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Career progression of women in higher education: a case study of Universities of Technology in KwaZulu-Natal.

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Abstract Women account for 51% of the South African labour force but their representation at more senior management levels is insignificant (Stats SA). Women experience barriers in their career progression, such as family-related, societal and organisational barriers. The main aim of this study was to determine the career progression of women in Higher Education. Purposive judgement sampling was used to select the participants for this study. The questionnaire was administered using QuestionPro. A total of 111 responses out of 360 questionnaires resulted in a 31% response rate. Due to the low response rate obtained, the results could not be generalised to the institutions of Higher Education, specifically Universities of Technology. Salient findings from the study were that the majority of the respondents in this study were African, aged between 36-45 years of age, were married, had up to two dependents, were lecturers with a master’s degree and had more than 10 years and above of working experience. The respondents felt that they had not progressed in their careers and the main reason given for this was that they had not applied for promotion. The findings also revealed that the majority of respondents did not experience barriers in their careers, but the organisational barriers identified by 43% of the respondents were lack of internal networking opportunities, no support from line managers and ethnicity. In addition, the majority of respondents felt that there were no invisible barriers (glass-ceiling) preventing them from progressing in Higher Education. The invisible barriers experienced by 24% of the respondents were slower promotion rate, lack of career development opportunities and significant gaps in earnings. For women to progress in their careers, Higher Education Institutions (HEI) could promote being an equal opportunity employer by providing training and development, mentorship, networking, gender empowerment, flexible working arrangements and work-life balance.


Master’s Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.