GENDER AS A SOCIAL PRACTICE: IMPLICATIONS FOR WOMEN IN MANAGEMENT
UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL
For decades patriarchy precluded women from having a legal or political identity and the legislation and attitudes supporting this provided the model for slavery. By the middle of the 20th century, the emphasis had shifted from suffrage to social and economic equality in the work and family sphere and the women’s movement that sprung up during the 1960s began to argue that women were oppressed by patriarchal structures. Developing theories to explain gender as a social practice in management feminist theoretical concepts of patriarchy challenge these inequalities. They have done this by challenging concepts of gender, the family and the unequal division of labour underpinned by a theory of patriarchy that has come to reveal how it operates to subordinate women and privilege men, often at women’s expense. Thus patriarchy operates to achieve and maintain the gender inequalities essential for the subordination of women.
Another factor, which impedes women’s managers’ access to top-level jobs, is the women’s own career strategies and ambivalent attitude towards a ‘masculine type’ career orientation characterised by competition of power. This ambivalent attitude can be attributed to the tensions felt by women managers endeavouring to maintain a balance between professional and family responsibilities. In terms of perceived effectiveness, according to their peers and subordinates, women managers outperformed men on six out of seven dimensions of managerial behaviour. The women managers outperformed the male managers not only on the interpersonal factors but especially in ‘controlling’. According to Davidson et al.  despite the persistent stereotypes about gender differences, there are few consistent gender differences in personality, managerial behaviour and effectiveness. They have indicated that there are in fact no reasons for not promoting women who are both motivated and capable of performing as a manager into top management positions. This viewpoint has potentially the same impact on the advancement of women into management positions as the feminization of management phenomenon.
ISCO 2004 - 13th International Soil Conservation Organisation Conference – Brisbane, July 2004 Conserving Soil and Water for Society: Sharing Solutions THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN LAND MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION - A CASE FROM THE MIDDLE-HILL REGION OF NEPAL S.S. AryalA and M. ZoebischB A District Agriculture Development Office, Kathmandu, Nepal. B Asian Institute of Technology, Pathumthani, Thailand. ...
Building an anti-racist and anti-sexist South Africa is one of the major goals our democratic dispensation ushered in, in 1994. Since then, a number of developments have created a structural framework promoting the goal of gender and racial equality. The key affirmative-action legislation in
South Africa is the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998. The President supported the promotion of the Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act on 9 February 2000. The act promotes equality; prevents unfair discrimination; and prohibits ‘hate speech’. In its preamble the act emphasized the need to eradicate the inequalities in South African society, particularly those that were generated by colonialism, apartheid and patriarchy. Among other things the act prohibited unfair discrimination on the basis of sex and race.
According to the Department of Justice  “the purpose of the Act is to achieve equity in the workplace by:
• promoting equal opportunity and fair treatment in employment through the elimination of unfair discrimination;
• implementing affirmative action measures to redress the disadvantages in employment experienced by designated groups;
• by ensuring their equitable representation in all occupational categories and levels in the workforce.”
These developments in their own right are exciting and important but it is also necessary to examine more closely the mechanics of transforming cultural and organizational practices that mitigate against the advancement of women into management.
"You " ve Come a Short Way, Baby!" Professor Diana Bilimoria hit it on the nail when she proclaimed, "Even when women do all the right things, and have all the right stuff, they continue to be blocked from the innermost circles of power" (Daily). The increasing number of working women with an education and experience in the business world continue to encounter this blockade mentioned by Professor ...
The Businesswomen’s Association (BWA) together with Catalyst, a businesswomen’s organisation in the United States, have put together the South African Women in Corporate Leadership Census 2004. The census found that although women make up just over half of the working South African population, 52%, only 14, 7% of all executive managers and only 7, 1% of all directors in the country are women. This means that women fulfil less than a quarter of all of these top positions in South Africa. Within the JSE listed companies, the census reveals that out of the 3 125 directorship positions held, females hold only 221. Out of 364 chairman positions, only 11 were women. Also there are only 7 females CEOs/MDs while 357 positions are filled exclusively by men. As entrants to a traditionally male dominated career path, women managers are experiencing the impacts of gender as a social practice leading to discrimination in the workplace. It is against this background that a study was undertaken to examine the stressors arising from gender as a social practice as part of a broader study on women in management and occupational stress.
