South Africa has a history of exclusion and discrimination on all kinds of grounds, such as race and gender. For this reason we have developed one of the most inclusive constitutions in the world, with a Bill of Rights that specifically refers to equal treatment for all regardless of race, age, disability status, socio-economic status and gender (Section 9). Legislation – such as the Employment Equity Act of 1998 – has facilitated access to formal employment for women, where employers are legally required to work towards more equitable representation based on gender, race and disability. Our National Development Plan 2030 envisions an inclusive society and economy, free from unequal opportunities through capacity building, redress and increased interaction.
Through a combination of legislation, monitoring and accountability, significant progress has been made in this regard, especially in the public sector. For example, the percentage of women in senior management positions in the public service increased from 13% in 1998 to 42% in 2017. Gender and gender statistics are not just about women. Whereas the term sex refers to a biological male/female classification, the word gender connotes more than that. It encapsulates social and cultural differences, and also includes how an individual views him-/herself. The term “gender role” relates to society’s concept of how men and women are expected to act. Gender stereotypes form the basis of sexism, or the prejudiced beliefs that value males over females or vice versa. Gender inequality refers to the unequal treatment and/or perceptions of inequality of men in relation to women or vice versa.
Even though there are instances where discrimination occurs against men, more often than not women are at a disadvantage. This is manifested in, for example, preferential access to work and/or certain jobs for men, unequal pay for equal work, bullying, domination and violence against women, selective abortion of female children, and preferential household expenditure on boys’ education.
While great strides have been made towards equality for women, there still remains great challenges; there is a need for continued measurement and policy and programmatic interventions.
In addition to monitoring progress with regard to the situation of men and women, an understanding of gender gaps in the following key areas will move the agenda of leaving no one behind forward:
Market participation – Equal representation of both sexes in the labour force is important; gender equality allows for an increase in the number of women participating in the work force, which expands the labour force and can contribute towards increased economic productivity and growth.
Resource equity – Indicators of men’s and women’s asset ownership and control are important measures used to monitor gender equality. This is achieved when people are able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of whether they are male or female. Women’s ownership of and control over resources is one of the key elements of empowerment.
Governance – Gender equality in positions of decision-making, as well as political representation, are important not only from an empowerment perspective, but also to ensure that issues affecting women are considered during policy formulation, planning and programme/project implementation.
Stats SA publishes a wide range of statistics in various reports and publications, highlighting the challenges experienced by women and men in South Africa as measured through household surveys and censuses conducted by Stats SA, as well as other sources.