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More businesses grooming women for key portfolios , survey shows

By Sanchia Temkin

Published: 2009/08/06 07:09:08 AM

Although women are not equally represented with men in the boardroom or on the executive floor, they still dominate the training spending of SA’s major companies and government departments.

The majority of staff sent on business support and administrative courses are women, according to a snap poll of more than 60 different types of courses recently presented in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town by major executive and top management training company AstroTech and its sister company, BizTech.

Lisa van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech, said yesterday: “This year, with the financial crisis, we have noted a dramatic rise in in-house courses as companies save on transport and accommodation costs, but they too want the whole team to benefit from learning, so it will be interesting to see if this creates a change in demographics when we assess data next year. This year, it does not look likely.”

The study disclosed that men still tended to dominate on the executive and top management courses presented by AstroTech, but only by the slimmest of margins, with just 8% more men on these courses than women.
Van Wyk said that over the past decade companies spent a growing percentage of their turnover on training and were more sensitive to issues of gender and race equity.

“While figures in organisations don’t necessarily show gender parity at the top, our training figures would suggest more businesses are grooming women for key portfolios.”

Although the high number of women attending courses might indicate a desire by businesses to advance women significantly, the type of courses men and women attended, especially at mid-management level, differed.

The poll showed that corporations and the government were more likely to send men on hard- skills courses dealing with tax, finance, disaster and risk management, sales, and courses with a legal or technical bias.
Women usually predominated in courses on conflict resolution, managing people and business and systems analysis, with growing numbers in information technology at executive levels.

At the level of middle management, women overwhelmingly predominated in courses such as travel planning, business writing, newsletter compilation, presentation skills and customer service.