A descriptive design was used which portrayed the unique characteristics of the population more accurately. It also allowed for an inductive, subjective and process-oriented worldview. Both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection were used in this study. The biographical questionnaire was used to collect data on the profile of the respondents and the organizations. A semi-structured interview schedule was used to elicit information on the sources of stress, its manifestations and the interventions used to cope with stress. The geographical area of study was the Durban and surrounding areas in South Africa. Non-probability sampling was used to select a sample of 30 women managers.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Twenty four respondents were married and six were single. Fifteen respondents were between 40 to 50 years of age, fourteen were between 30 to 39 years of age and one was under 30 years of age. The majority of the respondents  had between one to two children. The nuclear family lifestyle was most prevalent. Twelve respondents held university degrees and twelve had post-graduate degrees. The majority of the respondents  were in management positions and three in senior management positions. The majority of them  were in their current positions for less than five years. Fifteen of the respondents were employed in the public sector and 15 in the private sector. There was an even distribution of African , Indian  and Caucasian  respondents.
Define - used or done or held in accordance with rules, convention or ceremony Precisely what is meant by this term may vary from one writer to another, but includes reference to the formal design of an organisation, perhaps conceptualised as a chart showing job titles, with specific responsibilities arranged into hierarchies of accountability and command. Reference will also be made to the ...
All the respondents identified organisational cultures as significant sources of stress. The respondents indicated that although their organizations are becoming increasingly diverse, the predominant paradigm for educating and managing the new work force has remained rooted in an exclusively male mindset. Their concerns were centred on the management development and training programmes designed to empower women managers but ironically had a tendency to encourage women to “think manager, think male’. The implicit assumption has been that the respondents will only succeed if they adopted the characteristics of effective male managers and masculine leadership styles. The constantly reinforced message is that women can succeed only if they become more assertive, competitive,’ dressed for success’ and more politically and socially astute which is unfortunately also the case in South Africa [Swanepoel et al., 2000].
The glass ceiling is not simply a barrier for an individual, based on the person’s inability to handle a higher-level job. Rather, the glass ceiling applies to women as a group who are kept from advancing higher because they are women. The majority of the respondents [80%] indicated that they experienced a glass ceiling which hindered upward mobility. Within the organization, the respondents indicated that they did not receive the experiences needed to advance in the organization and were not given assignments that would make them good candidates for higher-level positions.
One of the concerns noted was: “In my organization only the male managers are given national and international assignments. It is assumed that because I have two children below five years of age that I would not be able to meet these responsibilities. I feel very frustrated and stressed out as this is preventing me from moving up the ladder.”
I have been exposed to many forms of feminism. Many different ideas, concepts, and situations have been brought to my attention, enabling me to formulate my own loose definition of feminism, and to take those concepts with me to utilize in my life as a woman in order to obtain the life I deserve. To first understand feminism, one must be aware of the factors and forces that made-and still make-the ...
Discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal, so other reasons must be given for the glass ceiling that results in women’s absence at the top of the corporate ladder. The following are some of the most common explanations for women’s stagnation at lower organizational levels:
Person-centred explanations suggest that socialization practices directed towards females encouraged the development of personality traits, skills and behaviours that are contrary to the demands of the managerial role [Powell, 2000].
In contrast, situation-centred explanations suggest that the nature of the work environment faced by women who aspire to management positions determine their fate rather than their traits, skills and behaviours [Powell, 2000].
