Gender Mainstreaming Initiatives in Public Service: Office of the Public Service Commission briefing

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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


22 August 2007

Chairperson: Mr R Baloyi (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Gender mainstreaming initiatives in the Public Service: PowerPoint Presentation
Gender mainstreaming initiatives in the Public Service summary
Gender mainstreaming project (samdi)
Gender mainstreaming program (samdi)
Gender mainstreaming initiatives in the Public Service: Public Service Commission November 2006

Audio recording of meeting

The Public Service Commission, the Department of Public Service and Administration, and the South African Management Development Institute made presentations on gender mainstreaming and the gender initiatives in the public service. The Public Service Commission (PSC) had recently conducted a study, which showed  general lack of knowledge and understanding of gender mainstreaming in most departments across all levels. Some gender targets were met, but disability targets had not. Empowerment of women was not happening, and any efforts seemed to be reactive stances against sexual harassment. The PSC recommended that the national structures must be strengthened and their roles and responsibilities defined. Women felt undermined by male colleagues as patriarchic attitudes persisted, and those women in power were perceived as not assisting other women. There were few policies to deal with sexual harassment or victimization. The Office on the Status of Women did not have institutional capacity to deliver their mandate. A framework was needed to recognize family friendly policies. It was recommended that senior management be compelled to enhance gender management skills and policies.

The South African Management Development Institute described its gender initiative in conjunction with the Department and the Office on the Status of Women. Funding had been received to implement a three year programme in gender mainstreaming. This would cover both females and senior management in all three spheres of government, and would consist of accredited programmes aimed at improving the capacity of departments to mainstream gender, change management and compulsion to implement policies. Training would be followed up with support to departments. The Department then informed the Committee that capacity for the gender focal points was a challenge and it appeared that they were not, as required, reporting to Directors General. Sexual harassment was “rife” and there was lack of understanding as to what it included. The Department agreed that it would be desirable to introduce compulsory requirements, and had also instituted interrogation as to why departments were not meeting targets for gender and disability. An eight-principle plan for departments was shortly to be introduced.

 Discussion by Members included the problems of perceptions and attitudes, the problems of the disability targets not being reached and inadequate excuses, including lack of a disability database and skills. Members were worried that the institutions were overlapping in their mandates and not achieving anything effective, and that where employment plans existed they were not being applied. They raised the problems around lack of understanding and lack of implementation of sexual harassment policies, the need to change attitudes, and to study the experiences of other countries. Early childhood education and child care needed involvement of the community and private sector, so that women were able to advance in their jobs. Family friendly policies also needed to include men, and the point was made strongly that empowerment meant empowering both sexes by helping attitudes to change, to make employment more flexible, to encourage women in power not to try to exclude other women, and to note that women should try to empower themselves. The comment was made that the educational system was not assisting the disabled and this too needed attention. 

Gender Mainstreaming in the Public Service: Office of the Public Service Commission (OPSC) Briefing
Professor Stan Sangweni, Chairperson, Public Service Commission (PSC), informed the committee that the Office of the Public Service Commission (OPSC) would present on the report and findings into gender mainstreaming, and introduced the delegation.

Ms Mmathao Mashao, Chief Director, OPSC stated that the Public Service Commission had conducted a study on gender mainstreaming initiatives. This was intended to provide a baseline for future research, to develop a gender representivity profile, to examine the extent to which there had been empowerment of woman, to establish whether there were family-friendly policies, to examine the impact of gender mainstreaming, how recruitment and promotion enhanced gender equality, and the sensitivity of issues associated with gender relations. All of this would enable the PSC to propose interventions. It would also examine the role of the Office on the Status of Women (OSW).

The key findings of the study were then summarised. There was a general lack of knowledge and understanding of gender mainstreaming in most departments across all levels. The provincial overview of woman in senior positions showed that the target of 30% had not been reached. Some individual provinces had reached or even exceeded the target (such as North West) but other provinces, such as the Western Cape, were way below par. The average percentage of woman in senior positions in national departments was 31.2%. Targets had not been reached in respect of disability, with seven provinces having no female managers with disabilities. The empowerment of woman was not happening. Nothing was apparently being done, except where it was necessary to take a reactive stance against sexual harassment. There was no defined institutional structure to attain the vision of gender mainstreaming..

It was therefore necessary to strengthen the national structures established to promote women’s empowerment and to define their roles and responsibilities. Gender mainstreaming was not being included in departmental planning. In respect of family friendly policies, it seemed that the only provision was that some women were permitted to take family responsibility leave. No other policies were in place. There was lack of support for gender mainstreaming from senior management. In most departments recruitment took place according to the equity targets and woman generally felt disadvantaged from the onset, because of their practical needs. In general gender relations were adequate, but women felt undermined by their male colleagues. There was a lack of knowledge of what constituted sexual harassment at the junior and senior level, and there were no policies in place to dealt with harassment or secondary victimization. It was clear that the OSW did not have institutional capacity to deliver their mandate.

