The opportunities and challenges facing women in senior academic and managerial positions at a particular campus within a merging South African university.
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Whilst there has been considerable research that has documented the barriers facing women (Cassimjee, 2003; Holland, 2001; Lyness & Thompson, 2000; De La Rey, 1999;Wood, 1993), little is known about the opportunities facing women, particularly Black women academics/managers, within tertiary institutions. In an attempt to facilitate such insight, the central aim of the study explores the subjective experiences of women academics/managers in terms of their academic development and career trajectory. This qualitative study was conducted within a particular campus within a merging South African university. Using convenience sampling, three women academics (two participants of African descent, one participant of Indian descent) and two managers (one participant of African descent and one of Indian descent) were selected. All interviews were audio taped and transcribed. Inductive thematic analysis was used to analyse the transcribed interviews followed by interpretation of the data, which was informed by the theoretical underpinnings of the study, rooted within the ambit of Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT). The analysis of the subjective experiences of women in this study revealed salient factors relating to the patriarchal nature of the institution of study, the legacy of apartheid and the issue of racism. The lack of overall institutional support and the absence of mentorship programmes were also prevalent. In addition, there emerged a shared ideology that 'academic life was a battle' to be fought. The acquisition of knowledge, constant empowerment and goal orientated behaviour with discipline; boundaries and strategies remained an overall theme to manage hierarchical career growth and development. Balancing work, academic and management roles together with the competing needs around family also posed a challenge. In sum, the implication of the study highlights the need to cultivate a non-racist, gender neutral and logistically supportive environment.