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The glass ceiling : perceptions of aspiring female managers.

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The glass ceiling has been defined as a subtle, intangible yet impenetrable barrier that hinders the accession of women to senior management positions. Its manifestations are unique to every country and organisation. The theoretical framework of the glass ceiling has pointed to person and situation centred theories, social role, interaction and human capital theory to try and provide explanations to the origin of the glass ceiling. The main aim of the study was to determine whether the existence of the glass ceiling was a myth or reality. Purposive and snowball sampling were the sampling methods used in this study. The questionnaire that was administered using the web based Question pro elicited a total of 117 responses from 290 questionnaires that were circulated to respondents, resulting in a 40% response rate. Due to the sampling method that was used, results obtained could not be generalised to the entire population of female managers in the Durban Metropolitan Area. Salient findings that emerged from this study were that 54% of respondents were aged between 35-44 years and were married (69%). In addition, the majority of respondents were White (41%), were employed in the Private Sector (62%) and held middle management positions (47%). Critical to this study, respondents felt that the glass ceiling was still firmly in place as female representation at senior management was minimal (86%). Some of the barriers to the upward career mobility of respondents were reluctance to relocate (48%), need to overachieve (52%) and consistently exceeding performance (64%). In addition, critical career mobility success factors were that respondents needed to be leaders geared towards high achievement (94%), be competitive and ambitious (90%), be confident and exhibit emotional suitability to hold senior management positions (84%), have a track record (77%), receive organisational support to balance their multiple roles (59%) and have a willingness to relocate (41%). For the ceiling to crack, it is essential for organisations‟ on one hand to commit to creating environments supportive of the roles of women (flexi time, work from home days, mentor staff) and women on the other hand need to have the desire to persevere and have faith in their abilities, cultivate their own leadership style, network and further their own education.


Thesis (MBA)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville, 2011.


Women--Employment--South Africa., Business enterprises, Blacks--South Africa., Theses--Business administration.