Research shows that although the representation of women in the workforce has increased over the past couple of decades, there are many industries that still remain male dominated. In addition, it is generally known that such male-dominated industries have minimal female representation at their managerial levels. One such male-dominated industry in South Africa is the air traffic control (ATC) industry. Women represent about 30 percent of the industry, which suggest their status in the industry is still quite low. The purpose of this study was to examine male and female air traffic controllers’ perceptions of factors that facilitate and constrain women’s career advancement, and to determine whether there were any significant differences in their opinions. The study also identified what male and female air traffic controllers (ATCOs) think the industry can do to help prepare women for leadership positions in the industry, and how to eliminate barriers that may exist to women’s career advancement. Data for this study were collected through an online questionnaire adapted from Zhong’s (2006) study on a convenience sample (N = 147) of male and female ATCOs in South Africa. The data analysis was executed by using factor analysis and analysis of variance (ANOVA). Content analysis was used to analyse the two open-ended questions. The findings from the ANOVA suggest that there were four significant gender differences in perceptions of the Personal effort/External support, Attitude/Internal character, Equity, and Family issues. There also were significant differences in opinion on External support/Personal effort, Attitude/Internal character, Equity and Family issues, depending on the number of children the respondents had, and significant differences of marital status on the External support/Personal effort and Family issues. Finally, significant differences were found in the years’ experience variable for Attitude/Internal character. In response to the open-ended questions, most of the respondents suggested that the ATC industry should offer training programmes to improve awareness of possible barriers within the industry, as well as to offer advice on how to overcome them and improve their leadership skills. This could be done by creating programmes on the knowledge and skills needed to advance one’s career or by providing mentors or role models. Future research could compare the perceptions of employees from different race groups and their perceptions of women’s career advancement in male-dominated industries. It is also recommended that researchers conduct in-depth qualitative interviews together with the current questionnaire to evaluate perceptions of the career advancement of women more critically.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2012.