The process of empowerment of Blacks in affirmative action programmes.
Magojo, Thandelike Sylvia.
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This research focuses on the experiences of Africans within the management ranks in South African organisations in the private sector. It examines progress (successes and failures) in the implementation of affirmative action programmes. The research further examines power as a concomitant of the managerial role. It argues that the approach that uses the notion of socio-psychological barriers directed to the individual aspirant may be incomplete in explaining lack of mobility if it fails to account for the broader power dynamics and structures within South African organisations. Furthermore, it explores attributes of individual managers as well as those of organisations in order to establish the fit between the individual and the organisation, looks at practices that are often associated with affirmative action programmes and describes empirically the experiences of black managers in such settings. The research concludes that in the absence of programmes that enable aspirant executives to empower themselves psychologically for upward mobility, affirmative action programmes may not be sustainable. The underlying assumption of this research is that the historical legacy which subjected Africans to an official policy of discrimination for decades impeded their upward mobility in the labour market, thus enabling the white labour force to occupy a position of privilege in the private sector. In such settings white managers are confronted with the role of implementing affirmative action programmes which pose a threat to the privileges they have grown accumstomed to. White managers are thus perceived by their black counterparts as reluctant agents of change. The research is guided by the hypotheses that where blacks in managerial positions perceive themselves as being unable to influence organisational decisions, or as having no control over resources, people and information, they would feel that affirmative action is disempowering. To obtain the required information a structured interview schedule with both open ended and closed-ended questions was used. Questions tapped the perceptions of black managers regarding their empowerment in employing organisations. Face-to-face interviews with 100 black managers from the private sector were conducted by the author. The resultant data was captured on a computer data base and then subjected to various forms of statistical analyses. The main predictor of feelings of empowerment was found to be the manager's centrality in decision-making processes. It was also found that positive relationships with superiors and colleagues influenced feelings of empowerment, as did membership of corporate clubs. Job rank was positively related to relationships with superiors and colleagues. It was also found that affirmative action environments presented this group with some contradictions: they advanced much slower than their white colleagues, and supervised largely, or only blacks, and/or are in specialist positions with no budgetary control. Organisational climate factors (negative attitudes and unfair promotional practices) were still perceived to be in place. Educational qualifications were not found to be good predictors of empowerment. The findings suggest that affirmative action programmes need to take the heterogeneity of managers into account. Management must show that managing diversity is crucial to their productivity and competitiveness. It is also important for such programmes to examine the format of corporate clubs, and consider altering them to accommodate the social reality of black managers. Lastly, a fundamental transformation of power relations is necessary so that decision-makers operate from more or less the same level of power.
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