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By: Khanyisa Phika – Alexander Forbes Economist


More than 26 years later, women are still underrepresented in the South African economy

Every Women’s Day commemoration brings us an opportunity to track progress on the declaration made in 1994 by the country’s first democratic government to prioritise gender equality as reflected in the South African Constitution. For centuries women around the world have been marginalised by repressive cultural norms and excluded from fully participating in the economy and in decision-making roles to the detriment of society.

Equality, equity, and parity – what’s the difference?

Equality is the desired end state of equal opportunities and access. Equity is the process followed to achieve equality by addressing historical inequality issues. Parity is how we measure equality (all genders are represented equally in terms of numbers).

When assessing gender parities, three areas stand out:

  1. Women are often not granted meaningful work responsibilities

Sometimes the obscure reasoning for this is that they may fall pregnant and take maternity leave. This is observed in the type of policies employers put in place which often unintentionally prevent women from advancing in their careers and assuming leadership roles.

  1. Income disparities are still quite large between men and women who do work of equal value

This is despite women of working age accounting for about 51% of the total population (46% of the labour force) and contributing almost 50% of the national GDP. These statistics show that the value women bring to the economy is disproportionately larger than that brought by men.

  1. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed societal imbalances on the home front

The NIDS-Cram Wave 5 report on the impact of Covid-19 on employment in South Africa confirms that women have been more severely impacted by the challenging circumstances than men. However, women received the least of the income support provided by the government during the hard lockdown, with rippling effects on career progression and financial security.


Progress to close gender parity gaps remains extremely slow

According to the Economic Opportunity gender gap index, it will take about 202 years to close the glass ceiling where women are still being overlooked for managerial or senior official roles. It is quite evident that more work still needs to be done and fast.



The labour market is still more favourable to men

According to Statistics SA, the unemployment rate among females increased from 26.6% in Q1 2008 to 34.0% in Q1 2021 (compared with from 20.5% to 31.4% for men over the same period). This confirms the bleak picture that employment conditions have worsened in the last decade despite a growing need for a more equal workforce as depicted by SA’s improved global gender equality ranking of 19th out of 149 countries.


Women’s career progression narrows at each successive level in many organisations on a global scale

A recent McKinsey study shows that across all industries, 48% of women were employed in entry-level positions, with only 23% in C-suite roles. According to a PwC 2019 report, women constitute only 3.3% of chief executives of JSE-listed companies. While female professionals increased from 45.9% in 2008 to 51.1% in 2020, women in managerial roles grew by only 1.8 percentage points since 2008 to 31.6% in 2020. At this rate, it will take another 30 years to achieve gender parity, especially in decision-making roles.

In South Africa, more progress in female representation is evident in the public sector than in the private sector. The number of women in parliament improved from only 2.7% prior to 1994 to 27.7% in 2020, translating into about 48% female representation of government and a ranking of 10th among the UN nations with gender quotas.


The issue of gender pay gaps is alarming

South Africa ranks 117 out of 149 countries in gender wage fairness, despite the positive gender equality ranking. Notably, extremely slow progress has been made on addressing gender pay gaps with the gender wage gap reduced by 0.03% and the gender pay gap stagnantly firm between 23% and 35%, despite considerable government legislation to prevent gender discrimination by employers. Meanwhile, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that the average global pay gap between men and women for equal work is at about 20%.


Women spend more hours on unpaid care work during the pandemic

Working mothers have an extended workday with the simultaneous full day of work and more hours spent caring for children and doing household activities than men, as the support structures before lockdown (school and childcare) were not available. Prior to the Covid-19 related restrictions, domestic work was greatly undervalued and underpaid, yet both men and women recognise the intense toll these activities take on women. There is a global appreciation of women’s rights and that many women spend more hours doing more than three-quarters of unpaid care work in a single day. Despite unpaid care and domestic work being an essential part to the functioning of the whole economy, women tend to endure disparate responsibility compared to men. Women are said to spend about 3 times more hours a day to unpaid care and domestic activity than men, and according to the UN, the monetary value of the unpaid work done by women is estimated between 10% and 39% of GDP.


Gender parity is the responsibility of all concerned

Closing gender disparities will not occur naturally; it will require deliberate intention and action on the part of government, business, men and women:

To further support women’s financial well-being, government should consider decent tax-deductible breaks for childcare. Currently, women typically pay for childcare. Unavoidable costs, such as lost hours at the workplace and the costs of providing food, clothing and education, tend to reduce the wealth that women could be accumulating over time for retirement.

It is commendable that South Africa has a robust legislative framework to support equality in leadership representation and in pay such as the Employment Equity (EE) Act, which enforces the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. However, pieces of legislation such as EE will not produce the results until those who can make the change effect it. The fact is both public and private sector leaders have the authority to close the gender gap in female career advancement and promote gender equality within their organisations.

