Five years ago a large JSE-listed company asked me to help it develop an employment equity strategy. It soon became clear that this would be a difficult assignment. The first thing I noticed was the underrepresentation of African women. When I interviewed the head of human resources, she replied: “African women think this is a glamorous job.”

After interviewing many people in focus groups I went to the board subcommittee, which included the CEO and COO, with a long report that told a story of institutional racism within the company. But it was also clear that this was just one symptom of  deeper rot and a toxic culture. It was such a traumatic experience I decided never to do such work again. Later, a private equity team took over the company and fired the CEO and COO...

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