There is consistent evidence of an association between subjective reports of the state of one’s psychological contract [the implicit expectations women managers and organizations have about their remunerations, benefits, rewards, etc]. The ff. stressors were identified by the respondents:
• To Work Harder And Be More Committed Than Their Male Colleagues Due To Performance Pressure Arising Out Of Their Gender And Race [60%]
• Fewer Incentives Than Their Colleagues Who Had Company Cars, Etc. [80%]
• Long Working Hours- Detrimental To Health of Women With Heavy Domestic Workloads. [ 100%]
• Income Inequality [70%]
• Feeling Undervalued [80%]
One of the concerns noted by a respondent was “I feel like I am worth nothing as I am totally undervalued. This is evident in the way my male colleagues are rewarded for the same work I do. They receive higher salaries and they have company cars whereas I do not receive these benefits.”
The findings are congruent with the effort-reward imbalance model as developed by Siegrist . According to Siegrist  when reciprocity is violated in terms of what employees invest in their work and what they receive people experience emotional distress. Also a perceived lack of justice is considered to be an important psychosocial predictor of employee health in modern life. Income inequality arising from such disparate work states has negative health consequences as social cohesion, which characterises healthy egalitarian societies, progressively breaks down [Wilkinson, 1996]. Effort/reward imbalance and over-commitment are found to be important in explaining adverse health effects such as gastrointestinal disorders, psychiatric disorders and poor subjective health [Siegrist & Peter, 2000]
Women are subjected to gender-biased evaluations with their performance on male gender-typed tasks often devalued and their competence denied. This result from the inconsistency between stereotypic perceptions of what women is like and the qualities thought necessary to perform a typically male job. The main idea of this article is to demonstrate this phenomenon, to provide insight into why and ...
employee job Control and Decision Latitude
Employee job control and decision latitude can moderate or reduce job strain. Decision latitude or the ability to organize one’s own tasks is considered central to reducing the strain and stress caused by jobs.
The ff. sources of stress were identified by the respondents:
Low level of job control [80%]
Lack of decision making power [70%]
Feeling powerless [ 70%]
Some of the concerns expressed by the respondents with regards to employee job control and decision latitude were:
• “I find it very stressful working in a company which does not value the work I do. Although I am the head of the Employee Assistance Programme, the management always brings in outside consultants [white males] to develop and implement programmes for the staff without consulting with me.”[African female manager].
• “Our services are under-utilised and undervalued because we are a female dominated department. I think being black and being female has a lot to do with the attitudes of staff and management.”
• “My boss and my subordinates do not listen to what I have to say at meetings. I feel I do not have any power to deal with staff nor bring about any changes in the organization.” [Caucasian female manager]”.
• One respondent commented: “I am the only female in a boardroom full of men. My decisions and contributions are not taken seriously. My contributions are always undermined by my male superiors. My male colleagues do not support me either yet I bring in the most amount of profit for the company.”
Insubordination by Staff : During the apartheid era the majority or almost all managerial positions were held by Caucasian males. Since the introduction of the Affirmative Action Policies organizations had to give priority to African and Indian women being employed in managerial positions. However the consequences of such actions are reflected as follows:
The goal of this paper is offering a longitudinal case study of the Bulgarian Association of University Women (BAUW) as an individual SMO within the frame of the emergence and history of women's movements in Bulgaria. It is based on primary sources (such as the unpublished archives of the Bulgarian Communist Party). It will discuss the Association's development in the period between the Bulgarian ...
• Insubordination by male staff [ 90%]
• Refusal by African subordinates to be ‘under’ a female [ 90%]
The following concerns were noted:
“One of the white employees who was due for a promotion declined the promotion as he refused to be under me” [a black female manager].
“The white employees do not follow the proper channels of communication and often bypass me and consult directly with the directors. I cannot question this as the white directors condone this behaviour and this makes me feel very inadequate” [an Indian female manager].
“Some of the white subordinates resent being managed by us. There is lack of respect for us as managers and we are not taken seriously” [a black female manager].
Gender Role Stereotypes
Managerial power is both hierarchical and gendered. Typically, it is in the managerial functions that organizational power formally or [informally] resides. Managerial prerogative can be seen as part of a highly masculine discourse. Thus as entrants to a non-traditional career field, women managers encountered a number of external barriers as discussed earlier. They experienced unique barriers as a function of their level or managerial rank.
