The invisible glass ceiling : a comparative study of women in management positions in private and public sector in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Khwela, Buhle Charlotte.
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The participation of women in the workplace has increased immensely around the world, and this is also evident in South Africa. Women are no longer employed as unskilled or semi-skilled labor. Women’s access to education and training, as well as legislation enforced by governments, has afforded women opportunities to penetrate occupations that were previously male-dominated. Women continue to enter into all the functional areas of organizations, even as line managers. Whilst female representation in lower and middle management is on the increase, there is still a yawning gap between the percentages of men and women in both public and private sectors in senior management. This under-representation of women in senior management has been attributed to what is termed the ‘glass ceiling’. This study explores the existence of the ‘glass ceiling’, and compares its existence in the public and the private sectors in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The study adopts an exploratory approach and is qualitative. In-depth interviews were conducted with twenty-four (24) women managers who are employed in the public and private sector in lower, medium and senior management positions. The study revealed that a glass ceiling exists in the public and private sector, however, it is more evident in the private sector. Organizational culture emerges as the main barrier that hinders women’s progress in the private sector, while in the public sector, historical patriarchy is the main reason why women are clustered in middle management. The study found that while ‘old boy’s networks’ exist strongly in the private sector, women working in the public sector are successfully reaping the rewards of their education. In addition, the study revealed that some women are not confident that they are cut out for the boardroom, and others do not aspire to progress to top management. Further, women applaud the government for legislation to redress the marginalization of women and have benefited from such, but they are unanimous about the need for more women in top management positions. It is recommended that similar research be carried out in all the provinces of South Africa since a literature gap exists. These studies could assist in creating more awareness about the existence of the ‘glass ceiling’.