Pandor says that “terrible levels” of gender inequality and brutal repression of women and girls still exist in South Africa.

“Gender-based violence and femicide have been described as a pandemic by President Ramaphosa,” the International Relations and Cooperation Minister said on Wednesday.

Pandor said during the most recent African Union Summit held in Ethiopia, there was also an initiative aimed at advocating for addressing women’s developmental challenges and gender-based violence (GBV) on the continent.

This initiative, according to Pandor, is in partnership with President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Ghanaian counterpart, President Nana Akufo Addo, and other African Heads of State.  

Pandor on Wednesday delivered the keynote address at the Annual Forbes Africa Leading Women’s Summit 2023 in Pretoria.

Pandor told the delegates that none of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations will be achieved if the fifth goal concerning gender equality is unattained.

“It's time to empower women and girls everywhere so that they can reach their potential,” she stressed. 


Despite the long road that lies ahead, Pandor said women are increasingly entering the workplace, constituting 43.8% of the labour force and contributing significantly towards the economy.  

“The increase in remuneration and access to jobs, because of the decrease in gender discrimination, are contributing factors to the proliferation of women in the labour force.”

However, she said only 32% of women occupy a managerial position in South Africa.  

In addition, she said more women are members of unions and mentioned the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which is led by a woman – Zingiswa Losi.  


Pandor believes achieving gender equity in decision-making positions – both in government and the private sector – is crucial.  

Citing the latest Statistics South Africa report, she said South Africa saw an increase in the proportion of seats held by women in the National Assembly from 33% in 2004 to 46% in 2019, which remains the current percentage.  

“Half of the South African Cabinet positions are held by women," the Minister said.


Pandor also mentioned Professor Glenda Gray serving as the first female President and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), and Professor Helen Rees now a leading global researcher on children and HIV.

“As a country, we need to acknowledge the pertinent role of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education for young girls and women.”

According to the Minister, these fields serve as a foundation for their development and economic empowerment and create opportunities for exciting new areas such as artificial intelligence and data science.

“We should commit to doing everything possible to narrow this gender divide so that all women and girls are empowered for the fourth industrial revolution.”

Private sector

Pandor recognised that the private sector had shown progress with women owning major companies and serving as CEOs and Chairs of Boards and women making up 15% of executives and 30% of non-executive directors at JSE-listed companies.

She said the percentage of female CEOs in JSE-listed companies improved to 8% at the end of June last year from 5%.


The Minister also described universities as an important site for the empowerment of young women, with over 58% of university students being women across all population groups.  

Currently, Pandor said women constitute 15% of the 26 Vice-Chancellors, while out of 30 Deputy Vice-Chancellors, 12 are women.  

She also acknowledged the role of South African women judicial officers in the fight for equity, equality, and the fight against GBV is invaluable.  

“South Africa has the opportunity to make a real impact on achieving gender equality through its chairing of the Committee on the Status of Women, which we are chairing on behalf of the Africa Group, as well as the role it plays in the Global Generation Equality Action Programme and working groups.” –