WORKER'S COMPENSATION CORNER with MAYBIN NKHOLOMBA
MINISTER of Labour and Social Security Joyce Nonde-Simukoko has strategically narrowed the gender gap in the governance of the Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) by granting opportunities to qualified women from different professional backgrounds to serve on the board of directors.
The responsibility to chair the board of directors for WCFCB rests on the shoulders of a highly competent public service professional Regina Chilupula, who is the former deputy Auditor General.
Unparalleled opportunities have been given to other prominent women from constituents representing workers, employers and government to make a significant contribution to the establishment and sustenance of a robust scheme for social security.
They include Sophie Muntemba, a former vice-president of human resource at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), Pumulo Mundale, director for gender rights and protection at the Ministry of Gender, Esther Kapisa-Chisenga, a labour consultant and Betty Mtambo, from the labour movement.
For women, the ladder to get to the top can be particularly tough to get on. The good news though is that the odds are beginning to shift in the right direction with such practical steps as the Minister of Labour has undertaken to try and balance gender at the Board.
For the record, the gender imbalance challenge spreads even to advanced societies such as America.
For instance, the fact sheet published by the American Centre for Progress, titled ‘The women’s leadership gap’, reveals that women fill 52 percent of the professional jobs in the United States today, yet they make up only 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board seats.
This scenario may not be strange to our country, especially in the social security sector. But for the Minister of Labour and Social Security to make a bold decision to appoint a number of women to the WCFCB board of directors clearly points at efforts to create equal opportunities for all.
The appointment of the board of directors by the minister is pursuant to section 10 of the Workers’ Compensation Act No 10 of 1999 that provides for the appointment of 11 members. The structure is tripartite to ensure that no one individual or group dominates the decision making process. Representation includes members drawn from the following:
a) The chairperson of the Board;
b) Three persons from associations representing employers;
c) Three persons from associations representing workers;
d) Three representatives from the government and;
e) One person from the association of pensioners.
The role of the Board of Directors is to provide, among other matters, leadership for the Fund, formulation of policies and provision of strategic direction to management. The board of directors makes key decisions to ensure that it retains proper direction and control of the Fund.
As can be seen from the constituencies given in this article on the composition of the board of directors, gender requirements for balancing of the highest organ for decision making have been addressed through the appointment of the distinguished individuals mentioned.
And for those who have been following the transitioning of WCFCB from a long time, it will not be difficult to appreciate the strategic decision to include women on the Board. This is an institution, which initially started as the then Workmen’s Compensation Fund, and by implication was gender insensitive as the role of women at work was overlooked to the point that even if they got injured, there would be no compensation for them.
As a matter of fact, we can confirm that before the transition, we did not have widowers on the scheme except widows.
The transition from Workmen’s Compensation to WCFCB effectively addressed the gaps from the operational side of the business.
However, the policy level remained male dominated until much recently that opportunities for women were opened up. The latest appointment of a board led by Chilupula is confirmation of the commitment by the minister to fulfill long held aspirations of deserving and qualified women to provide leadership to the institution.
Male hegemony in the governance and might we even add the day to day management, has been moderated with further appointments of the commissioner and chief executive and two executive directors out of a panel of four, who are all female.
As we stated in the opening statements, this is unprecedented and credit goes to the minister who has demonstrated the importance of balancing gender in governance roles. We remain optimistic that the strategic direction of the institution is headed in the right direction and that the aspirations of our stakeholders will be made.
The author is head – communications and customer service at the Workers’ Compensation Fund Control. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org