Leadership

The gender pay gap: a guide for the already converted

The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

July – December 2019

The gender pay gap: a guide for the already converted

  • Report by Prof Anita Bosch
  • MAY 2020

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Around the world, women are paid less than men are paid. This guide explores why this matters, and what we can do to change it.

As a guide for the already converted, this document does not spend time on facts and statistics on how big the wage gap is. Instead, it provides arguments and actions to help close the gap.

It covers the following:

  • Closing the gap on injustice, explaining how this impacts society
  • De­fining and calculating the gender pay gap, including steps that companies can use when conducting gender pay gap audits
  • South African governance and legislation, quoting conventions and frameworks that help to protect women
  • Factors that drive the gender pay gap, referring to women’s career paths, ideas about the roles women should play in society, and perceptions about how they should behave
  • Time for change, explaining ways to help create a more equal society.

Yes, the gender pay gap is complex and multi-faceted. But the bottom line is this: The gender wage gap will not close itself. It will take effort from all South Africans – including directors and managers – to ensure that women are paid fairly.

This report has been written by Prof Anita Bosch, USB Research Chair: Women at Work at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. The publication of this report has been sponsored by WDB Investment Holdings, a company that strategically invests in the corporate sector and the development of women.

Read more: Prof Anita Bosch and Shimon Barit, both from USB, have written a journal article titled Gender pay transparency mechanisms: Future directions for South Africa about this topic as well. The article was published in the South African Journal of Science. Read it here.

Download full report

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Women on South African boards – facts, fiction and forward thinking

The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

July – December 2019

Women on South African boards
– facts, fiction and forward thinking

  • Report by Prof Anita Bosch, Prof Kathleen van der Linde & Shimon Barit
  • MAR 2020

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Women make up 51% of the South African population. Yet, only 20,7% of directors of JSE-listed companies are female. So, there is work to be done. This report aims to help board members, management teams and the public to understand how South Africa got to this point, and what we can do to change it.

There are five sections to the report:

  1. Facts and fiction: This section presents statistics on how many women are on boards, both in South Africa and abroad. The report then explores how statistics can be misleading when taken out of context. The part concludes by debunking five misperceptions about women on boards.
  2. True stories: lessons from the rest of the world: This section looks at other countries to determine how quotas and targets have been used to encourage gender parity on boards.
  3. The limits of the law: The South African legal framework has two parts. The first looks at the current legislation, the second highlights the gaps in the framework.
  4. Forward thinking: getting more women on boards: This section explores what it takes to get more women on boards, and more out of the women that are on boards. It looks at what it takes for women directors to be able to effect change through power, influence and critical mass.
  5. Moving forward: turning theory into action: This section explains what we can do to encourage inclusive boards. This includes interventions, critical conversations and lobbying to increase board diversity.

The lead author of this report is Prof Anita Bosch, USB Research Chair of Women at Work. The publication of this report is sponsored by WDB Investment Holdings.

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About the report

Women on South African boards: facts, fiction and forward thinking is a publication of the Research Chair: Women at Work, at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, the publication of which was sponsored by WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) and published in March 2020 on the USB Management Review platform.

Prof Anita Bosch, USB Research Chair: Women at Work

Prof Kathleen van der Linde, Professor of Mercantile Law, University of Johannesburg

Shimon Barit, USB Research Fellow

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The SABPP Women’s Report 2019: Women and politics

The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

January – June 2019

The SABPP Women’s Report 2019: Women and politics

  • By Prof Anita Bosch
  • AUG 2019
  • Tags Gender, women, politics, leadership, report, Women’s Report

9 minutes to read

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Women and politics. This is the theme of the 2019 edition of the SABPP Women’s Report, with USB’s Prof Anita Bosch as editor. The report contains a collection of research papers on various aspects of women and politics.

Power is one of the main constructs in gender relations, and therefore also in gender politics. When power is exercised without regard for the impact it has on others, a social imbalance is created.

The report, which is aimed at HR practitioners and line managers, wants to share knowledge between higher education and the business world. The report is co-sponsored by the University of Stellenbosch Business School and the University of Johannesburg, and supported by the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP).

Chapter 1, written by Prof Amanda Gouws, is titled The state of women’s politics in South Africa, 25 years after democratic transition. The author looks at women’s representation in government and the South African electoral system. Her reflections on feminist institutionalism appeal to South Africans to consider the future of gender equity. The gains that have been made regarding gender equality in the past, including those in the workplace, rest on advances in legislation, together with the political will to execute existing legal mechanisms. Overall, it seems as if feminist activism is waning, and that the state is not to be trusted with gender equality.

Amid extremely high levels of gender-based violence, a younger generation of feminists took to the streets to give life to feminist demands to stop the violence. This may be a new chapter in the story of women’s engagement with the state, 25 years after democratic transition.

