The Glass Ceiling: a Perspective of Women Working in Durban

Topics: Management, Glass ceiling, Gender Pages: 21 (7525 words) Published: May 23, 2013
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GM 28,1

The glass ceiling: a perspective of women working in Durban
Risper Enid Kiaye
University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, and


Anesh Maniraj Singh
Graduate School of Business & Leadership, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to determine whether the glass ceiling exists in organisations located in Durban. The study specifically concentrated on the barriers to the upward mobility of women, based on constructs such as social roles, personal characteristics and situational barriers. The study was intended to provide guidelines to South African organisations on how to facilitate the growth of women in senior management. Design/methodology/approach – This study comprises a literature review which outlines the various theories related to the glass ceiling and is supported by an empirical study which tested some of the concepts that emerged from the literature. A survey was conducted using an online questionnaire distributed to a group of women who met the respondent specifications. In order to obtain a larger sample, snowball sampling was used. Findings – It is evident that certain elements of the glass ceiling existed. Situational factors emerged as clear barriers to the progress of women which included gender discrimination, lack of respect from male colleagues and insensitive handling of the multiple roles played by women. Social roles such as family commitment and relocation also inhibited the growth of the respondents. At a personal level, the respondents were all confident, emotionally suited to progress, competitive and enjoyed the confidence of their subordinates. Research limitations/implications – A larger sample would have ensured more generalisable results to organisations in Durban. Respondents had to evaluate their personal characteristics, which could have been exaggerated; the views of subordinates would present a more balanced view. This study needs to be replicated in other major centres in South Africa, in order to improve the gender equity across the country. Practical implications – The study highlights the fact that unless all barriers are removed, women will not progress to higher levels in organisations. It also provides guidelines to break through the invisible barriers. Social implications – This study will benefit women in the workplace, giving them due recognition, empowerment and prospects for upward mobility. Originality/value – This paper highlights localised barriers to the advancement of women within a South African city. Keywords South Africa, Women, Employment, Glass ceiling, Gender discrimination, Flexible working hours, Family roles, Equal opportunities Paper type Research paper Gender in Management: An International Journal Vol. 28 No. 1, 2013 pp. 28-42 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1754-2413 DOI 10.1108/17542411311301556

Introduction The involvement of women in the workplace across the world in general and in South Africa in particular has been on the increase. Women are no longer employed to perform unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. Due to their access to education women are finding employment in all the functional areas of organisations and even as line managers.

Whilst female representation at lower and middle management is on the increase, the trend is not the same at the senior management level. The under representation of women at senior management has been attributed to what several authors have termed the “glass ceiling”. The concept of the “glass ceiling” emanated from corporate US where a commission termed the Glass Ceiling Commission (GCC, 1991) was set up to investigate why the involvement of women in employment in the USA was not in proportion to their representation at senior management. The glass ceiling has been described as an invisible barrier akin to a concrete ceiling...
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