Inside Absa’s journey to close gender pay gap

Financial services group Absa said it is throwing a lot of resources at closing the gender pay gap and women representation at management level in the company, a situation that has been drawing concerns from some shareholders.

Shareholders used last week’s AGM to take the company to task over pay discrepancies between men and women.

Shareholder activist Just Share chided Absa for not voluntarily disclosing the gender pay gap in the 2023 financial year as it did previously.

“The chair of the remuneration committee acknowledged discomfort with the gender pay gaps at the bank. She emphasised that management is dedicated to addressing the issue and will report back to the committee on the bank’s progress, but did not commit to taking any specific actions,” it said.

The chair of the lender’s remuneration committee, Rose Keanly, told investors the group was attending to the pay gap.

Focus areas

Absa told Business Day that its commitment to gender pay parity is but one of the focus areas in its overall gender ambition, which extends beyond legislative requirements and increases the active participation of women.

“For example, in 2023, we directed over R369m of R608m, or 61% of total investment, to the development of women to create a diverse talent pipeline. In terms of pay parity, Absa’s Group Remuneration Committee focuses on reviewing pay differentials across a range of dimensions, including gender,” an Absa spokesperson said.

“We also actively seek to address structural issues that influence pay differentials, which includes improving representation of women at more senior levels, and specifically in commercial leadership roles.

“In 2023, 47% of our new hires at senior and middle management were women and 77% of new hires at junior management were women, reflecting our commitment to creating a diverse … workforce.”

The lender, worth about R134bn on the JSE, noted some of the action taken include targeted adjustments to the remuneration of individuals situated lower in its pay ranges than peers where this “cannot be justified based on objective criteria such as seniority, role content, experience and performance”.

While Absa did not disclose its gender pay gap, it did reveal its highest to lowest pay ratio.

“Absa reports its highest to lowest pay ratio as 144:1, but the figure for the highest paid employees used to calculate this ratio is lower than the figure it reports as the CEO’s total remuneration. Using the total remuneration figure of the CEO yields a ratio of 175:1.”

Sun International is one of the few listed companies to acknowledge the gender pay disparities in the group.

The company’s gender pay gap analysis for August 2022 until July 2023 found men fared much better than women.

The review showed that women in junior management on average earned 97c for every rand earned by their male counterparts, while females in middle management earned 93c for every rand paid to males.

The gap gets wider when it comes to senior management, where on average for every R1 paid to men, women get 85c. 

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