Gender Balance: a key issue in Mauritius and a great challenge for businesses

September 4, 2017

 In August, the IMF came to Mauritius for a mission to assess the economy and the Government’s aim of becoming a ‘rich’ country. One of IMF’s conclusion was that for Mauritius to reach its goal "Broader structural reforms in areas such as the labor market including the promotion of youth and female labor participation in the labor force, higher education and innovation policies will be key drivers of Mauritius’ economic transformation going forward.” 


In Mauritius, the gap between men and women in the labour market is big. Mauritius is constantly the lowest performing country in the region on female labour force participation, on the gender pay gap, and on female representation at decision making spheres. This indicates a lack of government policy and legislation to support and promote women, a business culture that discriminates against women, and an overall patriarchal society.


Here are a few facts (sources include the Mauritius Statistics Bureau, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, Business Magazine):


Unemployment; women are under represented in the labour force and those that are in the labour force are twice as likely to be unemployed:

  • In 2015, around 47% of women of working age were in the labour force compared to 75% of men

  • In spite of being fewer in the labour force women are twice more likely to be unemployed; they make up nearly 58% of the total unemployed. Female unemployment rate stood at 11.6%, much higher than the rate of 5.5% for male.

  •  The disparity between male and female unemployment rate was highest in the lower age groups; the difference was nearly 11% among the unemployed below 25 years.


Education; unemployed women are more educated than their male counterpart:

  • More women than men are enrolled in tertiary institutions (with are fewer women in research PhD, MPhil and DBA). In 2014, women enrolled in public, private and overseas tertiary institutions represented 56% of the student population.

  • Around 54% of unemployed women possessed the School Certificate or above against 45% among males.

  • Similarly, a higher proportion of unemployed women (21%) attained tertiary level education as compared to unemployed men (17%).


Representation; women are largely under-represented in decision making at higher sphere of society.

  • Women represented only 7% of the boards of directors of the Top 50 Companies in 2015 (ranked by profits) in Mauritius. 

  • The number of female parliamentarians is 8 out of a total of 70 (11%); ranking at 150 out of 190 countries. Compared to Rwanda 63.2% (highest in the world), Seychelles 43.8%, South Africa 41.8%.


Pay gap; average income tends to be lower for women than for men across all occupations.

  • In 2015, Mauritius held the 120th position out of 145 countries according to the Global Gender Gap Index (GGI) of the World Economic Forum. The GGI seeks to measure gender equality across four key areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.

  • The 2016 SADC Gender Barometer finds that no member state has equal pay for men and women. Tanzania is the only country where women’s earnings come close to those of men; their earnings are 93% of men’s. "Disappointingly, this is not the picture across the region; in Swaziland women workers earn just above half of what men earn at 53% while in Mauritius women earn less than half at 42%."


So what can individual businesses do?



According to Harvard Business Review, “gender balance is a big business opportunity, with huge economic implications. It boosts bottom-line results, drives growth with new customer insights, and enhances productivity with better talent acquisition and retention. Companies whose executive teams are more gender balanced report higher profitability and return on equity.” Another obvious reason stands out: we are missing out on 50% of the potential productivity and output, and on 50% of the skills and knowledge available to us – especially as women in Mauritius tend to be more educated than men.


Strategy; embark on a broad strategic shift:

The companies who really understand the issue see gender balance as part of a broader, more strategic cultural shift. Dutch-based Royal DSM is a case study of multiple parallel transformations – in their business and in their leadership balance. The CEO Feike Sijbesma has set a vision that connects the goal to business success. What will success look like? What indicators will you track? Where is the business imperative? Here, it will be imperative that the CEO and top management drive this strategy, and set the tone for the rest of the company.


Transparency; know your numbers and publish them:

Create indicators and measure gender gaps and disparities. How (im)balanced is your company? Do you have a recruitment, retention, or promotion issue? Are men and women split by level, role, function? Who earns more? Knowing your numbers will help you know where the problem lies for your specific context, and will therefore help you think of which solutions are needed. Moreover, if employees see that there are real gender disparities they will be more likely to participate in solutions.


Training; getting your team on-board:  

People are often simply unaware of gender biases and unskilled at rectifying the problem. The dominant group will see their standards as normal, therefore it is important to build awareness, engagement and the skills needed to build balance. For instance, teach inclusivity in team discussions by putting in place a system that ensures all voices are heard and integrated into strategies and solutions. Avoid letting the noisy extroverts and natural leaders dominate the conversation. Make “managing across differences” a praised leadership skill. Visibly promote and reward those who do it well. Make gender balance an exercise in leadership development programs and visibly reward managers who build balanced teams.


Sources used:








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