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Women and the glass ceiling in South African banks: an illusion or reality?
Babita Mathur-Helm
University of Stellenbosch Business School, Bellville, South Africa
Purpose Present research seeks to examine the reality of the glass-ceiling phenomenon in South Africas four major retail banks. Design/methodology/approach Investigates womens low numbers in their top management jobs. A total of 40 women managers were interviewed for their in-depth responses, which were content analyzed. Findings Results indicate that the glass ceiling considered a myth by many, is real and is nurtured by the organizational culture, policies and strategies besides womens own inadequacies. Only the most decentralized organizations, characterized by a culture that supports womens top positions, will help in breaking down the glass ceiling, along with womens own efforts to grow, develop and empower themselves through academic and career development. Research limitations/implications It is limited to South Africas four largest retail banks only and provides limited awareness about certain work practices that are insufcient tools to break down the glass ceiling, hence, future research may construct such tools and examine the extent to which the glass ceiling exists in different countries and the inuence of the local culture in it is formation. Practical implications The paper provides clarity for organizational leaders to identify growth barriers existing in their organizations, leading their women workforce towards a glass ceiling. Originality/value It distinguishes between a glass ceiling and a job barrier and recommends organizations to practise cultural change and decentralization to break it down. This is a research paper and claries the difference between common career barriers and the glass ceiling by attempting to elucidate the existence of the glass ceiling. Keywords Glass ceilings, Women executives, Banking, Senior managers, Gender, Equal opportunities Paper type Research paper

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Received October 2005 Revised January 2006 Accepted January 2006

Introduction In 1990, the concept of glass ceiling pervaded the literature to describe the paucity of women and minorities, heading public and private sector organizations (Maume, 2004). The term was earlier used by Morrison et al. (1987) in their fascinating book Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Can Women Reach the Top of Americas Largest Corporations?, that gave new insight to the issues women face in their journey through the executive echelons of the corporate organizations. Subsequently, the term glass-ceiling-effect became synonymous worldwide with the struggles women face in attempting to move up to the senior, executive and top management positions in corporate organizations (Wirth, 2001). Thus, failure of women and other minority groups in climbing up the corporate ladder, despite seeing the top jobs, but still not reaching them due to discriminatory barriers, is what many think of as glass ceiling (Maume, 2004).

Women in Management Review Vol. 21 No. 4, 2006 pp. 311-326 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0964-9425 DOI 10.1108/09649420610667028

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In South Africa (SA), while the phenomenon of glass ceiling has been enquired by many (Booysen, 1999; Mathur-Helm, 2002; Bennett, 2002) not much has been reported on it is extend, reasons for its occurrence, solutions to the issue and whether attempts have been made by SAs women to crack it down. Banking sector in SA has undergone several surveys to identify key challenges facing them. As part of the nancial service group they are investigating critical success factors and compliance with the nancial sector charter for performance ranking intop ten South African banks (Banking Survey Report, 2004). Presently most banks in SA are claiming to have eliminated discrimination by changing their educational parity and social attitudes towards women. Hence, to a great extent qualied and talented women are found working parallel to male counterparts as actuaries, chartered accountants, economists, business administrators, and senior managers. However, it is very hard for them to reach the top management levels, therefore, women are found holding only 1.6 percent of all board directorships and only 4 percent of all executive positions in South Africas bank (Banking survey Report, 2004) and intotal women in SA occupy only 6 percent of all the executive directors positions in Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed companies (Catalyst, 2004; Bennett, 2002). Thus, perhaps a glass ceiling does exist in SAs banks preventing women managers to advance to the top management. Women and the glass ceiling: an illusion or a reality? While initially glass ceiling studies were particularly concerned with the failure of women in reaching the senior and executive positions hence essentially focussed on examining the reasons for inequality within management positions and career trajectories (Maume, 2004; Morrison et al., 1987). Cotter et al. (2001) profound description of the term as a specic form of generic inequality existing at the apex of hierarchy contradicts others (Reskin and Padavic, 2001; Maume, 2004) claiming its existence in lower levels and working class jobs. They further explain they state that immobility can occur in all occupations, if job limits are the same in them, then it is more to do with specic inequality and not with the glass ceiling, as it only exists when there is discrimination in career advancement. Hence, Cotter et al. (2001) three criteria for the glass ceiling occurrence suggest that it occurs when despite similar credentials women (and minorities) face barriers in their career advancements, it also occurs when due to limited promotional prospects; women are discouraged from the initial placement on the job ladder, thus raising mens numbers to survive till the top levels and lastly, while organizations may be willing to pay out high salaries to women, they still hesitate to place them in positions where they can make an impact on organizations protability, therefore, glass ceiling is created. In SA, while women are gaining acceptance to informally enter the boardrooms, however, culture of long working hours and demanding job requirements, are discouraging them from actually holding seats there. Liff and Wards (2001) study on a UK High Street Bank investigates womens under representation in senior management positions, in relation to the job requirements for such positions. Their results found the bank giving constant messages to their women that to be on top management one has to prove loyalty and commitment through working long hours and participating and involving in the senior and top management functions. Moreover, women who were unable to adapt to this were undermined and

