Transformation of the top leadership teams in South African companies appears to be back on the agenda. Appointments of black executives are up by 10% from the year before, notes Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO of executive search firm Jack Hammer.
Goodman-Bhyat says the 2016 uptick comes after a very static placement statistics between 2012 and 2015.
“There are two primary reasons for this significant increase in BEE appointments to senior positions,” she says.
“Firstly, ongoing external procurement pressure is starting to make an impact. More and more companies are recognising that without transforming their executive and senior management ranks, they are being penalised where it counts, and are missing out on opportunities from big corporates and government institutions.
“Secondly, there has also been a consistent and substantial increase in the talent pool of black executives, beyond just the expected corporate services roles such as HR, Marketing, Legal & Compliance or Corporate Affairs. So now, when a company has a vacancy at executive or senior management level in a core leadership role with full business, people and P&L accountability, and places a non-negotiable priority on appointing a black candidate, there is a greater likelihood of a successful outcome,” says Goodman-Bhyat.
This is due to both the passage of time which has organically seen the rise of highly qualified black professionals with the requisite track records and experience, as well as ongoing pressure for companies to transform.
Jack Hammer tracks placement demographics annually, and statistics show that the percentage of BEE appointments at executive level jumped from 39% in 2015, to 48.4% last year.
On the flip side, there has been a substantial reduction in the number of white male executive appointments, which were down to 29% from 55% the year before.
“This could be in part as a result of the fact that clients primarily approach search firms with a mandate when they have a very challenging role to fill, and highly sought-after, top black professionals fall into this category,” says Goodman-Bhyat.
“That means search mandates will be weighted quite heavily on BEE appointments and securing leaders who have the requisite qualifications, experience and track records, while at the same time being a good fit for the specific role and company.”
Goodman-Bhyat says it has taken longer than expected to finally start seeing transformation numbers materialising at senior management and executive levels.
“It will be interesting to see if this trajectory continues, or whether 2016 was just an outlier,” she says.
Last year’s placement statistics also tell another story, however, with gender diversity numbers going nowhere fast.
“Sadly, the gender diversity numbers have not shifted much at all,” says Goodman-Bhyat.
“The typical ratios at executive levels are approximately 30:70 female to male – and this is almost exactly what we saw again last year with the appointment of female executives clocking in at 32% of the total top level placements. This is only a marginal increase from previous years.
“If we see the trend continue on an upwards trajectory at the end of 2017, even if it is just a nominal increase, it could bode well for continued and sustained gender transformation in years to come. But at the moment there is nothing to suggest that there is a serious drive by boards to strategically appoint female leaders to key positions.”