SOUTH Africa has the highest number of highly skilled women professionals of any African country who are emigrating to other countries because of limited career opportunities at home.
This is according to an analysis of data by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which shows the migration patterns between all African countries and OECD countries.
The OECD is made up of 35 countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and several European countries.
This, combined with the analysis of data from the Institute for Futures Research at the University of Stellenbosch and the Commission for Gender Equality, shows that the number of women leaving South Africa for the world’s most popular immigrant destinations is growing faster than the men who are moving to the same countries.
Out of 86 countries that South Africans emigrated to, those that experienced the highest migrant influx were the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.
These three countries received 967,619 migrants from South Africa from 2010 to 2013. Of these, almost half — 486,134 — were women. In the 2010-2011 period the number of women migrants to these countries outnumbered men.
Commission for Gender Equality commissioner Janine Hicks said women professionals were likely to seek career opportunities in other countries because their representation in managerial positions and directorships were still disproportionately low.
“If you ask about a push factor, it’s that we are out there but we are not getting access to senior positions. Gender transformation groups have put out figures that point to poor gender transformation,” Ms Hicks said.
While women made up 46.8% of the employed population in 2013/2014, their representation was at 29.3% among executive managers, 9.2% among private sector chairpersons of boards and as low as 2.4% among CEOs of JSE-listed companies, she said.
Also at issue were rigid attitudes in the professional environment regarding the inclusion of women in key decision-making. And there was a failure on the part of the private sector to recognise the needs of women when fulfilling their corporate social responsibility obligations, especially in rural areas where access to services was limited.
“Mining companies in Mpumalanga claim they struggle to retain women professionals. Mining companies in South Africa are based in rural areas, so some would joke that there is no Woolworths in Secunda so it would be hard to retain a woman there,” Ms Hicks said.
“But they don’t seem to want to talk about investing in services that women working in these rural areas need, such as schools to send their children to, and gynaecologists. In fact I challenge you to find one gynaecologist in Secunda,” she said.
Mienke Steytler of the South African Institute of Race Relations said women were most affected by the lacklustre performance of the South African economy, which hampered their employment prospects.
“Young women tend to take advantage of the opportunities offered to them and if these opportunities are in other countries, they will take them, especially if they face such a high chance of not finding work,” Ms Steytler said.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom favoured highly skilled female migrants, and there were also fewer concerns for women over crime, healthcare, and education among other things, she said.
This article was originally published in Business Day on 12 April 2016.