excluded by the bank. Crampton and Mishra (1999) and Meyerson and Fletcher (2000) found numerous organizations having installed exible working hours, along with pregnancy and sabbatical leave and child-care facilities to favour women employees, and still practising demanding and long working hours culture, which majority of women with family responsibilities found difcult, further, women who used these measures were viewed as having a lack of commitment which reduced their promotional chances. Thus, organizations install contradicting systems working parallel to one another, confusing workforce further. Van Vianen (2002) examines relationship between womens motives to pursue a career intop management with their relative absence in management positions and their less preferences for masculine ways of doing things. She concludes that the organizational cultures, policies, and practises foster unfavourable processes for the top job advancements that work against women, making them feel excluded from it. SAs women decline several career opportunities as they are still held responsible for most part of the family and household work. Global studies (Davidson and Burke, 2004; Crampton and Mishra, 1999; Liff and Ward, 2001; Van Vianen, 2002; Behning and Pascual, 2000) illustrate similar attitudes in women who choose to rather decline top jobs than make sacrices on family responsibilities. Often, promotion criteria such as evaluation, networking, and succession planning are designed and developed by men, who have limited understanding of womens lives (Crampton and Mishra, 1999), hence they misinterpret their motives and incorrectly block them from advancing to the executive levels. Peter (2003) argues that often women themselves fail to understand the shift in focus while moving from the middle to senior and top management functions. They are oblivious to the difference between the middle management functions which are more short- and medium-term goal orientated, compared to the senior and top management function which require a wider strategic perspective (Peter, 2003). Hence, while occupying the top positions, they are still performing less strategic and lower paying tasks (Wirth, 2001). Furthermore, women enter a professional system with lack of job clarity and limited information on formal tasks and functions, that also becomes growth barriers for them. Current study aims to investigate the effect and existence of glass ceiling phenomena in SAs four major retail banks, by exploring rst hand experiences of women managers regarding their career path, reasons for few women in the top management, their slow career growth, and existence of organizational cultural bias against womens career advancement to the top management positions. Methodology Sample The study aimed to investigate women executives career path experiences. Hence, from SAs JSE listed four largest retail banks, namely ABSA, Standard bank Group Ltd, Nedbank Group Ltd, and First National Bank, who claim to be leaders in embracing change, transformation and compliance with the government legislation, a sample of 40 women ranking between senior executives to top managers including executive board members were carefully selected out of an average of 300 male and female senior, executive and top managers, who could articulate their experiences regarding the study aim, during the period September 2005 to November 2005.

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Data collection and analysis strategy Telephonically, initial contacts were made with the HR departments of all the four banks, which followed further references with the transformation and corporate heads of all the banks who helped in selecting the right sample, after receiving relevant information and study aims from the author. Personal telephonic contacts were made with the entire sample on individual basis for an initial rapport and upon their willingness to participate they were assured that the information given, would remain strictly condential and would solely be used for research purposes. A 100 percent agreement was received from the sample for participation and full co-operation. Interviews Through open-ended questions, a qualitative data was gathered by conducting individual in-depth telephonic interviews with the sample. While the respondents were in their ofces, the interviews lasted from about 45-60 minutes. Analysis Following the qualitative data received, results were analysed through the use of the content analysis method, which is a useful explanatory tool when the data is used only in the descriptive sense, without reference to inferential statistics. This method examines an in-depth investigation of extended experiences obtained from the descriptive data and help in revealing open ended questions to disclose communication content, determines emotional and psychological state of the sample groups, describes attitudes and behaviour responses and identies intentions and reections on cultural patterns, within groups and societies (Weber, 1990). Categories for the content analysis The following ve categories were used for classifying interview questions for the content analysis. Category one: demography and conformity. Questions were designed to obtain a prole of the sample group that would help in investigating the samples personal believes, perceptions and conformity about the concept men are the providers and the primary breadwinners and it is inuence on womens job performance. Category two: education and training. Here the questions were designed to investigate the education and qualication level of the sample group to examine whether a lack of qualication and skills can become barriers for women to reach the senior executive and top management positions. Category three: reaching the top management level and growth barriers. Questions were designed to investigate whether sample were comfortable, satised and fullled in their current jobs and to investigate mechanisms available to women for their career advancement, goal accomplishment and the necessary qualities required to become successful executives and directors. The questions further probed the types of barriers existing in the banking career that may prevent women from accomplishing executive and leadership positions, and the reasons for these barriers. Category four: experience of the glass ceiling effect. Most often while being the recipient of the glass ceiling effect, women workforce fail to understand that they are

