South Africa’s top employers are unanimous in their open policy of employing women of child-bearing age in senior positions, a recent survey reveals.
Unlike their global counterparts who, according to at least two recent international surveys, tend to show a reluctance to hire women who are or could fall pregnant, a local poll by a top SA headhunter found all the SA companies polled were not swayed by family matters.
One international survey, conducted by UK executive search agency Hanson Search, found that nearly 10 percent of employers questioned had "serious reservations about hiring women aged between 30-40 years old" because of a fear that they would at some point fall pregnant. Another survey, conducted by UK agency Business Environment specifically among female managers, found that a quarter of them were reluctant to hire a woman who has children or was of child-bearing age.
The local survey, conducted among SA’s top corporate employers by leading executive search firm Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, stood in stark contrast. All of the respondents indicated unequivocally that a woman interviewing for a top job* would be neither overtly nor covertly discriminated against for reasons of having or potentially starting a family.
Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, MD of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, says although it would be prudent to consider that respondents had perhaps responded in what they perceived to be the politically correct way, the anonymity provided and the nature of the responses gave weight to the stated positions that top female execs of child-bearing age would be welcomed.
"The responses show that what was most important to employers were skill and fit, and that personal circumstances could be accommodated," says Goodman-Bhyat.
Employers were asked two questions: "Would you be hesitant to hire a woman of child-bearing age" and "Would your position change if she had recently married". All of the respondents answered no, or even "not at all" to both questions.
Among the motivations for their answers, employers said current day egalitarian parenting made employing younger men and women who are new parents or who plan to become parents much of a muchness.
Other comments include:
Goodman-Bhyat says that South Africa’s unique labour imperatives combined with the country’s strive for gender equality meant that local employers tended to have a different attitude to the appointment of younger women to senior positions.
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