A survey of all 475 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) has found that the majority of South African company directors, CEOs and CFOs is made up of white men.

Carried out by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), the research also pointed to an increase in the appointment as directors of black chartered accountants (CAs) under 40 as a sign of hope for the future, however.

The study marks the first analysis of the qualifications and diversity of directors among all of the JSE-listed companies and not just the top 200 surveyed in previous years by SAICA.

Among the results, it emerged that almost a quarter (23.8%) of the 4,035 total directorships were held by SAICA members making the Chartered Accountants South Africa, or CAs(SA), the most predominant business qualification within the sample.

Among CFOs, 74.3% were CAs(SA), as well as 21% of CEOs and CAs(SA), while two-thirds of the companies managed by CAs(SA) appeared in the Top 200.

The survey also found that the number of directors under 40 was split almost equally between black and white CAs, with the latter leading by 0.1%. Conversely, for CAs over the age of 51, the number of white directors was five times that of black ones.

In terms of gender balance, "women – and black women in particular – fill a higher percentage of directorships in the under-50 age groups than they do in the over-50s", explained SAICA chief executive officer Terence Nombembe.

Nombembe explained: "20 years ago, there were very few black and/or female CAs(SA), so if we are rectifying that, we would expect it to start the improvement in the measures in the younger groups first."

However, he continued, there is still some way to go: "75% of directorships are still held by whites at present, and 87% by males – so obviously a lot of work still has to be done on transformation."

Further, 71% of directorships are held by white males, compared to 5% by white females, he added.

Among black directors, the gender gap appears instead to be reducing: 17% of directorships were shown to be held by black males, as opposed to 8% by black females.

"And while on average CAs(SA) make up 23.8%of the directors, there is a higher percentage of CAs(SA) among female directors (28%) than among males (22%)," Nombembe added. "We actually produce slightly more female than male CAs(SA) every year already."

He sees the progress as a result of SAICA’s commitment to "gender transformation of the profession" over the past decade and has high hopes for continued advancement in the future:

"We’ve broken the back of the gender transformation issue at that level; it’s just a matter of time before these numbers reflect at the directorship, CFO and CEO levels."

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