Employers will need to implement family-friendly policies and procedures to support both male and female employees. Furthermore, women are equally capable of leading business to profitability, especially when supported, mentored and sponsored throughout their career stages. Companies that invest in inclusive and conducive culture not only promote equal opportunity and access for women to achieve their potential over the long term, but also find that the men thrive too, allowing for shared growth.


The dangers of inaction in correcting gender disparities include loss in output and increased inequality

The Covid-19 pandemic has extensively worsened gender equality prospects. If left unchecked, societies will continue to be less equal, more divided, and poorer, especially for women, hence the urgency to take corrective measures. There are risks that come with either delaying or complete failure of the implementation of processes that will promote gender parity. Most critical is that of the loss to potentially add an estimated US$13 trillion to the global GDP that could promote job creation opportunities and uplift women and societies and alleviate poverty.

This crisis is really an opportunity for business, government and policymakers to collectively redefine a clear economic recovery path. For South Africa to achieve sustainable economic growth and aggressively ignite job creation, women’s full and equal economic participation is paramount.



Dissecting the expansion of online checkouts




Daniel Kornitzer, Chief Business Development Officer


Card payments have long existed as the preferred payment method for online consumers. But in recent years we have begun to see a rise in the use of alternative payment methods. Although card payments continue to serve the majority, it is becoming increasingly clear that consumer preference is diverging rather than reaching a consensus. Across the globe local preferences have developed as eCommerce has grown, and across the global digital payments landscape card payments are being passed over for new ways to pay.

Alternative payment methods are on the rise as they address several of the hurdles which have prevented cards from achieving total rule over consumer preference for online payments. Here are four key reasons for this:

  1. Alternative methods offer a superior consumer experience, particularly when it comes to mCommerce. With the rise of new regulations such as Strong Customer Authentication and developments in Open Banking, alternative payment methods can be faster and easier to use for consumers.
  2. New payments methods such as crypto are growing in popularity thanks to a more attractive offering to consumers such as lower cross border payment fees.
  3. With the digitalisation of services forcing many customers to pay online for the first time and many experienced online shoppers looking for more secure ways to pay, the security of financial data is a major concern. Alternative payment methods can protect customer details by removing the need to share bank details at the checkout.
  4. Not all consumers have bank accounts or a debit card. By offering alternative payment methods businesses are enabling these customers to join the digital economy.

Daniel Kornitzer

Businesses have been watching these trends closely and are constantly looking to improve their checkout experience for consumers accordingly.


The impact of COVID-19 on online payments

The need for businesses to expand their online checkout to meet changing consumer expectations is not a new trend. However, it has certainly been accelerated by COVID-19. The majority of businesses agree the pandemic has shifted consumer payment preferences, with alternative payment methods gaining in popularity.

Research shows businesses have seen more alternative methods chosen at their online checkouts with a greater percentage of consumers choosing digital wallets (57%), mobile wallets (39%) and eCash (28%). This has caused businesses to reconsider the way they understand payments, looking beyond traditionally methods to newer consumer friendly alternatives. With this is mind, reports suggest more than 60% of businesses are now making improving their checkout a top priority to fulfil the new high standard of consumer expectations.


Businesses are actively expanding their online checkouts

If we compare data from 2020 to 2021 on the payment methods offered or planned to be offered by businesses in the next one to two years, the trend is clear.

The number of businesses not offering or not intending to offer alternative payment methods is falling, as more and more start to recognise the importance of offering choice at the checkout. In the last year alone the increase in the adoption of alternative payment methods has risen dramatically, particularly crypto and eCash. As businesses begin to understand the urgency of upgrading the checkout experience, it is clear that alternative payment methods will play a key role in making this a reality.


Establishing crypto as a key player

One of the most interesting areas of payments which businesses should be watching is crypto. Research shows businesses are already backing this trend with almost half considering adding crypto as an alternative payment method as an immediate priority, believing it will help them reach new markets, and more than 50% already have confidence in crypto as the future of payments.


Diversifying the checkout as a form of defence

As well as offering a better customer experience and reaching new markets, businesses are expanding their checkouts with alternative payment methods to combat other familiar problems.

Most businesses see their current levels of cart abandonment as an issue, with research showing almost half have experienced an increase in levels of abandonment at the checkout in 2021.  Businesses consider two of the most significant causes of this to be card declines and absence of the customers’ preferred payment method. Offering alternative payment methods is an effective way of tackling these problems at the checkout.

The rise of fraudulent transactions is also becoming a more pressing concern for businesses, with the number of fraudulent transactions increasing since the start of the pandemic. Diversifying the checkout with alternative payment methods can be used as a valuable strategy to lower fraudulent transactions.


Looking to the year ahead

2022 looks set to be another year where we will see businesses continue to adopt new payment methods at their online checkout in a bid to keep up with consumer expectations.

By working with a leading payments partner, businesses can benefit from access to a range of payment methods through a single API integration, allowing ambitious plans to become a reality in the year ahead.

All data from this article is taken from our recent research report Lost in Transaction: Finding competitive advantage at the checkout.


