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December 5, 2017
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Sub-Saharan Africa: Lack of Female Representation in Leadership Roles


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The 2017 Women in Tourism Conference took place in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, with the theme Sustainable Tourism: A Tool for Radical Socio-Economic Development for Women. The two-day conference provided a platform for dialogue on the challenges that affect women in this sector, from funding constraints to the establishments of support structures and incentives.

A baseline study conducted by the Tourism BBBEE Council on the state of tourism transformation revealed that only 11% of the enterprises haves black female representation on boards and in executive and senior management positions. The overall rate of transformation was low.

“Globally, tourism has recorded its 7th year of sustained growth despite the economic slowdown,” Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa said in her opening address. “This means that this sector isn't just a major contributor towards our country's GDP, but it is also a source of investment and job creation, especially for our rural areas. Tourism is already contributing to our economy by supporting over 1.5 million jobs in total and bringing in about 9% to our Gross Domestic Product.”

She said that what now needs to be done is to identify opportunities for women in this sector and to drive female empowerment initiatives. The Department of Tourism has launched a 30 in 5 campaign with a focus towards representation for the next five years. This means that it has set a target of 30% to facilitate participation by women in ownership, board representation and executive management. “Our strategy is to drive this initiative through the pillars of respect, recognition, representation and reward, for and of women in the tourism sector,” Xasa explained.

Efforts are now being made to establish Women In Tourism (WIT) chapters in all SA’s provinces, which will drive and escalate issues related to the empowerment of women in the sector. “The National Department of Tourism has moved to implement the Tourism Incentive Programme, to give support to women to have access to markets,” the Minister added.

In addition, an Executive Women Development Programme has been formalised in partnership with UNISA School of Business and Leadership in order to strengthen mentorship programmes and build capacity, as well as encourage the exchange of skills and networking amongst other women in business.

“Collectively as women, working with key strategic partners, we need to have a voice to influence the policies and programme of the National Department of Tourism,” Xasa said. “We all need to ensure that South Africa and the industry understand that women constitute the majority in the tourism sector.”

The conference concluded with a consensus on a number of resolutions:

  • The current Advisory Committee with work with WIT Provincial Chapters to develop a constitution for the formation of an autonomous body that will drive female empowerment initiatives.
  • The Chapters will act as a support structure to coach and mentor new entrants to the tourism industry.
  • The Department of Tourism will facilitate public-private partnerships that will assist women in financial education and management.
  • Through the Tourism Incentive Programme, the Department will assist women in reaching domestic and international trade shows in order to market their products.

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