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Shattering the glass ceiling : a critical feminist investigation of the ethical challenges faced by African women in Black economic empowerment (BEE)

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This thesis offers a critical gendered analysis of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE): a programme which was begun when the ANC government came unto power in 1994, to correct the economic imbalances instituted by the Apartheid system. The thesis argues that the programme has not effectively benefited black women in South Africa. Despite the fact that the focus of the programme has recently been changed to benefit a broad base of previously disempowered black people, only a few men who are connected to the ANC government have benefited. The thesis provides an overview of the background that necessitated the implementation of the economic programme. It specifically highlights the economic inequalities that were cornerstones of apartheid and their effects on Black women. It investigates statistics relating to BEE and gender, and reveals that eight key areas inhibit black women’s participation in the BEE programme. These include the fact that the original document did not mention women, women’s lack of capital, the glass ceiling, a sense of inferiority held by women, lack of mentorship and networking groups, family commitments and workload, gender stereotypes, and inadequate education and skills. The thesis argues that these eight key areas result from patriarchal customs and traditions in the South African society. To support this claim, the thesis then examines the responses of women participating in BEE. Women in BEE have voiced their concerns on different platforms but it is not enough to bring about the required transformation in the economy. Therefore, in order to adequately deal with factors that inhibit women’s participation in BEE, the thesis proposes that developmental feminist ethical and cultural tools needs to be engaged with in order for gender justice to be realised in BEE. In the search for solutions to factors inhibiting women’s participation, the thesis proposes the incorporation of the virtues of ubuntu, such as communalism, participation, humanity and solidarity, in BEE. In conclusion, the thesis argues that the South African economy cannot be built on the efforts of male citizens alone. There is the need for the government to ensure the inclusion of women at all levels of the economy, and to “shatter the glass ceiling” which Black women are constantly up against.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2011.


Women, Employment--South Africa., Women executives--South Africa., Business enterprises, Black--South Africa., Women, Black--South Africa., Theses--Theology.