Chapter 2 is titled Neo-liberalism, gender, and South African working women. Here, Prof Desiree Lewis explains how the political and economic systems of South Africa are built on liberalist notions. While these have served our economy in the past, she questions whether we are on the right path, and brings to our attention the hidden structural elements embedded in a neo-liberalist framework. She also explains the economic and political outcomes of working-class women and links between patriarchy and gender violence at work, which culminate in physical and emotional outcomes. She provides numerous examples of women working in different industries to illustrate how assumptions about ‘normality’ in workplaces prevent us from understanding differences between women and men. She also refers to the struggles of women at work and how these may be entrenched in the economic model that we are accepting without reflecting on its outcomes.

Beyond the fact that increasing numbers of women are entering the male-dominated neo-liberal economy is the fact that they do so under highly exploitative conditions. This reveals that the main beneficiaries of neo-liberal globalisation are elite groups.

Chapter 3, by Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, asks: Do we have the tracking tools to monitor the National Gender Machinery? She details the incidence of violence against women, and provides shocking figures illustrating the depth of the problem. The unbalanced power relations between men and women are further linked to teenage pregnancies (a startling 30% of teenage girls are reported pregnant in South Africa). She makes suggestions on how we can draw on existing resources to better monitor gender outcomes at a national level. When gender violence is curbed nationally, the positive effects spill over into the workplace and the economy.

It is interesting to note that the two highest contributors to delayed teenage pregnancy are religious activities and a higher level of education.

Chapter 4 – To (queen) bee or not to bee? – is about women who purposefully exclude other women from entering senior roles and from having workplace influence. Prof Charlene Gerber and Prof Anton Schlechter make a compelling case that the Queen Bee Syndrome (QBS) may not be as common as is reported. They also ask us to consider why the syndrome might exist in contrast with similar behaviour seen in men, as aggressive and hyper-competitive behaviours have been normalised for men at work. However, when women display similar behaviours, it is labelled a syndrome – an anomaly and something to be treated.

The term queen bee, stereotypes not only women in leadership positions, but all working women, hurting women in organisations and, ultimately, the economy. As with all stereotypes, it shows ignorance and limited thinking.

  • Prof Anita Bosch lectures in Women at Work, Human Capital Management and Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. She is also the incumbent of the Research Chair in Women at Work at USB.

Download full report

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innovation in sa

A Seat at the Table: Capacities and limitations of private sector peacebuilding

The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

January – June 2019

A Seat at the Table: Capacities and limitations of private sector peacebuilding

innovation in sa

  • FEB 2019
  • Tags Innovation, management, sustainability, growth, report, strategies

11 minutes to read

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Can the private sector help to build peace?

This report presents the findings of a two-year learning project about engaging the private sector as new peacebuilding actor.

The project’s point of departure is the marked transformation in the discourse on the role of companies in conflict environments. Understanding of the management of social impacts has grown as consensus builds that companies must avoid negative societal impacts as a matter of both risk management and responsible corporate citizenship. That is why companies should, for example, avoid complicity in human rights violations or operational impacts that create social and environmental harm. And that is why a growing number of scholars, governments, NGOs and multilateral agencies argue that businesses should act in ways that also contribute to peace.

Within this context, the project documents a wide range of company practices, connects these to the theories and assumptions on which different approaches are built, and assesses evidence of impact on key drivers of conflict and peace.

This project was undertaken by CDA Collaborative Learning (CDA), the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (ACDS), and Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

Key takeaways of the project from different perspectives

Key takeaways for companies that aspire to help build peace include the need to start from a firm foundation: nuanced understanding of conflict dynamics and conflict-sensitive business operations that both mitigate risks of exacerbating conflict and build credibility with other actors. Companies can then mobilise their networks and resources to catalyse positive relations between other actors in the context, facilitate constructive action together with other peace-minded actors, and influence decision-makers in questions of conflict and peace – realising that their strength as peacebuilders comes less from their ability to change conditions on the ground than from their ability to help positively shape power relationships and institutional arrangements that underlie conflict.

Key takeaways for peacebuilders include the need to deal with companies as with any other actor in a conflict environment: engaging realistically based on the perceptions, interests and incentives of a particular company within its context today while working toward a more peace-positive mind-set and role for the future. This is facilitated by examining the intersection of peacebuilding with a variety of corporate agendas and constraints in conflict environments, as well as by understanding the comparative advantages of companies as peacebuilding allies: as access points to key people, conveners and actors able to help increase the voice and legitimacy of disenfranchised parties. It is also facilitated by understanding a company as a heterogeneous entity in which different levels, functions and leaders may have different interests in, and appetite for, peacebuilding action.

Key takeaways for policy actors include the imperative to distinguish between private sector policy and action that creates external social value, on the one hand, and that which builds peace, on the other hand. To the extent that policy actors aspire to change key driving factors of conflict and violence sufficient to achieve “Peace Writ Large,” there is a need to analyse the key drivers of conflict and peace, conceptualise strategies for addressing conflict dynamics and supporting peace dynamics that include a private sector role, and act in collaboration with like-minded actors. In support of business and peace efforts specifically, policy and donor support may usefully focus on space and support for multi-stakeholder dialogue on questions of conflict and peace; accelerating the conflict-sensitive business practice agenda; and applying a conflict lens to policies related to private sector promotion — with particular attention to possible unintended negative impacts of private sector promotion on those most affected by conflict.

A need for better evidence about business as a peacebuilding actor

Increasingly, the private sector is seen as an engine of development, an inhibitor of fragility, and as a category of actors that has an ability to shift conflict dynamics in a manner that favours peace in fragile and conflict-affected states. Some scholars, NGOs, governments and multilateral institutions are suggesting that there is a unique and as yet untapped role for the private sector to advance peace and curtail fragility. Yet, there is little reliable or practically useful evidence about what specifically private sector actors might do to fulfil it.

Policy makers, peacebuilders and companies themselves are uncertain about what should be asked of companies regarding peace. Can the job creation and economic growth to which private sector actors contribute be seen as peacebuilding? Can ongoing efforts to adhere to global standards of performance, to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, or improve the impact of CSR efforts be seen as part of peacebuilding? Can the ways in which core company operations and other activities are undertaken be seen as part of peacebuilding?

Lack of clarity about these issues has significant implications for the way resources are mobilised and initiatives are implemented. Faulty assumptions can lead to the misallocation of resources, or worse, outcomes that intensify conflict.

Finding a way forward

The question at the heart of this project relates to the effectiveness of companies’ efforts to reduce conflict and build peace. What works, and what does not work? This framing relies on a distinction between “working in conflict” and “working on conflict”.

Conflict sensitivity is an approach to operations in conflict settings that does not necessarily have peace as a specific goal; it rather aims to enable operations to go forward in a way that reduces the intensity of conflict and, where possible, supports peace.

Our analysis identified patterns across the case studies that suggest that companies can in fact operate in ways that help establish or sustain peace, or to mitigate conflict. However, the patterns suggest that this happens in ways that are quite different from those posited by the exponents of a private sector role in peace, and that it happens more infrequently and with much greater difficulty than the excitement among policy actors would imply.

What are the key lessons from this project?

  • Private sector enterprises in fragile and conflict-affected contexts are neither intrinsically peace-positive nor intrinsically peace-negative.
  • Companies that create positive impacts on peace and conflict demonstrate both exceptional abilities and exceptional willingness.
  • A company that contributes to peace is not categorically different from other peacebuilding actors.
  • Private sector companies are more likely to act when the presence of conflict or the absence of peace impacts their ability to establish or maintain operations.
  • There appear to be limitations on the scope of impact of an individual company.
  • Company efforts to build peace suffer from the same challenges and shortcomings as those of other peacebuilding actors.

The report concludes with briefing notes on the implications of the findings for the actors:

  • Briefing note for individual companies: understand conflict dynamics, focus on conflict-sensitive business operations, collaborate with other peace-minded actors, ensure more effective engagement internally, and focus on effective peacebuilding roles and means
  • Briefing note for peacebuilding practitioners: understand corporate language and perspectives, consider company constraints, capitalise on a company’s comparative advantages, and multiply entry points for company change
  • Briefing note for policy actors: create opportunities and institutionalise support for dialogue and collective action, use multiple leverage points to promote conflict sensitivity at the enterprise level, and ensure that private sector promotion policies are conflict sensitive.

Read the full report: A Seat at the Table: Capacities and Limitations of Private Sector Peacebuilding

  • Prof Brian Ganson is head of the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement at USB. He is one of the co-authors of A Seat at the Table: Capacities and Limitations of Private Sector Peacebuilding.

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A Seat at the Table: Capacities and Limitations of Private Sector Peacebuilding.

The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

July – December 2018

A Seat at the Table: Capacities and limitations of private sector peacebuilding

  • Ben Miller, Prof Brian Ganson, Sarah Cechvala and Dr Jason Miklian
  • FEB 2019
  • Tags Reports, Leadership

11 minutes to read

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Ben Miller, Prof Brian Ganson, Sarah Cechvala and Dr Jason Miklian

Can the private sector help to build peace?

This report presents the findings of a two-year learning project about engaging the private sector as new peacebuilding actor.

The project’s point of departure is the marked transformation in the discourse on the role of companies in conflict environments. Understanding of the management of social impacts has grown as consensus builds that companies must avoid negative societal impacts as a matter of both risk management and responsible corporate citizenship. That is why companies should, for example, avoid complicity in human rights violations or operational impacts that create social and environmental harm. And that is why a growing number of scholars, governments, NGOs and multilateral agencies argue that businesses should act in ways that also contribute to peace.

Within this context, the project documents a wide range of company practices, connects these to the theories and assumptions on which different approaches are built, and assesses evidence of impact on key drivers of conflict and peace.

