National Women’s Month in South Africa is both an opportunity to honour and celebrate the women who decided on the 9th of August 1956 that the participation of women in the economy was not only the right thing to do but the only thing to do to build and grow the economy of this beautiful country.
Today society has taken that even further to insist on addressing gender inequality and diversity in the workplace, in particular female representation in key, decision-making, leadership positions. This month, therefore, as KFC Africa we take a moment to ask the question, “Who is seated at your table”?
While efforts to address gender inequality in the workplace have boosted female representation at every level within organisations, the reality is that we are far from being fully representative and as organisations we have to continue to create an environment and culture where all voices are heard, respected, and valued, where the table is big enough for all.
Championing inclusivity and better representation is in fact good for business. Numerous reports (https://apo-opa.info/47uDTZp) comprehensively show that inclusive organisations that boast the greatest gender, ethnic and cultural diversity achieve better commercial returns and are more profitable than their less diverse counterparts. Moreover, more diverse teams tend to exhibit greater complexity in problem-solving and are more innovative.
Yes, the gender gap continues to close globally, with the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Gender Gap Index (https://apo-opa.info/3YtKbo1) report showing a 0.3 percentage points improvement compared to 2022, which represents a 68.4% in terms of closing of the gap. At this rate of progress, however, it will take 131 years to reach full global parity. In South Africa, where 51% of the Economically Active Population is female, the gap is even wider as women comprise of only 40% (https://apo-opa.info/3s3fdqW) of directorships at state-owned entities, with just 36.7% representation in the professional services industry and only 26.9% of directorship positions at JSE-listed entities. From a broader continent perspective, while sub-Saharan Africa has closed 67.9% (https://apo-opa.info/3OxDoVZ) of its gender gap, it also means that 32% of females on average are less likely to have the same opportunities as males in the region – with individual country performances varying greatly.
As a result of these disappointing stats, KFC Africa has some bold ambitions when it comes making a seat at the table for women.
“Female empowerment is about engraining true transformation into the core of the organisation, and it must be driven throughout the value chain and embedded into the social fabric of the business to ensure it lasts,” explains Akhona Qengqe, the recently appointed first female General Manager for Africa at KFC. “As a people-first business, KFC Africa is committed to becoming the most inclusive organisation in the traditionally male-dominated Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) sector and across sub-Sahara Africa, and to actively advocating for allyship in every sphere within the business. As a customer facing business, it is important that our employees, stakeholders and franchise partners reflect the communities that we operate in.”
KFC has placed women at the forefront of its socially led initiatives and its hiring processes. For example, KFC Add Hope has a 60% female volunteer complement and 90% of the Add Hope beneficiary organisations, which KFC work with, are championed by women. Not to mention that KFC Mini-Cricket boasts a female volunteer community of 70%. In fact, today the organisation employs over 40,000 people across 23 markets in sub-Saharan Africa in over 1250 restaurants and 60% of those restaurants are managed by women. This is testament to the brand’s commitment to female transformation.
“Giving women leadership opportunities to drive some of the core aspects of the overall business and bringing them into key decision-making roles ensures that their voices and views are represented in a meaningful and impactful way,” continues Qengqe.
But more than simply aiming to meet representation targets, Qengqe explains that KFC is intentional about how it creates an environment where women feel like they belong and can contribute meaningfully at a decision-making level.
“Gender equality at the corporate level means understanding issues that women face, be it gender-based violence, single-income households, women-led households and family responsibility, and truly digging deep to ensure that the company provides support mechanisms that speak to real-life issues,” explains Nolo Thobejane, Chief People and Transformation Officer at KFC.
In this regard, KFC Africa develops, empowers and emboldens women to leverage their innate leadership qualities and take their seat at the table – with the confidence – to lead with impact and fuel results. KFC achieves this through its Women on the Move Program, which aims to build leadership know-how and equip women with the tools and resources that will accelerate the growth of female talent into meaningful leadership roles.
Conceptualised by Qengqe and launched in 2021, this transformative 12-month programme adopts a blended learning approach that includes formal training courses, personal development interventions, mentorship and peer learning circles, all of which results in bench readiness for leadership and drives a high-performance culture within the organisation.
“We have extended the reach and impact of this initiative even further through our Women on the Move Extended Network (WOM.EN) programme, which brings women across the globe together, at all levels, and affords them the opportunity to share experiences, learnings, challenges and create growth networks in the workplace,” elaborates Thobejane.
In the end, rather than rising into leadership roles in isolation, KFC’s approach to female allyship creates powerful advocates for true upliftment. This process gives women the opportunity to achieve their goals, and creates a virtuous cycle of support, where women can pull up more chairs to make room for more female voices at the table.
“We understand the unique perspective and values women bring to our company and are bold in our ambitions to create opportunities for more inclusion, equity and belonging. Our commitment to advance more women into senior roles and achieving greater gender parity in senior leadership, globally, by 2030 is stronger than ever and we will continue to make fundamental steps to become the most inclusive brand in SA,” concludes Qengqe.