African women’s leadership experiences and outcomes of gender transformation policies: a case study of democratic national government departments in South Africa.
Mgcotyelwa-Ntoni, Nwabisa Bernice.
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This study investigated African women’s leadership experiences and outcomes of gender transformation policies (Employment Equity and Gender Mainstreaming) in the democratic national government departments in South Africa. The research objectives were to investigate the impact of gender transformation policies on black African women’s leadership experiences, examine women leaders’ experiences of the outcomes resulting from the implementation of GM and EE. Furthermore, the study investigated how national government departments’ organisational cultures, structures and practices impede or promote black African women’s participation in leadership roles. Given that African women suffered the most oppression under the apartheid system, the democratic South Africa provides an interesting case for studying their leadership experiences of GM and EE outcomes. The study is significant as there is a paucity of empirical studies on the outcomes of gender transformation policies and the impacts on beneficiaries in the democratic South Africa, especially black African women. A purposive sampling technique was applied to obtain a total number of 35 participants in leadership positions from 25 national government departments. Using a feminist methodology, a qualitative research method was employed to gather data by means of in-depth, face-to-face interviews. The intersectionality, postcolonial and state feminist theories were used as the theoretical framework for critical analysis. Moreover, the subjective experiences of black African women as leaders were analysed in accordance with the grounded theory method and Nvivo Version 11 Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS). All standard ethical considerations to protect the participants and the researcher were adhered to. On the one hand, the key findings indicate that GM remains a framework, and not a policy, and is therefore marginalised in departments. Its outcomes are negatively impacted by a lack of human and financial resources and gender budgeting for implementation is not prioritised, consequently gender is not mainstreamed in the government departments. The findings also illustrate the negative impact of the gender-biased, patriarchal and racial organisational culture on women’s voices and leadership experiences. Nuanced identity politics were also found to be prevalent manifesting through ethnic, age, and (dis)ability discrimination in the sampled national government departments. The participants’ insights further highlighted resistance to gender transformation as the policies challenge the normative patriarchal culture and practices to promote equal substantive representation. The focus on descriptive rather than substantive representation, leading to the marginalisation of EE beneficiaries and their leadership authority being undermined. This perpetuates the race and gender inequalities that these policies aim to eradicate. Furthermore, a lack of monitoring and evaluation hinders successful implementation of GM and EE in national government departments. The study found that, while GM and EE are important transformation policies, they have yet to be properly implemented, preventing the achievement of the intended outcomes of addressing inequality in the workplace and empowering marginalised and oppressed groups, particularly black African women. The study thus concludes that, while positive strides have been made in addressing gender issues in South Africa such as increasing the number of women in leadership positions in the government, black African women leaders are still subjected to multiple intersecting subjugations emanating from colonial vestiges that undermine the gains made in the democratic era.