The report had made several recommendations. There should be acceleration of the empowerment of women, and improvement of gender representivity. Effective gender structures and processes must be put in place. The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) must create a framework that recognised the importance of family friendly policies. It should be compulsory for senior management to be capacitated to enhance gender management skills. A supportive environment must be created in order for sexual harassment to be reported. The report further recommended effective co-ordination and collaboration in the public service and the need for all role players to make a collective effort to make gender mainstreaming a reality. Although women’s access to political power and decision making had improved since 1994, their working conditions were not yet satisfactory.

Mr M Sikakane (ANC) remarked that he had recently attended a graduation ceremony where the female guest speaker had commented that even though she was a director, she had found that her peers and subordinates resented female criticism as they thought the fact that they were male meant that they were entitled to respect.

Mr Admill Simpson. Deputy Director General, OPSC replied that this kind of message reflected their findings in the report that essentially the attitudes of men towards women had not changed, and this culture permeated through to the public service. PSC were advocating compulsory gender education through the Senior Manager Service (SMS). It was pitiful that a female in senior management was expected to show a certain kind of respect towards her male subordinates as opposed to her female subordinates.

Ms Mashao added that the female director was capitulating to prevailing stereotypes. Female empowerment meant that all had to be respected, irrespective of their sex.

Mr K Minnie (DA) also cited his experience of women being discriminated against. A woman who had been in the fishing business for 23 years and had employed 11 families was refused a permit, because she herself, due to other family responsibilities, could not be out at sea. The refusal of the permit to her purely on the grounds of her sex had put 11 families out of a job. Women must be treated with the same respect as males.

Mr K Julies (DA) remarked that the point on management and lack of knowledge showed a poor picture. He was concerned also about the disability issue and asked how this could be addressed.

Ms Odette Ramsingh, Director General, OPSC  replied that disability issue was very problematic, especially in addressing the required target. The target in 1999 was 2%, but by 2002 this had still not been reached. The PSC brought out a report that stated that unless there was drastic intervention, the targets could not be met. Even now, in 2007, that target had not yet been reached. It was therefore clear that PSC had to play a more significant role. A disciplinary enquiry was due to start the following today that would in essence request the senior management and leadership to give reasons why they had been unable to meet their targets. She wanted to put on record that she was of the view that unless some positive steps were taken, the targets would not even be met by 2009.

Mr Julies asked how far up to standard the position was, having mentioned the 30% mark, and how much more was needed to achieve the other 20% by 2009.

Ms Ramsingh replied that she was pleased to note that the 30% target had mostly been met, apart from provinces like Western Cape, where the targets still fell short. She felt it important to note that it took from 1999 to 2007 to reach the target. This posed the question whether the target of 50% by 2009 was really attainable, and how it would be reached. She was not convinced that there was enough debate around these targets. She informed the Committee that she was not against the 50% target for 2009 but she did not want senior management to be set up for failure.

Dr U Roopnarain (IFP) asked how the various institutions achieved their goals as they seemed to be doing the same thing, and there was lot of overlapping mandates.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) asked why in the recommendations PSC was introducing another structure to the fold that was supposed to help in the coordination of gender issues. It had alluded to some tensions in the gender machinery between the OSW, Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and gender desks in the various departments. She shared the view that they were introducing another structure in an area that already had too many structures, and that this would add to the ineffectiveness already existing.

Ms Ramsingh replied that it had become apparent during their investigations that there clearly was an overlap of mandates throughout the gender machinery. PSC was effectively arguing for tighter coordination among these organs. They were definitely not introducing a new structure, as they too believed that there were already too many structures. She was of the opinion that the Committee could fully appreciate the criticism that stated that the various departments dealing with gender initiatives were causing unnecessary tension. Because the structures were not working together they were failing to produce coherent collective work. The question should be why they were failing, and in all honesty the blame lay on all shoulders.

Mr Simpson added that even though the various departments were mandated to have employment equity plans, and that these existed, often in an elaborate form, the fact was that on the ground the plans were not being applied. 

Dr U Roopnarain (IFP) asked if there was a clear sexual harassment policy.

Ms Matsomela asked for clarification on the point that junior and senior management displayed a lack of knowledge and understanding about sexual harassment. She asked if they could not fully grasp what was meant by sexual harassment or whether there was a general reluctance to deal with it.

Ms Ramsingh replied that the report had identified both lack of understanding and lack of implementation of the sexual harassment policies. It was clear that some people were not aware that some of their actions fell into the category of sexual harassment, whilst others conveniently did not understand that they had over-stepped the mark. This was a problem faced by both male and female workers, but seemed more prevalent among women. One of the problems was that the public service had termed sexual harassment as an offence that would then be dealt with under the grievance procedures. However, given the sensitivity and the lack of knowledge it was not effective simply to leave them to the normal grievances procedures. More work must be done on this issue. PSC were suggesting that departmental policies should deal with these issues extensively.