This project was undertaken by CDA Collaborative Learning (CDA), the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (ACDS), and Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

Key takeaways of the project from different perspectives

Key takeaways for companies that aspire to help build peace include the need to start from a firm foundation: nuanced understanding of conflict dynamics and conflict-sensitive business operations that both mitigate risks of exacerbating conflict and build credibility with other actors. Companies can then mobilise their networks and resources to catalyse positive relations between other actors in the context, facilitate constructive action together with other peace-minded actors, and influence decision-makers in questions of conflict and peace – realising that their strength as peacebuilders comes less from their ability to change conditions on the ground than from their ability to help positively shape power relationships and institutional arrangements that underlie conflict.

Key takeaways for peacebuilders include the need to deal with companies as with any other actor in a conflict environment: engaging realistically based on the perceptions, interests and incentives of a particular company within its context today while working toward a more peace-positive mind-set and role for the future. This is facilitated by examining the intersection of peacebuilding with a variety of corporate agendas and constraints in conflict environments, as well as by understanding the comparative advantages of companies as peacebuilding allies: as access points to key people, conveners and actors able to help increase the voice and legitimacy of disenfranchised parties. It is also facilitated by understanding a company as a heterogeneous entity in which different levels, functions and leaders may have different interests in, and appetite for, peacebuilding action.

Key takeaways for policy actors include the imperative to distinguish between private sector policy and action that creates external social value, on the one hand, and that which builds peace, on the other hand. To the extent that policy actors aspire to change key driving factors of conflict and violence sufficient to achieve “Peace Writ Large,” there is a need to analyse the key drivers of conflict and peace, conceptualise strategies for addressing conflict dynamics and supporting peace dynamics that include a private sector role, and act in collaboration with like-minded actors. In support of business and peace efforts specifically, policy and donor support may usefully focus on space and support for multi-stakeholder dialogue on questions of conflict and peace; accelerating the conflict-sensitive business practice agenda; and applying a conflict lens to policies related to private sector promotion — with particular attention to possible unintended negative impacts of private sector promotion on those most affected by conflict.

Full report

A need for better evidence about business as a peacebuilding actor

Increasingly, the private sector is seen as an engine of development, an inhibitor of fragility, and as a category of actors that has an ability to shift conflict dynamics in a manner that favours peace in fragile and conflict-affected states. Some scholars, NGOs, governments and multilateral institutions are suggesting that there is a unique and as yet untapped role for the private sector to advance peace and curtail fragility. Yet, there is little reliable or practically useful evidence about what specifically private sector actors might do to fulfil it.

Policy makers, peacebuilders and companies themselves are uncertain about what should be asked of companies regarding peace. Can the job creation and economic growth to which private sector actors contribute be seen as peacebuilding? Can ongoing efforts to adhere to global standards of performance, to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, or improve the impact of CSR efforts be seen as part of peacebuilding? Can the ways in which core company operations and other activities are undertaken be seen as part of peacebuilding?

Lack of clarity about these issues has significant implications for the way resources are mobilised and initiatives are implemented. Faulty assumptions can lead to the misallocation of resources, or worse, outcomes that intensify conflict.

Finding a way forward

The question at the heart of this project relates to the effectiveness of companies’ efforts to reduce conflict and build peace. What works, and what does not work? This framing relies on a distinction between “working in conflict” and “working on conflict”.

Conflict sensitivity is an approach to operations in conflict settings that does not necessarily have peace as a specific goal; it rather aims to enable operations to go forward in a way that reduces the intensity of conflict and, where possible, supports peace.

Our analysis identified patterns across the case studies that suggest that companies can in fact operate in ways that help establish or sustain peace, or to mitigate conflict. However, the patterns suggest that this happens in ways that are quite different from those posited by the exponents of a private sector role in peace, and that it happens more infrequently and with much greater difficulty than the excitement among policy actors would imply.

What are the key lessons from this project?

  • Private sector enterprises in fragile and conflict-affected contexts are neither intrinsically peace-positive nor intrinsically peace-negative.
  • Companies that create positive impacts on peace and conflict demonstrate both exceptional abilities and exceptional willingness.
  • A company that contributes to peace is not categorically different from other peacebuilding actors.
  • Private sector companies are more likely to act when the presence of conflict or the absence of peace impacts their ability to establish or maintain operations.
  • There appear to be limitations on the scope of impact of an individual company.
  • Company efforts to build peace suffer from the same challenges and shortcomings as those of other peacebuilding actors.

The report concludes with briefing notes on the implications of the findings for the actors:

  • Briefing note for individual companies: understand conflict dynamics, focus on conflict-sensitive business operations, collaborate with other peace-minded actors, ensure more effective engagement internally, and focus on effective peacebuilding roles and means.
  • Briefing note for peacebuilding practitioners: understand corporate language and perspectives, consider company constraints, capitalise on a company’s comparative advantages, and multiply entry points for company change.
  • Briefing note for policy actors: create opportunities and institutionalise support for dialogue and collective action, use multiple leverage points to promote conflict sensitivity at the enterprise level, and ensure that private sector promotion policies are conflict sensitive.

