Women make up 52% of the population in South Africa, and yet are significantly underrepresented
in top corporate leadership positions, constituting only 21.4% of all executive
managers and 17.1% of all directors in the country (Businesswomen’s Association of
South Africa Census, 2012). The purpose of this research was to identify the response
strategies organisations implement to remove the career advancement barriers that exist
for women managers, and to determine if these response strategies are beneficial or
detrimental to women’s career advancement. The research also aimed at determining why
certain response strategies are successful or detrimental to women’s advancement.
The research design chosen was a mixed-method design, and included a quantitative
descriptive study and an explanatory study. The data was collected from women at middle
and senior management level by means of a questionnaire. The questionnaire was
completed by 101 female respondents.
The highest ranked career advancement barriers were found to be work-life balance, lack
of networking, and excessive modesty. In response, the research results indicated that
organisations mostly implement fair performance review processes, flexible working, and
equal pay in an attempt to remove career advancement barriers.
Appointing women in leadership positions with profit-and-loss responsibility, equal pay,
and transparent review processes were found to be the most successful strategies to
remove career advancement barriers. Based on the questionnaire results in response to
why certain response strategies are more successful than others, a framework was built,
classifying the response strategies into different archetypes and creating a framework for
companies to understand the landscape of women’s advancement response strategies.