Mr Simpson added that the sample study found that there were eight draft sexual harassment policies in place and there were three approved policies adopted and being applied..

Ms Mashao added that in a focus group one of the managers had promised a workshop on sexual harassment, but that this had never happened, and the staff remained ignorant about the issues.
Ms Matsomela remarked that there was a perception that female bosses were more difficult to work with as also a related perception that women did not recognise other female leaders. She asked if these perceptions had been tested in the study, and if there was any truth.

Ms Ramsingh replied that a study of this nature could only follow anecdotal statements. The report was trying to convey that one of the prevailing perceptions, which was in itself very stereotypical, was that female bosses were more difficult and demanding to work with. It must be remembered that this perception came from a microcosm of society reflecting certain views. Another perception was that an assertive woman was stereotyped as a problematic woman. These were not the views of the PSC..

Mr Minnie said that in his opinion the next leader should be a woman, and the DA had clearly led the initiative.

A member of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), questioned the mandates between DPSA and the OSW. She viewed the OSW as the nerve centre for the country in promoting gender initiatives in the country as a whole, but at the same time thought it was surely the mandate of the DPSA to promote gender initiatives among public servants.

The Chairperson remarked that it was an interesting comment. The CGE would be likely to argue that it was their constitutional mandate to look at these issues across the board. The gender issue had to be had to be tackled head on. As long as females were not appreciative of other females in senior management there clearly was a problem, and he cited statistics quoted by the media to state that seven out of ten woman preferred to work for a male boss.

South African Management Development Institute (SAMDI) Briefing
Dr Bunny Subedar, Executive Manager, SAMDI, informed the Committee that she was pleased to announce that SAMDI was driving a major gender initiative with the DPSA and the OSW. She also informed the committee that before PSC released their report SAMDI had already anticipated some of the recommendations, and had begun to work on them. They had achieved major headway.

SAMDI had received funding from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) for their gender-mainstreaming proposal development, and implementation of the gender mainstreaming programme. This was going to be administered to public service employees over three years. The programme was going to cover both females and senior management in all three spheres of government, and the first year was already under way. The first year was characterised by consultations with the key stakeholders on the development of accredited training programmes. SAMDI had also managed to consult 27 gender experts and had managed to create a composite team that was registered in June with South African Qualifications Authority. The design framework of the curriculum was already finished, and SAMDI was already moving into its development. The second year was going to be focused on the training, and in the third year they were going to have follow-up support to the departments that would have received training. 

She highlighted some of the objectives. These included improving the capacity of departments to mainstream gender, internal strategies and programmes development, and increasing the capacity of departments to create their own training programmes. SAMDI had also taken to heart some of the recommendations made by the PSC,  such as the toolkit approach, which they were developing in their programme along with the check-list approach. They were further sensitized to the PSC recommendations on change management, which sought to help people change their attitudes. She wanted to propose, for discussion, the idea that in order for gender mainstreaming  to move forward, there was a need for some form of compulsion. Training of management in the types of programmes being described could not be the only solution. She then asked the Committee whether it was possible to have compulsory public training.

Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) Briefing
Ms Ranji Reddy, Deputy Director: Gender, DPSA noted that the report by the PSC had come at a very opportune time, as it coincided with some of the considerations the DPSA and SAMDI were putting into place. The report reflected some of the essential hindrances to the promotion of gender equality. In terms of their mandate, DPSA had to look to the target of 50%, and look at some of the policies in relation to this. Ms Ranji was of the opinion that DPSA needed to go beyond policies to locate the target. They had been able to do this through their strategic framework of gender equality which the Minister had launched and which was currently being finalised. The document was available on the website, and went beyond numbers to look at what was needed in terms of support programmes.

The capacity for the gender focal point in order to promote gender equality was a major challenge, as most of the points were at either level nine or below. Only seven of the national departments had points at Director or Chief Director level, and nine departments had dedicated gender units. The gender focal points were supposed to report to the Director General, but the survey showed that not one of the gender focal points was doing so.  The survey also looked at the family policies. It found that sexual harassment was rife. A common criticism that emerged from the road shows was that commitment at director level was rather questionable. The question frequently asked was whether DPSA could impose a form of compulsion for the promotion of gender equity and disability.  DPSA conceded that this would have to happen. On 27 August PSC and DPSA had agreed to have a high-level round-table discussion. An eight-principle plan for Heads of Departments was to be implemented in all departments to effectively promote gender equality. All the national heads of departments and the Director Generals would attend. This should address the major challenge around implementation.

Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) noted that when the Skills Development Act was introduced, it had not focused on women being a group that was doubly disadvantaged through lack of skills and lack of confidence. He believed there was need to redirect the focus to the empowerment of women.

In respect of family friendly policies Mr Gcwabaza suggested that a study be done into other countries because it was clear that the provisions in the Employment Equity Act were inadequate. UNICEF had commented that South Africa lacked an educational system that catered for child care provision and education. He suggested that there was a need to look into developing early childhood education by involving the communities and the private sector. This would have the beneficial effect of allowing women to focus more on their jobs if they were not so worried about their child’s welfare. He noted that there needed to be a change of attitude; family friendly policies also involved allowing men to take family responsibility leave and look after their children.

Ms Ramsingh agreed that indeed these were some of the conflicting issues.

Mr Gcwabaza continued that when he attended one of the world conferences on labour relations, one of the priorities under discussion was making women’s employment more flexible, and this was echoed in the PSC report. When dealing with such issues PSC should be careful not to casualise female employment, but to work on the necessary improvements.

He added that the advertisements must also be improved. Sometimes the way in which a job was advertised made female candidates reluctant to apply for the position.

He acknowledged that perhaps when the gender machinery was first put in place it was intended to address a myriad of other issues because of South Africa’s apartheid history. Fourteen years into democracy it might be time to restructure the various institutions that dealt with gender, and effectively make them into one unit, which would lead to a more concentrated, cohesive approach to gender, and do away with the apparent tension.
Ms M Tlake (ANC) commented that it was obvious that when organs such as PSC, DPSA and SAMDI conducted their studies and compiled their reports these were  individual undertakings, but it was significant that they normally brought to light the same problems. She was appreciative of the fact that they were looking into integrating, but cautioned that this was difficult.

Ms Tlake was very concerned by the fact that senior management lacked knowledge, as the gender machinery had been in place for some time now.. She thought that this could be overcome by tackling an attitude change, and the solution would have to involve more integration and education. She was glad that the PSC was able to pick up on the prevailing tensions and was hopeful that they would be resolved. She commented that women who headed institutions such as OSW were effectively not in any decision-making position, and it was this fact that was leading to gender issues being stalled and taking a back seat.

Ms Tlake vehemently agreed that the perception that females made worse bosses than males was correct, in her own experience. Female attitudes must also change. They must support their female counterparts, and advance with them instead of wanting to be the only person in charge and adopting a PHD (Pull Her Down) attitude.

She expressed her support of the idea of questioning senior management as to why they were unable to meet their targets. She believed this was due to lack of monitoring, and she believed that the system being proposed would be a great monitoring and accountability tool.

Mr B Mthembu (ANC) wanted to emphasize that there was progress in the direction of becoming a gender equitable society. The challenges they faced came from various levels. Firstly there was the senior management level, which he thought could be easily be countered by legislation. Other problematic areas were culture and religion, which were ingrained and people were socialized into them. It was very difficult for a person who grew up being taught that a woman’s place was in the kitchen to appreciate a woman on a different footing. The only remedy according to him, was some sort of cultural shock.

He added that the provinces that were still short in their gender equity numbers should learn from the provinces that had reached their targets.

Finally Mr Mthembu commented that if they wanted female empowerment to work they had to empower men too.

Prof Sangweni noted that in the PSC there had been four Directors General that had led the transformation, two females and two males. However, when the positions were advertised no specific gender was required; merely the most qualified person. Whilst he welcomed the programs being initiated by SAMDI and DPSA the question was who were their targets - females only, males only or both male and females. He concluded by saying that what was needed was tight, rigorous, robust monitoring.

Ms Matsomela said that when talking about female empowerment they needed to know that this was a very personal decision. Government could only provide an enabling environment but it was effectively up to the women to empower themselves..

Mr Sikakane wondered whether these reports had gone to the root of the problem. It could be that in the case of disability there might not be qualified disabled people to fill the positions, hence the difficulty in meeting the target.

Ms Ramsingh replied that this was one of the arguments around disability, and the lack of a definite skills database was one of the obstacles. In the old South Africa a black women with disability could only dream of being able to get an education. The disabled felt that the lack of a skills database was being used too often as an excuse.

Ms Reddy said that the problem was that the South African system did not have structures in place that catered for congenial disabilities. Most skilled and disabled people had already acquired the skills before they became disabled. As such there was need to create the relevant structures to allow disabled people to get a proper education from childhood. She also commented on the need to have programmes that got people to challenge themselves to think differently.

Mr Sikakane commented that white women in the past never seemed to discuss gender, and seemed to be satisfied that only one woman had served as Minister in the previous government..

Ms Reddy replied that patriarchic societies were common worldwide, and women in the western world were constantly in debate over the issue. She would like to believe that gender was a question that affected everyone, irrespective of race. 

The meeting was adjourned.


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