Full report

  • Prof Brian Ganson is head of the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement at USB. He is one of the co-authors of A Seat at the Table: Capacities and Limitations of Private Sector Peacebuilding.

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May 26

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Fourth Industrial Revolution

The future of the Western Cape’s agriculture in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

January – June 2018

The future of the Western Cape’s agriculture in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Fourth Industrial Revolution

  • USB Faculty
  • JUN 2018
  • Tags Reports, Leadership

10 minutes to read

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This report, produced by the Western Cape’s Department of Agriculture (WCDoA) and the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), looks at how agriculture in this province can be transformed if the farming sector, government and education institutions work together to harvest the benefits of the smart technologies emerging in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The outcomes will include higher yields, reduced costs, foods with a higher nutritional value and more sustainable farming, ultimately leading to food security. Examples of the use of smart technologies in agriculture include:

  • Smart farming: This is also known as satellite agriculture, location-specific crop management or precision farming. Precision farming uses, among others, geographic information systems, remote sensing technologies, where smart farming also incorporates robotics, the Internet of Things and big data. This allows for precision planting, irrigation and weeding, field monitoring, and data management and precision weeding.

… agriculture in this province can be transformed if the farming sector, government and education work together to harvest the benefits of the smart technologies

  • Sensor technology: Sensors are used to detect events or changes in the environment and send real-time information to other electronics, enabling producers to farm more effectively. Sensors are also used in transport technology, to improve farm security and for product traceability. It can be integrated into the entire value chain in farming, supply chain or post-harvest systems. Sensors are bound to become smarter, smaller, cheaper and more integrated into farming systems.
  • Artificial intelligence: Artificial intelligence or machine learning is a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behaviour in Machine vision is the technology that, in machines, automates the capture of images and the analysis thereof. AI has many applications in smart and automated agriculture. Sensors around the farm give real-time updates to the AI system, which can be trained to send the correct response to that area. This can guide a farmer toward ‘perfect’ farming and when used at scale, would create tremendous efficiencies.

The outcomes will include higher yields, reduced costs, foods with a higher nutritional value and more sustainable farming, ultimately leading to food security

Agriculture and agri-processing are strategically important sectors for the Western Cape for their large absorption of unskilled labour and for their economic contribution accounting for more than 10% of the regional economy, more than half of its exports, and 20% of South Africa’s agricultural output.

By adopting the smart and interconnected technologies, agriculture in the Western Cape has the opportunity to reposition its brand: engaging consumers through new digital platforms, attracting new career entrants to high-tech employment opportunities, and becoming an attractive investment proposition for smart technology applications.

However, smart technology can also create a digital divide, where only certain role players benefit from 4IR opportunities. Hence, the agricultural sector and government need to work together to create an enabling environment for small-scale farmers to access technology, training and finance.

Technology will enable the creation of new types of jobs. Education and training – both for new entrants and new job types as well as upskilling and retraining of existing participants – would need to be prioritised in government’s response to changes brought about by the 4IR. Technology is a critical part of the 4IR, but aspects like energy and the environment, economics and policy, the consumer, and social change are also integral drivers of future change.

By adopting the smart technologies, agriculture in the Western Cape has the opportunity to reposition its brand

The researchers of the report provided five recommendations for an integrated response by the agricultural and public sectors, academia and civil society that will enable agriculture in the Western Cape to ‘adapt, shape and harness the potential of this disruption’:

  • Focus on growth in agri-economic outputs: The WCDoA should align its vision and strategic initiatives to accelerate growth in agri-economic outputs. Also, it should work with education institutions in the province to develop digital skills and capability for the agriculture sector.
  • Engage with consumers: Agriculture must engage with consumers, who are better informed and changing the demand for products as a result of their concerns about food safety, quality and nutrition, fair trade, the traceability of products to origin, and the use of chemicals in production and processing.

… smart technology can also create a digital divide, where only certain role players benefit from 4IR opportunities

  • Share information: The adoption of technology in agriculture will require a programme of communicating and disseminating information about new technologies and their impact, by suppliers, producers, government and scientists.
  • Support smallholder farmers: The development of commercially viable smallholder farmers will help to secure a sustainable future for agriculture in the Western Cape. Support to new entrants and existing smallholder farmers can include incubation and mentoring, education on technology and farming practices, business education, and access to finance.
  • Reposition agriculture as a brand: The 4IR can be used as an opportunity to ‘reposition agriculture as a brand’. The agricultural value chain offers exciting career opportunities to be explored, from food and animal science through to marketing and management, economics and technology. Young people must be made aware of the attraction of technology-enabled agriculture as a career.

… the gains of the 4IR in the Western Cape will be realised through leadership

The authors of the report believe the gains of the 4IR in the Western Cape will be realised through leadership.

