On the surface, it seems like significant progress has been made in closing the gender gap in South Africa.
As the South African Institute of Race Relations reported in 2017, the number of women who own their homes is higher, women make up 51% of people aged 20 and older who have completed grade 12, and 53% of people who have post-matric education.
Yet, women remain under-represented in the labour force, and only 22% of women are in top management positions. The World Economic Forum estimates the South African gender pay gap to be between 15% to 17%.
This disparity exists despite economic policies like Affirmative Action, Employment Equity, and Black Economic Empowerment, all of which are aimed at correcting the historic exclusion of women and black people in certain fields.
In her keynote address at the Business Women’s Association of South Africain August 2018, the CEO of the Motsepe Foundation Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe said the country’s gender pay gap continues to limit South Africa from reaching its full potential.
“The government provides maternity leave benefits to women, estimated at 38% of their wages, while men receive these benefits in the form of their full salary directly from their employers,” she said. “For decades it has been in the interest of women to contribute more than housework and childcare."
"Yet South African women still dominate the informal economy," she added. "Research by StatsSA shows that 14.5% of women in South Africa are employed as domestic workers, compared to 0.5% of men.”
Changing the status quo
Dr. Patrice Motsepe and Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe launched the Motsepe Foundation in 1999 to start correcting past and current imbalances that were created by South Africa’s long history of excluding black people and women from the economy.
Founded on the principle of Ubuntu, the Foundation invests in initiatives that promote gender equality and access to quality education as equalisers needed to change the status quo.
The Foundation created the Women’s Unit in 2012 to empower women to be equal partners in driving the development agenda by facilitating access to quality education, in particular science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
As the Minister of Women in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu pointed out, by the year 2020, 80% of all future jobs will require a STEM education. However, the field is still male-dominated and girls fall behind in interest and enrolment. At the moment only 13% of STEM graduates are women. “Young women must be nurtured to dream big and invest in their capabilities,” said Dr Moloi-Motsepe.
Investing in the future
The Motsepe Foundation works with 160 primary and secondary schools in the country to spark interest in STEM subjects by introducing mathematics from primary school level. The initiative inspires girls to consider STEM careers by increasing their interest and engagement in STEM and by attracting girls into STEM fields.
“Investing in education for young girls gives them better job and career prospects. As the world moves towards embracing technology in all sectors, this is the ideal time to encourage young girls to study subjects in the STEM fields, so they are not left behind in the rapidly changing world,” said Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, co-founder and CEO of the Motsepe Foundation.
Other than awarding more than 2,000 bursaries to help young people pursue STEM qualifications after matric, the Motsepe Foundation also collaborates with stakeholders to bring the magic of STEM subjects to girls.
Bringing the magic of science to learners
The Foundation collaborated with the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) in August 2018 to host 800 learners as a way to stimulate awareness on nuclear and other forms of energy in line with the Energy Policy.
More than 400 grade 8 pupils from schools in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and North West were taken to the Necsa Visitor Centre in Pretoria. The project was also carried out in Phuthaditjhaba in QwaQwa, where close to 400 Grade 8, 9, and 10 girl-learners from seven schools around the Free State were taken to Tshiya Education Resource Centre.
Edutainment activities conducted during these events were aimed at providing a platform for scientists to engage with mathematics and science learners, attract these learners to science, engineering and technology (SET) careers, including research, as well as possible careers within Necsa.
“Girls in STEM is a project of the Motsepe Foundation that seeks to encourage more women to engage with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and to prepare for the world of artificial intelligence and robotics,” said Dr Moloi-Motsepe.
She added: “I truly believe that if we want to see more women participating in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we should spark their curiosity from a young age.”
The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.