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How bug bounty programs can help financial institutions be more secure




Rodolphe Harand, Managing Director at YesWeHack


Financial services have been one of the most heavily targeted industries by cybercriminals for several years. One alarming stat from the Boston Consulting Group found these firms to be 300x as likely as other companies to be targeted by cyberattacks.

Furthermore, the pandemic has led to a significant increase in the number of cyberattacks targeting financial institutions (FIs), with around 74% experiencing a spike in threats linked to COVID-19.

With FIs holding some of the largest collections of sensitive and private data, it’s clear they will remain an attractive target for malicious actors, especially as any data stolen can be used for fraudulent activities. This leads to the reputational damage of the financial entity that was compromised and has a knock-on effect in terms of monetary and reputational damage to affected customers.

For CISOs at FIs, the conundrum faced is how do you protect intellectual and customer data, and ensure accountability and transparency for clients and stakeholders, at a time when the pandemic has created budget constraints. Research from BAE Systems found that last year alone, IT security, cybercrime as well as fraud and risk departments had their budgets cut by a third.

Below we look at how bug bounty programs can help to address these pressing issues.


Protecting valuable data

Protecting customer and intellectual data has always been a top priority for FIs. However, as opportunistic cybercriminals have a lot to gain by stealing this valuable data, there is a constant evolution of threats, which means FIs must stay on their toes. By deploying a bug bounty program, FIs can work with ethical hackers that have a wealth of experience and unique skills when it comes to identifying security weaknesses within a FI’s defence, thus helping to implement effective security measures to help prevent data breaches.

Building trust among various stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and investors is critical for achieving business goals. By deploying a bug bounty program, FIs send out a message that they care about protecting the security of the data of those they work with – which in turn can have a cascading effect resulting in better business performance.


Improving accountability  

For FIs to win customers and keep them happy, amidst the growing threat of neo banks and customer-centric fintech organisations, speed of innovation is crucial. As such, many FIs have adopted an agile approach to build, test, and release software faster to bring online and mobile banking solutions to market quicker. However, this can create frictions between development and security teams. Security mandates are deemed to be unnecessarily intrusive and a cause of delayed application development and deployment.

Yet, with DevOps teams needing to build and deploy applications faster than ever before, an epidemic of insecure applications has emerged. According to Osterman Research, 81% of developers admit to knowingly releasing vulnerable applications, while research from WhiteSource found 73% of developers are forced to cut corners and sacrifice security over speed.

With developers often not having the time, tools, skills, or motivation to write impeccably secure code, there is an evident need to provide developers with more support when it comes to building applications securely Fortunately, bug bounty programs can provide a “fact-based” financial implication of inherent security flaws within the process. This makes it possible to hold development teams and service providers accountable for creating or delivering insecure products, thus addressing inherent security gaps within the business units and helping to drive continuous improvement.

Moreover, security awareness and education of developments teams can be improved significantly for those developers that are directly involved with the management of vulnerability reports for their bug bounty programs. This is because, the mere fact of exchanging information with ethical hackers, or assimilating the thinking of a potential hacker and having proof of concepts of vulnerability exploitation on their application components, naturally accelerates consideration of security early in the development stage and provides ongoing learning.


Get more return on your investment

According to Gartner, 30% of CISOs effectiveness will be directly measured on their ability to create value for the business. When security budgets are challenged, CISOs need to demonstrate business value through initiatives designed to enhance efficiency whilst stretching the dollar.

This is where bug bounties can help tremendously. Compared to conventional penetration testing, bug bounty offers a fast, complete, and measurable return on your security investment, with businesses only paying out for successful discovery of vulnerabilities. Equally, businesses get access to hundreds of ethical hackers that can test their programs, each with their own unique skillsets as opposed to only one skilled researcher testing the network. This results-driven model ensures you pay for the vulnerabilities that pose a threat to your organisation and not for the time or effort it took to find them.

Bug bounty programs also deliver rapid vulnerability discovery across multiple attack surfaces. With this approach, organisations receive prioritised vulnerabilities and real-time remediation advice throughout the process to accelerate the discovery of, and solution to vulnerabilities.

Another appeal of bug bounties is that due to the continuous nature of testing, more vulnerabilities are found over time as opposed to pen-testing. This is key to financial institutions that require agility to keep up with the continuous roll-out and updates of applications.


The cornerstone to a successful security programme

The risk posed to financial institutions by cyber threats will only continue, as evidenced by the number of data breaches seen in recent times. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these risks, especially with almost all FIs having needed to shift to a remote working environment – which has only widened the attack landscape.

For FIs, a bug bounty program should be considered a fundamental cornerstone of any security strategy, with it being a modern-day cybersecurity solution that is well-equipped to tackle the immediate security challenges they face. In doing so, FIs will not only prove to customers and stakeholders their commitment to data protection and security but this will also be help them to avoid the monetary damages that could be imposed by regulators if a breach was to take place.


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