One of the major career barriers was the continued biased attitude towards the respondents based on gender stereotyping of the managerial position. Both the public and private organizations were dominated by gender-related values that biased organizational life in favour of male managers. This increased the respondent’s vulnerable to stress.
Some of the stressors identified by the respondents with regard to gender stereotyping were:
• Stereotypical attitude of the management position: “Think manager, think male” [100%]
• Women are not suited to managerial positions…they are incapable of doing a man’s job [90%]
• Refusal by black subordinates to be ‘under’ a female manager [90%]
• Management’s perception that women are more committed to family than work [100%]
• Women are not suited to managerial positions….they are incapable of doing a man’s job [90%]
• Women managers are not career committed due to family obligations. [90%]
Such stereotypes led respondents to believe that they were unprepared for careers in management. Because of the considerable public scrutiny experienced by women managers, the respondents indicated that female staff tried to avoid failures by minimizing risk-taking and continuing to work in lower level positions. The social division of gender and its associated forms of oppression produced a situation in which the respondents faced additional pressures and stressors. The specific stressors identified by the respondents were:
• Sexist comments [ 70%]
• Limited access to power, resources and promotion [80%]
• Strains of coping with prejudice and sex stereotyping [100%]
• Overt and indirect discrimination from fellow employees based on gender. [100%]
Some of the concerns noted were:
• “Being the head of a ‘female dominated’ department I am not included in the organogram in line with the male managers.”
• “I have been accused of sleeping my way to the top because I am the only female manager.”
• “My management still has the master-servant mentality. They treat me like a maid and I have to clean up after them.”
• “Most of the products in my company are not women-friendly. Being a marketing manager I have tried to motivate for the female consumers needs to be taken into account but this has been ignored. I bring in fifty million rand in profits for the company but this is not acknowledged just because I am the only female among a white male dominated management.”
• “The fact that my organization is based on male models of work is discriminatory against women.”
It is evident from the present findings that stereotypical attitudes of the managerial positions, cultural norms as well as subtle discrimination were potential sources of stress for the majority of the respondents. The gender discrimination that the respondents experienced is evident of the patriarchal system and its belief that women should be treated as subordinate to men. Unless these value judgements and stereotypical attitudes are not eliminated women will continue to be exploited, abused and discriminated against. The sexism that the respondents encountered highlights what Hanner and Statham  describe as the ‘double jeopardy’ of being a female manager, the challenge of succeeding in a male-dominated world without reinforcing, or becoming part of it. This male ethos in organizations becomes an additional stressor for women managers [Davidson and Burke, 2000].
Tokenism : Although the affirmative action programmes are based on rectifying past injustices of the under-representation of women in management positions, these programmes have also unintentionally created the misperception that these women managers are being ‘deficient’ in skills, knowledge and expertise. When women comprise less than 15% of a total category in an organization, they can be labelled as ‘tokens’, i.e., as symbols of their group rather than as individuals [Kanter, 1977].
The respondents who were regarded as being the ‘token’ black women managers have identified the following stressors:
• High visibility [100%]
• Being the first of their race and gender to hold a management position in the organization [100%]
• The pressures related to being a test case for the employment of future black women in the company at management level [100%].
The following remark reflects the difficulty organizations are having in reconciling an African female face with management.
“Being different is viewed negatively as I do not conform to the stereotypical images of corporate managers. One of the comments made by my boss was ‘You do not have the face of an accountant”.
McDerment [1992: 13] found that women managers constituted the major target group for stress related diseases. People from black and ethnic minority groups were particularly vulnerable to dysfunctional stress. Not surprisingly, the pressures associated with being a token woman manager are often a tremendous burden, as illustrated by the following quotations:
• “We often hear comments that we got the job because we are black women and not because we have the qualifications and experience to do the job. So the Affirmative Action Policy, whilst being positive, also impacts negatively on our status.”
• “Being the first black women manager, I am under constant pressure to perform well. If I do not perform well as a manager than I am letting all black women down.”