 

Read the full report: The future of the Western Cape agricultural sector in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The Steinhoff Saga

The Steinhoff Saga

The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

January – June 2018

The Steinhoff Saga

The Steinhoff Saga

  • USB Faculty
  • JUN 2018
  • Tags Reports, Leadership

8 minutes to read

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The Steinhoff saga, possibly the biggest case of corporate fraud in South African business history, has dominated financial and general news since the company’s share price collapsed on 5 December 2017.

At its peak, Steinhoff was part of the JSE Top 40 index, the JSE Top 25 Industrial index and the JSE Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) index. In 2015, the company added to its financial credentials by securing a listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (FSE).

However, the empire came tumbling down on 5 December 2017 when the Steinhoff CEO, Markus Jooste, announced that he would step down from his position “with immediate effect” and the Steinhoff board announced that the company had become aware of “accounting irregularities requiring further investigation”. In the days following the announcement, the company’s share price fell by 85%.

Corporate governance … conveys the inherent dilemma faced by any director, i.e. the need to drive the enterprise forward while keeping it under prudent control.

This report, titled Business perspectives on the Steinhoff saga, has been compiled by faculty members from the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB). The report tracks the growth of Steinhoff from its humble beginnings in Germany to its transformation into a global holding company. It also analyses the downfall of the organisation, asking probing questions such as:

  • Was there a problem with compliance?
  • Was there a problem with the composition of the board?
  • Was there a problem with the structure of the board?
  • Was there a problem with transparency?
  • Was the board simply hoodwinked by a corrupt CEO?
  • Can the company’s operational integrity and reputation be salvaged

Corporate governance has been defined as the system whereby business organisations are directed and controlled. This definition conveys the inherent dilemma faced by any director, i.e. the need to drive the enterprise forward while keeping it under prudent control. The tension between performance (driving forward) and conformance (prudent control) provides a useful framework for analysing the corporate governance system of any organisation. At the same time, the degree to which the fundamental governance principles of accountability, honesty and transparency inform board processes is extremely important. It is generally accepted that “independence of thought” and “care, skill and diligence” are among the key capabilities that directors need to bring to the boardroom.

The tension between performance and conformance provides a useful framework for analysing the corporate governance system of any organisation.

Steinhoff appeared to comply with all legal and listing requirements in its various jurisdictions. This created a (false) sense of security for both investors and other stakeholders. Whether there was indeed full compliance will become clearer as the investigations into alleged accounting irregularities start to yield results. Yet it does point to the risks associated with ‘tick-box’ compliance systems that are not underpinned by an ethical commitment to respect and abide by relevant rules and regulations.

USB sees it as part of its role to reflect on real-life business cases and to extract general lessons to be learnt. Much can be gleaned from business success stories, but even more revealing sometimes are business failures.

The overall aim of this mini case study is not to further discredit Steinhoff or any specific individuals, but rather to distil business lessons that might alert people to new Steinhoffs in the making. As a business school, USB understands and values the contribution that entrepreneurs and private corporations make to society. This is why USB’s education and guidance are aimed at helping to breed a new generation of responsible business leaders.

… “independence of thought” and “care, skill and diligence” are among the key capabilities that directors need to bring to the boardroom.

The authors of this report are:

Piet Naudé (Editor), Director of USB

Brett Hamilton, USB visiting lecturer in Corporate Finance and USB MBA alumnus. He is also a director of First River Capital.

Marius Ungerer, Professor of Strategy at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

Daniel Malan, Associate Professor of Corporate Governance and Head of the Centre for Corporate Governance in Africa, based at USB

Mias de Klerk, Professor of Leadership and Human Capital Development, and Head of Research at USB.

Click here for the full report: Business perspectives on the Steinhoff saga

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ubuntu

Decolonising knowledge: Can ubuntu ethics save us from coloniality?

The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

January – June 2018

Decolonising knowledge: Can ubuntu ethics save us from coloniality?

ubuntu

  • Prof Piet Naudé
  • MAY 2018
  • Tags Reports, Leadership

11 minutes to read

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Article written by Prof Piet Naudé

Why this study?
The state of the education system in South Africa has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years – but usually for the wrong reasons. With thousands of school leavers finding university education increasingly expensive and inaccessible, pent-up frustrations were finally unleashed in 2015 in the #FeesMustFall campaign. Along with demands for the freezing or even elimination of fees, there were calls for the ‘decolonisation’ of education. Resistance to colonial or Western philosophies and traditions being portrayed as the foundation stones of learning and professional success (sometimes referred to as ‘coloniality’) is not unique to African countries. Yet given the continent’s long history of colonial rule and still-lingering after-effects, the ‘decolonisation project’ has been gaining momentum.

Those who wish to decolonise knowledge are concerned that Western schools of thought, worldviews and ethics dominate university and other formal learning curricula, suppressing other forms of knowledge and even implying that they are inferior. Although the literature on decolonisation is replete with examples of how Western knowledge has come to dominate economics, science and commerce, it is more hesitant about what the practical alternatives should be. This paper highlights some of the key issues in the decolonisation of knowledge debate, using African business ethics ‒ embodied in the concept of ubuntu ‒ as a case study.

