Just 10% of 267 JSE-listed companies analysed in a recent survey have achieved gender parity on their boards.
A further 50 did not report on gender at board level in 2017, despite amendments to JSE listing requirements last year to include the promotion of gender diversity at board level.
This is according to a report by the 30% Club Southern Africa chapter (30%CSA), the Institute of Directors Southern Africa, WDB Investment Holdings and Korn Ferry, who launched an inaugural report on the state of gender on JSE-listed boards last week.
"Several companies for many years, have noted in their Integrated Annual Reports the gender split at board level," the researchers said in a statement.
"However, of the 267 companies analysed, 50 did not specifically report on gender at board level in 2017."
Further, the report said, although there are opportunities for women to join the boards of several of the companies, the number of positions available is too small to promote gender parity at most companies.
"Of the 217 companies that reported on gender at board level, it is assessed that there are currently opportunities for 84 women to join the boards of 62 of these JSE-listed companies over the next few years.
"By far, the majority of opportunities are for one or two women to join a board (94% of the companies).
"The exception is Stellar Capital, which seeks to go from 10 male and no female board members to gender parity, giving an opportunity for five women to join that board over the long-term," the researchers said.
30%CSA president Colleen Larsen expressed concern over the dearth of opportunities for women, saying: "These opportunities assume that South African companies do not get caught in the 'Golden Skirts' syndrome, where a few, usually politically well connected, select women are appointed to multiple boards at the expense of other women."
Zeona Jacobs, Director of Marketing and Corporate Affairs for the JSE, said she believed there had been positive change, saying: "While women remain significantly under-represented at board level, the JSE listing requirements appear to have been a contributor to motivating companies to be introspective regarding their gender diversity at board level.”
Countries such as Norway have passed laws requiring all listed companies to have at least 40% women on their boards.