Women in Business in South Africa

Traditionally women from all communities within South Africa have played a very minimal role within the business world.

Female participation at senior management level is extremely low and although some progress towards greater gender equality within the workforce has been made, the progress is slow.

A macho culture could be said to be pervasive in South Africa and women can expect to be treated with less respect than male colleagues. If you are treated with less respect than you would normally expect, it is important to remain unflustered.

Demonstrating high levels of professional skill and aptitude will, in time, pay dividends.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in South Africa

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

If central Africa is poised to take off from an economic perspective then South Africa should be seen as the continent’s engine. South Africa takes on super-power qualities when looked at from an African perspective. South Africa is far and away the largest economy in Africa and the economic health of so many of its neighbours are intrinsically linked with the robustness of South Africa’s commercial sector.

The transition from the previous apartheid-led policies to a fully functioning democracy, offering equal opportunity for all, was never going to be an easy one. The birth pangs of the new rainbow nation are still being felt and political corruption and in-fighting have not helped the process. Nonetheless, South Africa has made significant progress in most areas and, critically, has not descended towards social chaos and economic meltdown as many predicted. South Africa survives and South Africa grows. Its future will be fascinating to watch and its future could, to a large measure, determine the future of Africa.

If you are considering doing business in Africa (and more and more companies are moving into Africa), then it is probably a good idea to do business in South Africa first as a stepping stone to the rest of the continent.

However, South Africa is complex. It is a complex mix of cultures, races, languages and differing approaches to business. You need to be flexible in South Africa and you need to be observant. You need to know that there is no ‘one size fits all’ process that will work in such a complicated environment. Learn about the country before you go on a business trip to – it makes commercial sense to do so (and its fascinating at the same time.)

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of South African business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips