The experiences of black professionals in corporate South Africa: navigating the black identity in predominantly white corporate workspaces.
Mathenjwa, Bongiwe Innocentia.
MetadataShow full item record
Public places, parks or beaches are no longer clearly marked “Whites only”. However, the scourge of racial discrimination is still lingering in the post-apartheid South African corporate environment. During colonialism and apartheid, institutional racism became entrenched into the South African societal systems and institutions, also influencing policies, operations, and organisational cultures (Sivanandan, 2006). Furthermore, Black South Africans endured significant discrimination and outright denial of civil, social, political, educational, and economic entitlements throughout the apartheid era. Huge socio-economic disparities between racial and ethnic groupings continue to exist in employment, income and wealth, work-related promotions, and other sectors of the new South African economy. Professional office settings conceal subtle but pernicious manifestations of racism (Baker, 1995). It is against this background that this research seeks to investigate the experiences of Black professionals in corporate workplaces in South Africa. The theoretical framework underpinning this study is encapsulated in the Identity Negotiation Theory (INT), which enables the study to observe participants’ interaction with their colleagues and their work-related activities in White-dominated work environments. The research employs a qualitative case study approach based on the interpretive paradigm. The participants who took part in the study were nine Black professionals occupying senior management positions in corporate offices in South Africa. The study found that Black South African professionals go through negative experiences because of working in White-dominated environments. These experiences are categorised as being a numerical minority at a workplace, everyday Black professionals are subjected to stereotypes at the workplace, discrimination or subtle racism towards Black South African professionals, Black professionals adopt code-switching strategies in the face of White power structures; experiencing emotional toll as a result of being a racial minority at the workplace and poor policy implementation in the South African work environment. The study recommends that certain interventions and measures be put in place to encourage organisations to create safe and conducive work and business environments for the growth and development of the previously marginalised groups.