… individual personhood and autonomy are prevalent in all societies, including those in Africa, which weakens the argument that ubuntu is all about and only about the community.

Research methodology
The literature on the decolonisation of knowledge was extensively surveyed, supported by an analysis of some of the most important writings on the possibility of and prospects for a distinctive form of African ethics emerging.

What did the research find?
Western knowledge traditions have long dominated academic thinking in many parts of the world – even in those countries whose historical development has not been characterised by colonial conquest. Thus, African scholars of ethics will inevitably start their intellectual journey in Europe, studying the works of Plato, Aristotle, Marx, Nietzsche and others. Any appraisal of the ‘traditional’ or ‘indigenous’ knowledge systems of Africa – if addressed at all – is inevitably from a Western perspective.

There are three broad models for giving greater prominence to African business ethics: the direct transfer of Western ethics to Africa (transfer model), the translation of Western ethics into an African context (translation model), and the development of a uniquely African system of ethics via the so-called ubuntu principle (substantive model).

In the transfer model (the most basic of the three), Western ethics are accepted as the norm or the ideal and are simply used in an African setting without being subjected to any critical review. In such a case, the works of Kant, Hobbes or Aquinas would, for example, be prescribed as primary reading material in a university ethics course so that the impression of ethics as ‘colonial’ discipline is reinforced.

The desire for autonomy need not be at loggerheads with the value attached to relationships.

Research methodology
The literature on the decolonisation of knowledge was extensively surveyed, supported by an analysis of some of the most important writings on the possibility of and prospects for a distinctive form of African ethics emerging.

What did the research find?
Western knowledge traditions have long dominated academic thinking in many parts of the world – even in those countries whose historical development has not been characterised by colonial conquest. Thus, African scholars of ethics will inevitably start their intellectual journey in Europe, studying the works of Plato, Aristotle, Marx, Nietzsche and others. Any appraisal of the ‘traditional’ or ‘indigenous’ knowledge systems of Africa – if addressed at all – is inevitably from a Western perspective.

There are three broad models for giving greater prominence to African business ethics: the direct transfer of Western ethics to Africa (transfer model), the translation of Western ethics into an African context (translation model), and the development of a uniquely African system of ethics via the so-called ubuntu principle (substantive model).

In the transfer model (the most basic of the three), Western ethics are accepted as the norm or the ideal and are simply used in an African setting without being subjected to any critical review. In such a case, the works of Kant, Hobbes or Aquinas would, for example, be prescribed as primary reading material in a university ethics course so that the impression of ethics as ‘colonial’ discipline is reinforced.

In fact, it is ubuntu’s strong tribal character that lies at the heart of factionalism in Africa and corruption based on patronage.

Why is it so difficult to escape from coloniality?
There are two reasons why it is so difficult to escape from coloniality. Firstly, to construct a coherent ethics is a theoretical task. Such ethics is a second-order form of knowledge beyond the implicit, first-order knowledge that people share in their everyday lives. But the moment one starts to reflect on, for example, African indigenous moral convictions, there is no way to escape the long history of Western theories in which such reflection is then couched.

Secondly, what could traditionally be seen as ‘Western’ knowledge against which decolonisation should revolt has – via technological and economic globalisation – become so embedded across the globe that it is simply seen as knowledge and not as ‘Western’ knowledge. When a heart is transplanted in Africa, a vehicle is built in South Korea, and gold is mined in Brazil, the technology and stable scientific knowledge that make this possible have lost their ‘Western’ roots, and have become the way of shared, global scientific thinking with huge benefits to societies.

When a heart is transplanted in Africa, a vehicle is built in South Korea, and gold is mined in Brazil, the technology and stable scientific knowledge that make this possible … have become the way of shared, global scientific thinking.

The value of this research
This study asked some tough questions about the growing call for the decolonisation of knowledge in Africa and removed the usual gloss from the concept of ubuntu – particularly from the perspective of its value as the foundation of an African ethics system. Ubuntu does represent one of the strongest attempts to date to de-centre Eurocentric views and reduce the impact of coloniality, but ubuntu-driven ethics run the risk of reinforcing and perpetuating an ‘exclusive’ mind-set which is reminiscent of the much-maligned colonial era. The ambiguity of propagating an African ubuntu ethic is that – because it is developed in contrast to Western thinking and is expressed in terms that conform to Western academic rules – it may in fact be reinforcing coloniality.

The decolonisation debate is clearly complex and requires further debate and research.

Prof Piet Naudé is the Director of the University of Stellenbosch Business School where he lectures in ethics related to politics, economics and business. He holds an MA in Philosophy (cum laude) and a doctoral degree in Systematic Theology from Stellenbosch University.

