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Women dominate training spend of major South African companies

21 August 2009 07:42

Women may not be equally represented in the boardroom or even on the executive floor, but they dominate the training spend of South Africa’s major companies and government departments.

A snap survey of those attending the more than 60 different types of courses presented in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town of major executive and top management training company AstroTech and its sister company, BizTech which runs training courses for business support and administration staff shows that 75% of staff sent on business support and administrative courses are women.

Men dominate on the executive and top management courses presented by AstroTech but only by the slimmest of margins with only eight percent more men on these courses than women.

“We were surprised by the results,” AstroTech CEO, Liza van Wyk said, “with a number of courses running simultaneously at our conference centre in Parktown, one tends to get the impression during tea breaks and at lunch that courses are well-balanced in terms of gender. In fact, they are not, more women attend training courses. It is difficult to gauge precisely why.

“Our experience at AstroTech and BizTech over the last decade has shown us that companies are spending a growing percentage of their turnover on training and are far more sensitive toward 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.”

Van Wyk added that: “This year with the global financial crisis we have noted a dramatic rise in in-house courses as companies save on transport and accommodation costs, but too they 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 – however, so far this year, it does not look likely.”

Although the high numbers of women enrolled in courses might indicate a desire by businesses to advance women significantly, the type of courses men and women attend, especially those in middle management find that corporates and government are more likely to send men to hard skills courses like those on tax, finance, disaster and risk management, sales and those with a legal or technical bias.

Women predominate in courses around conflict resolution, managing people, business and systems analysis and growing numbers in IT at top management and executive levels. However, when it comes to middle management or administration women overwhelmingly predominate in courses like travel planning, business writing, newsletter compilation, presentation skills and customer service.

Most of the top 10 courses presented by AstroTech in 2008 saw women dominating these included Management for New Managers (women 51%); Business and Systems Analysis (53%), the highly technical information technology course Crystal Reports Development (55,29%) and softer skills like Emotional Intelligence (52,2%).

However, by 2009 with tougher economic conditions globally, more retrenchments and a greater focus on performance and finance, women predominated in AstroTech’s executive and top management courses on People Management for New Managers (68,4%), Train the Trainer (68%), Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (66,6% compared to 38,5% the previous year) and Business Contracts and SLAs (63,6%).

In 2008, more men were enrolled in executive and senior management courses like SA and International Taxation (83,3%); Occupation Health and Safety (83%); Technical Person to Salesperson (82%) and IT and the Law (75,6%), less than three percent of men were enrolled in a course called The High Performance PA.

By 2009, with sales dropping companies were more likely to send men on sales courses or those that typified the crisis in the economy, 77% of men on AstroTech courses this year are enrolled in the Risk Management course and 73% in Disaster Management and Recovery and Strategic Management seeing 64% of male enrolments. But in an indication of concern about losing market share close to 95% of those enrolled in Technical Person to Salesperson were men and 79% of those attending the Technical Person to Manager course.

BizTech which trains middle management business support and administrative staff in 2008 only saw women enrolled in its Practical Presentation Preparation Skills course. However, in one of its most popular courses, Total Team Leader 51% were women, and women predominated in other more traditionally female courses including Masterminding the Perfect Business Function or Event (95% female) and Becoming the Best Team Secretary or Administrator (97% women). More men were enrolled in Successful Selling Made Simple and courses related to problem solving (66,6%).

By 2009 and more pressure on companies to deliver sooner and better top courses have been around mastering minutes, finance, project management and debt collection. Women predominate in debt collection courses (78%), as well as Mastering Minutes and Meeting Protocol (92%) and Project Management for PAs and Administrators (81%).

“Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor recently revealed that a survey in May 2007 showed that 70 JSE listed companies spent close to R4 billion a year on training their employees. These companies represent only a small sample of all employers, she pointed out, saying that spend on training is probably significantly higher, we are pleased so much is being done to further the careers of women.

“Now is a great time to be a woman with ambition,” Van Wyk said.