Title page for ETD etd-02012006-101303

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Mona, Themba M
URN etd-02012006-101303
Document Title Women’s upward mobility into managerial positions: a case study of women managers in the Kruger National Park
Degree MA (Industrial Sociology)
Department Sociology
Advisor Name Title
Dr M de Waal
  • no key words available
Date 2005-05-27
Availability restricted
Women, like men, have always worked though their work tended to differ significantly from that of men. This resulted from the different socialisation processes of males and females, hierarchical structures, male dominance and gender oppression in society. Today, while men occupy most of the management positions, women mostly cluster in lowly paid jobs with virtually less career prospects.

Although women have taken the majority of new jobs created in the economy in recent years, the overall degree of gender segregation has not changed much since the new labour legislation came into effect in 1996. Along with the transformation to a new democracy and the changes in labour legislation in South Africa, was the expectation that opportunities would open up for women to access managerial ranks as it would be for Blacks. To date, women are still finding it difficult to make it to the top. Those who managed to reach senior positions have done so under conditions of labour market discrimination that have always plagued them. The reality facing women is that the culture of male-domination in the social organisation of work has not changed even in this new democracy.

The notion of gender-mainstreaming in the workplace has not yet reached desired levels. South African organisations have not as yet embraced a transformation process that would take women from the switchboard to the boardroom. The main thrust of the problem is that organisations lack a gender-awareness that will transform organisational culture, policies and processes to make managerial positions to become accessible to women.

In the past, women's lack of upward mobility used to be justified on their lack of suitable qualifications for managerial jobs. Today, women possess qualifications that would take them to managerial positions but most still find it difficult to advance upwardly and the majority is still unemployed. Where organisations have complied with labour legislation to transform the workplace to give opportunities to people previously disadvantaged by past discrimination, black males benefit more than women of all races do. Management ranks are so stable to the point that even qualified women are unable to access top positions just because they are women. Those women who are already in management are expected to adopt styles of management which reflect masculinity rather than femininity. This, coupled with domestic pressure, makes management to become stressful to women.

The literature study reveals that over the years research on the labour process has been biased on the assumption that work belongs to men. Feminisation of work has been treated as problematic. The fact that women started entering the labour market later, created a significant difference between men and women's career development. This was also motivated by the sexual division of labour at home which was gradually transferred to the workplace. Most women still cluster in low paid positions and job hierarchies that have lesser opportunities for advancement. Today, women are emerging as graduates in traditionally male dominated fields such as accounting, law and engineering, however most of these women remain active job seekers. Different literatures reveal that the workplace still has elements of gender discrimination and inequalities that affect women to a greater extent. Sexual harassment and other forms of inferior treatment of women discourage women from advancing their careers or to compete for available senior positions.

The Employment Equity Act of 1998 seeks to promote the advancement of the designated groups, which include Blacks, women and the disabled. Nonetheless, women still find it difficult to compete with black males in accessing managerial positions. The questions that I am concerned with in this research are: What makes organisations to fail to achieve gender parity in managerial ranks? How can organisations in view of employment equity and labour legislation go about transformation that would ultimately ensure women advancement in the workplace?

This research is a qualitative study of women's experiences and realities in as far as their upward mobility is concerned. The purpose of this study is first to research on women's experiences and perceptions of the realities they encounter both internal and external to the workplace. Second, to explore the role of labour legislation in creating an enabling environment that will integrate gender equality concerns. The research was conducted with women in management at the Kruger National Park (KNP) and the South African National Parks (SANP). Both a comprehensive questionnaire and an interview schedule were used as instruments for data collection. Data was analysed using the coding process of analysing qualitative research data.

The results of the study reveal that women experience a role conflict in society in the sense that they are expected to be productive through paid and unpaid work, and at the same time manage the home. Sexism and male dominance have led to stereotyping certain positions as men only positions and women are seen as intruding male avenues. In the past a woman could not be appointed as a camp manager at the Kruger National Park. Women see racism as still playing a role in as far as promotional opportunities between white and black females are concerned. The results of this study confirm that the reality facing women to date is that even women who possess the necessary qualifications and skills are not afforded the opportunity to use these skills and knowledge they have acquired in their academic training.

Measures such as employment equity and affirmative action embedded in the Employment Equity Act of 1998 and the Labour Relations Act of 1995 are a first step towards removing the glass-ceiling that blocks women's upward mobility in the workplace. To support these measures, the Kruger National Park and perhaps other organisations need to effect gender-awareness and empowerment initiatives which would aim at helping both men and women to change the perceptions they hold about women. Moreover, women need to be motivated to learn to support each other and form a collective action. A change in the culture of male-dominance to a culture that embraces femininity will greatly benefit women. A feminised culture promotes values of equal treatment of members within an organisation. The fact of the matter is that women are as capable as men are to perform at management level. They also carry the potential to be good managers and effective leaders. To realise this, organisations simply need to embrace organisational change that will transform organisational culture to make managerial positions to be accessible to women as well.

There is no doubt that women's opportunities for upward mobility have been blocked, however I note that women possess the very qualities, skills, management and leadership styles that might benefit the workplace to a larger extent. The realisation of women qualities could be a springboard for workplace transformation. The recommendations for organisational transformation provided in chapter six of this thesis, can be useful instruments to guide initiatives for women advancement in the Kruger National Park.

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