• “Being a test case for the employment of future black women as managers in my company is a responsibility that is really stressing me out.”
The present findings reflected that the African and Indian respondents experienced intensified negative effects associated with their tokenism compared to their Caucasian female counterparts. Irrespective of their qualifications, these token women were subject to excessive scrutiny, their differences from men became highlighted and polarized, and their attributes were distorted so that they became entrapped in stereotypical roles. By virtue of being placed in a group, which was significantly outnumbered by men, Davidson  also found that women managers became tokens, which forced them into roles that limited their probabilities of success.
Given the history of South Africa during the apartheid, women are under-represented at managerial levels. The majority of the respondents [80%] were the only female managers in their department. The following stressors were identified by the respondents:
• Exclusion from networks [ 80%]
• Lack of mentoring relationships [90%]
• Lack of role models [90%]
• Lack of social support [70%]
• Exclusion from social outings with male colleagues and directors [90%]
• Social and recreational activities are not women –friendly for example, golf tournaments, darts competitions, a night out in the pub, …[ 90%]
Gender specific models of career progression show that women advance more slowly than men and that factors influencing success in terms of hierarchical growth differ for the gender [Kirchmeyer, 1996]. A very consistent difference was that men had role models, received mentoring and had extensive networks, which facilitated their career progression.
DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
It is evident from the present findings that there is a re-segregation of the labour market in terms of ‘gender’ in both the public and private organizations. The respondents experienced similar sources of stress arising from gender discrimination both in the private and public sectors. However, compared to their Caucasian counterparts, the African and Indian respondents experienced the double bind of racism and sexism thus increasing their vulnerability to stress.
One of the major stressors experienced by the respondents was stereotyping based on gender. Stereotyping within firms leads to attribution errors, such as all successes by women managers are situational luck and all failures reflect inherent ability. The social psychological literature on stereotyping and status expectations is quite clear that in the absence of strong information to counter stereotypes, prejudgments rule. Even employers report that they use gender as a signal for potential productivity.. Appointing women into management positions in the 21st century are generally accepted as reasonable principles in South Africa. The contradiction between this principle of equality and the demonstrable inequalities evident in this study exposes the continuing dominance of male privilege and values throughout society (patriarchy).
It reflects on how gender is constructed as a social practice within the everyday realities of the women managers’ professional/personal lives. Women managers themselves have to make sure that this process towards employment equity is a success by repositioning themselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Given the nature of the stressors experienced by women managers it will take more than legislation to eradicate the social ills of sexism at work. The main challenge for South Africa is bridging the gap between policy and practice. Both public and private sector organisations need to address “gendered” organisational cultures.
Managers in South Africa need to extract the best management tools from camps representing a variety of cultural management orientations both within and outside Madi  points out that the issue is not that there should be an Africanisation of the corporate culture in South Africa, but there should be South Africanisation of the corporate culture. In the debate on Afro-centric versus Euro-centric management styles Beaty [1996, p.397] states, “One cannot but observe the striking parallels between and the complementary nature of the feminine and the Afro-centric leadership approaches, which are already reflected in the South African situation. This just emphasizes the dictum: Unity in Diversity. Thus, in order to empower South African organizations to compete in today’s highly competitive, global marketplace, it is critical to have a diverse and flexible leadership team that includes both feminine and masculine as well as Euro-centric and Afro-centric strengths.
Given the nature of stress arising from gender as a social practice the following paths should be paved to understand and lessen the inequality they generate:
• Study the workplace inequality processes that create cumulative skill inequalities.
• Discussion with employers and staff about on how gender is constructed as a social practice and implications for organizational practice.
• Dialogue between organizations and women managers about boundaries, inclusion, and exclusion at work.
• Study the spatial and historical variability of gender inequality in South Africa.
• Programmes /action strategies to eliminate gender discrimination in the workplace.
The key question is not “What are the human capital deficits of women managers?” The question we should be asking is what are the workplace, community and family processes which generate gender inequality? One should search for answers in stereotyping, social closure, historically embedded sexism, opportunity, career processes and stressors which they produce.
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