The study was prompted by the persistent paucity of women in the higher echelons of
companies. Extant literature on meritocracy and choice did not offer a complete
explanation for this. The study therefore set out to explore and challenge the
underlying assumptions that have perpetuated the solidification of gendered
hierarchies in organisations.
A qualitative research design approach was used. Information was gathered from 12
in-depth interviews with female managers who worked in the greater Johannesburg
area. Through the tradition of phenomenological design, the essence of the women’s
career progression was analysed through the perceptions and lived experiences of the
Structural barriers were identified in the organisations. The higher the visibility of the
male dominated inner circles present, the more discernible the barriers were, the more
the self-efficacy of the females diminished. The study makes a case for the invisibility
of inner circles to be eliminated. When inner circles are more visible, prior
assumptions can be challenged. The study also identified pioneering opportunities for
women to entrench their own successful outcomes in organisations that can contribute
to their sustainable career progression.