Empowering women in the workplace : a South African perspective.
Empowerment is the degree of flexibility and freedom provided to individuals to make decisions in relation to their work. Individuals tend to respond more creatively when given additional responsibilities and are encouraged to contribute to and attain satisfaction from their work and its environment. Women in South Africa have unfortunately found it difficult to take advantage of this flexibility and freedom due to the countries past policies and laws. They have to face various barriers that restrict them from advancing in their careers and in the workplace, particularly at senior management levels. One of these barriers is to balance work and family life. The government has legislated policies and procedures for the empowerment of women in the workplace. Companies are required to use these policies and procedures to promote women to senior levels of management. The aim of the study is to determine whether women in South Africa are being empowered in the workplace and the impact of organisational practices on their progression. This study used a quantitative research design and data was collected using an electronic questionnaire in the Greater Durban Area using a non-probability sample. There were 129 respondents who responded to the electronic questionnaire of which only 121 were valid responses. The study showed that women were not accepted in a managerial role yet respondents preferred female managers due to their influence in the workplace. Barriers which affected women in acquiring higher positions in their companies were identified. The findings indicate that organisations which have policies and procedures in place invest in developing female leaders and managers. Based on the research findings it is recommended that organisations need to be more supportive of women with families. In this way they could retain the best. In addition, organisations need to ensure that for empowerment of women to materialise; power sharing, skills development and positive relationships should be a part of their organisations’ empowerment strategy. Government may need to change certain policies and procedures to encourage the promotion of women in the workplace.