This study examined the critical competencies and challenges evidenced by women in senior leadership roles, particularly women occupying chief executive officer (CEO) roles. Their differences from other women in senior leadership is also explored.
Prior studies have indicated that there is an under-representation of women in top leadership positions especially at a chief executive level (also known as the C-Suite). In this phenomenological study, I engaged with participants at a subjective level to inquire into and explore their unique feelings and considerations in order to gain a better understanding of and provide an all-inclusive perspective on the critical competencies women in such leadership roles are required to have and the challenges they experience.
I explored the narratives of 23 participants who had risen to the highest levels in their career trajectories; of these participants, 14 were women (five of whom were chief executive officers) and nine were men. The information the executive women provided during the interviews was evidence of their success, efficacy and tenacity. The inclusion of male participants in this qualitative study ensured that dense and rich data could be obtained given the fact that most leadership positions in organisations are still occupied by men.
My findings confirmed the findings of research scholars that women of today occupying leading positions in organisations still face the challenge of having to cope with hindrances such as stereotyping, cultural perceptions, political barriers, gender bias, work-life balance, remuneration partiality, glass ceilings and inadequate support structures. However, contrary to the existing literature, which focuses on prevailing competencies that are best suited to leadership, my research paid particular attention to competencies exclusive to women in senior leadership positions. My study also explored significant facets of competencies at chief executive level in respect of three dimensions, namely, business capability, relationships and traits.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2016.