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Pregnancy in the workplace

The SABPP Women’s Report 2016: Pregnancy in the workplace

The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

January – June 2018

The SABPP Women’s Report 2016: Pregnancy in the workplace

Pregnancy in the workplace

  • Prof Anita Bosch
  • MAY 2018
  • Tags Reports, Leadership

7 minutes to read

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Article written by Prof Anita Bosch

The 2016 edition of this report, with USB’s Prof Anita Bosch as editor, published a collection of research papers on pregnancy in the workplace.

At first glance, pregnancy does not seem like a topic that should be linked to the workplace. However, it is clear that pregnancy in the workplace often leads to discriminatory practices, with one parent exiting paid work completely, and management experiencing discomfort in dealing with the HR issues.

In Chapter 1, Prof Anita Bosch outlines the reasons why pregnancy should be normalised and not treated as an anomaly in the workplace. The chapter concludes with aspects that HR practitioners should consider in dealing with the phenomenon.

If pregnancy is a reality of life and if paid work is also a reality for the majority of families … how can workplaces deal with this?

In Chapter 2, Italia Boninelli, Research Associate from the University of Johannesburg, presents a strong argument for the management of a woman’s career from a family planning perspective. The thoughtful advice should inspire women to take charge of the timing of pregnancies while at the same time focusing on their career goals.

South Africa’s family responsibility leave, which is the closest thing to paternity leave, seems to be lacking.

The South African Constitution protects women from discrimination based on pregnancy and birth. In Chapter 3, Prof Hugo Pienaar and Elizabeth Sonnekus, both from Employment Law at Cliffe, Dekker, Hofmeyr Inc., outline South African employment law considerations in relation to pregnancy. Their contribution includes an overview of legislation in the USA and Europe, as well as the stance of the International Labour Organization with regard to the protection of pregnant women.

Chapter 4 provides an overview of menopause. Here, Dr Linda Chipunza and Elizabeth Dhlamini-Kumalo, both Master HR Practitioners at the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP), provide interesting reading on a topic that is rarely discussed at work.

The sharing of maternity and paternity leave between the parents should be … more flexible.

The report is supported by the SABPP through its ongoing interest in gender issues in the workplace and by the University of Johannesburg.

Prof Anita Bosch lectures in Women at Work, Human Capital Management and Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

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The SABPP Women’s Report 2017: Fairness in relation to women at work

The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

January – June 2018

The SABPP Women’s Report 2017: Fairness in relation to women at work

  • Prof Anita Bosch
  • MAY 2018
  • Tags Reports, Leadership

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Article written by Prof Anita Bosch

The 2017 edition of this report, with USB’s Prof Anita Bosch as editor, published a collection of research papers on various aspects of fairness impacting women in the world of work.

The themes of previous years’ Women’s Reports predominantly focused on visible and known differences between men and women, such as pregnancy and pay disparity. Fairness, however, is a more nebulous and debatable concept.

Chasing targets will render women mere tokens.

We often hear children whine, ‘But that is not fair!’ when they don’t get their way, which parents ignore as an attempt at achieving self-gratification. The same reasoning may be attributed to managers when employees make it known that they feel that they are being treated unfairly. It takes a thoughtful manager to stop and listen, for, often, in the perceived whine, is a little piece of truth, uncomfortable as it may be. This year’s report explores that alternative truth, in order to influence HR practitioners and line managers to give fairness some consideration.

More women than men are leaving their organisations, especially at senior levels.

Chapter 1, written by Prof Piet Naudé from the University of Stellenbosch Business School, considers how society leads itself to believe that our lived experience of gender relations is a given, and how we may start changing our thinking, so that gender relations in the workplace can improve. Prof Amanda Gouws, lecturer in Political Science at Stellenbosch University, extends the theme by providing a glimpse of fairness in the private world of families.

It is erroneously believed that women inhibit their own workplace progression by making certain choices.

In Chapter 2, she calls us to consider how gender relations are political, and warns against the consequences of the exclusion of care in society. Chapter 3 considers how women have been included and excluded from paid work, and how power relationships have changed over time. This chapter, authored by Prof Anita Bosch, provides a rationale for justice for women. The Women’s Report provides a glimpse of the world of work through the eyes of women, and how this view often leads to improvements for both men and women. In this regard, Chapter 4, co-authored by Hugo Pienaar and Riola Kok, both from Employment Law at Cliffe, Dekker, Hofmeyr Inc., focuses on paternity leave and how employment law may not be fair towards men. Prof Mariette Coetzee from the Department of Human Resource Management at Unisa wrote the last chapter, presenting an HR management view on fairness towards women at work.

Employers need to understand that both the workplace and the home are gendered.

The report is supported by the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP) through its ongoing interest in gender issues in the workplace. This was also the first year that the Women’s Report was co-sponsored by the University of Stellenbosch Business School and the University of Johannesburg.

Prof Anita Bosch lectures in Women at Work, Human Capital Management and Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

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