In March of 2020, Mercer published their Let’s Get Real About Equality: When Women Thrive 2020 Global Report, which built upon seminal 2014 and 2016 research, and reached 7 million employees at 1,157 organisations across 54 countries. Global Report, which built upon seminal 2014 and 2016 research, and reached 7 million employees at 1,157 organisations across 54 countries.


In August, Mercer then released Sub Saharan Africa’s inaugural report of the above-mentioned study and the key finding, similar to global trends, while senior executives and board members are engaged in diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts, middle and frontline management involvement is lacking. This is important because, to become a more diverse and inclusive organisation, commitment from the top must translate into action at the people management level. In fact, the report found that time and again, this is the missing link in driving greater D&I outcomes.


  • Board engagement is at 71% in Sub-Saharan Africa and increased by 5% to 57% globally from 2016.
  • Senior executive engagement is at 76% in Sub-Saharan Africa and increased globally by 9% to 66% from 2016.
  • However, Sub-Saharan African organisations report that only 65% of middle managers (versus 53% globally) and only 65% of frontline managers (versus 46% globally) are involved in D&I activities.


Organisations need to engage middle and frontline managers who are critical for the implementation of D&I practices, managing people across the talent lifecycle, and driving the culture, to ensure that diverse and inclusive values are adopted as organisational wide values.

There are also opportunities to introduce on-going managerial training. Only half of the organisations surveyed in the region train their managers to support employees through parental leave and return-to-work processes, and only 48% train managers to support their employees’ use of flexible work options.

“As organisations work to ensure equality of opportunity, experience, and pay, consider the role of the manager as the accelerator, and provide the right training and support to ensure that the manager is fully equipped to play that role,” suggests Angela Berg, Global Diversity and Inclusion Consulting Leader at Mercer.


For example, how do managers support employees with the uptake of flexible work options? Research has shown that women are reluctant to use flexible work options if they don’t feel there is broad support in the organisation, and especially support from immediate managers. 


Furthermore, because men still hold the majority of leadership roles globally, it’s critical to ensure that they too are trained to support women in the organisation. 

At present, only 53% of sub-Saharan African organisations (and 48% globally) report that men are involved in D&I, but based on research done by one of Mercer’s external partners, the issue isn’t that men don’t want to help deliver the D&I agenda – they just aren’t sure what to do.

Here are the actions your organisation can take to rectify this and create a truly inclusive culture.

Find out more, get the full picture on some of the actions your organisation can take to move towards a truly inclusive culture.

Tamara Parker
CEO, Mercer South Africa