Gender role stereotypes and women’s career progression into senior leadership in the South African information technology industry

Monk, Leigh-Ann
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Legislation in terms of The Employment Equity Act of 1998 and associated employment equity policies, procedures and scorecards by which organisations are measured on their adherence to the above legislation, requires them to have a more equal spread of race and gender within their organisational structure. Although South African firms have been and are still focused on ensuring that there is equality with regard to gender (representation) in their organisational structure, it seems that organisations are still struggling to ensure that this spread is representative in respect of women in senior leadership roles. An overview of the literature reveals that there are gender stereotypes which still exist in organisations globally, and there is significant research to show that the proportion of women in senior positions across industries remains very low. With the evolving role of women in society, it is evident that they are under pressure not only to be economically active but also to play a multitude of roles in the home. It would, therefore, be a likely assumption that business needs to think differently about how it engages women in the organisation to ensure that they are retained long enough to progress into leadership roles. This research explored an area, where very few studies have been conducted in a South African context, regarding gender role stereotypes and their perceived impact on the career progression of women into senior leadership positions within the Information Technology industry. The researcher believes that this study is critical in helping organisations in this industry understand why there are still so few females in senior positions, specifically relating to prevalent gender role stereotypes which may exist. This paper investigated the perceptions of a sample of both men and women in the information technology (IT) industry, who are in middle and senior management roles in their respective organisations. Two organisations were used, both multinationals based in the Gauteng area. A sample of 80 respondents was sent access to a web-based survey questionnaire which asked a series of questions relating to gender roles and stereotypes, and gender bias and its impact on career progression. The data was analysed using the statistical software package SPSS. Statistical manipulations, specifically using a Mann Whitney U test for comparing means of the genders, showed that there was a significant statistical difference in more than 50% of the items between male and female responses. The overall conclusion was that all three of the propositions put forward by the researcher were true, namely that there are gender role stereotypes present in the IT industry; they do have an impact on women’s career progression; and finally that there is a difference in the perception of these issues by men and women working in this industry. Given the importance of technical fields in our modern society, with all the growth in technology and therefore the rapid expansion of employment opportunities in these fields, the lack of women in this area is puzzling and worrying from an academic perspective. This research goes some way to understanding these issues better and provides a solid foundation for further analysis into these areas. It is hoped that the research will assist organisations in the IT industry in making changes to support development and progression of women into leadership roles.
MBA thesis - WBS
Information technology industry, Gender stereotypes, Women in business