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It took Steinhoff less than two weeks to appoint Heather Sonn as acting chair in December after news of accounting irregularities emerged. By replacing the group's largest shareholder, Christo Wiese, as chair, the board was desperately looking to instil a sense of independence. For the first time in the company's 54-year history - and also at the worst time in its history - it had a black woman at the helm, shouldering the burden. But it seems transformation is being used to paper over the failures of executive teams. Retail in South Africa remains the least transformed sector in terms of ownership, despite its 59.97% contribution to GDP through consumer spending. At an executive level, Woolworths is the only retailer that has a black woman as its CEO. Since 2015 Zyda Rylands has spearheaded the South African unit's food and clothing division, which has outperformed the group's Australian operations. A Boston Consulting Group study last year showed that diversity among executives le...

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