actually confronted by it, consequently they are unprepared to handle the situation. Sometimes glass ceiling can take a different form from the normal growth barriers that exists in a corporate organizations, however, women fail to differentiate between growth barriers and the actual glass ceiling. Therefore, questions in this category were specically designed to investigate whether any of the sample had a direct or indirect encounter with the actual glass ceiling phenomenon personally or on someone else across their organization. Thus, what meaning did they give it and how did they confront the issue? Category ve: entrepreneurship option. Questions were designed to investigate samples views on emerging women entrepreneurs as a strong economic power base and their preference on being a business women verses employed corporate women leader. Questions further inquired whether the executive women managers would ever consider departing from their corporate jobs to start a self owned business and if not then what would be their reasons for not becoming an entrepreneur? Category ve: support system and social network. Questions in this category were designed to explore whether sample had enough family and on the job support to stabilize work and home lives? Questions further examined whether sample participated in any formal and informal work related social events and networking activities that often build grounds for several business dealings. It also probed their views on such events. Results Category one: demography and conformity Samples age ranged from 38 to 55 years with a maximum being in 48-52 years their designations ranged from senior managers, senior executive managers to executive directors (the EXCO team) and group heads in human resources, transformation, marketing, and client relations, insurance, money lending and nance and risk management. Out of 40, three were board directors, two were directors reporting to the CEO and the MD. Seven women were executive managers-non directors. About 11 women were in several categories of senior management levels, with all being their unit heads and the rest being senior managers and executive heads. Ethnically, there were four Asian women, nine Black women, six coloured and the rest being all white women. From the total, 65 percent were married, 20 percent were single, and the rest were all divorced or cohabiting. Of all the married, 55 percent did not have children by choice, due to work pressure. A quarter of the married and two of the unmarried had two children, while other married women had only one child each. While managing a full-time career, all the married and divorced women held family responsibilities, which they enjoyed and worked hard to give their best. Fifteen out of all the 26 married women and three of the cohabiting partners, i.e. 45 percent sample were all primary breadwinners of the family and besides feeling more responsible as the breadwinners they found it easy to take up that role. For two married women it was painful to have non-breadwinning husbands, as they came from conventional families. Majority women in all job levels, easily accepted being in the role of primary breadwinners, however, they preferred being secondary breadwinners to their husbands. Exceptionally, the more younger sample were more comfortable in the role of the sole breadwinner.

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Category two: education and training Out of 40, one respondent had a doctorate degree (PhD). Of the sample 23 percent had chartered accountants degrees (CA, SA), 40 percent had masters qualications, of whom two were studying for additional degrees. About 27 percent sample had honours of whom four were studying for additional qualications, 8 percent had diplomas of whom four were studying for additional degrees. Respondent with the highest qualication (PhD) was appointed as the executive director and she reported to the CEO of the group. All the CAs (SA) advanced quickly in their bank careers yet they wanted to develop additional qualities for top management position, hence were contemplated doing an MBA to develop business and leadership skills for a guaranteed progress. Thus, women with no extra degrees such as law or an MBA had limited career scope while the postgraduates could advance quickly. All women valued the importance of professional qualications, and believed that they needed it with a focussed training besides short courses for a faster growth. Of all those who only had diplomas and an additional training were senior managers, with only two being on the EXCO team. Some of them were working towards a degree, if they had extra time. All the nine who completed various banking, management and insurance courses progressed in their jobs, however, did not advance greatly in their careers. They believe that a job progress only leads to job satisfaction and occupational security which comes with performance, however, to advance into executive and top echelons, a career development is necessary, which requires different expertise. Category three: reaching the top management level and growth barriers Of the sample 60 percent sample worked only in the bank jobs for more than ten years and held senior and executive management positions, with few group heads, of whom 55 percent had CA degrees and the rest had masters and honours. About 30 percent worked at the same place for ten and more years as senior managers and a few of them had honours with the rest having diplomas. From those who worked for only a year or two in their current jobs, one with the PhD. entered the top management position straight away and credited her career jump to the qualications and business acumen. Of all the CAs 50 percent were senior executive managers and group and unit heads, and were looking for quick advancement. All the ambitious women looking for further growth were already in the top. Majority of those who had never turned any promotional opportunity in the past few year, had the necessary qualications, skills and experience required for promotion into executive positions. Out of ve who turned down their promotions due to various reasons, three found the offered job unattractive, therefore, decided to remain current position for satisfaction. While for majority of those who did work for more than ten years in the same place, career was not a priority due to family responsibility. Of the sample 50 percent were extremely satised in their present jobs, 28 percent were very satised, 10 percent were satised and 12 percent reported dissatisfaction. About 40 percent would like further career advancement, 20 percent showed no desire for a further career growth due to family responsibility, and the rest would like to rst qualify then seek further progress.

To be on the top levels, 60 percent sample believed that women get head hunted or are drawn through a succession planning, while a majority think stated that progress into senior executive and top levels is always slow for women in the banking sector, and will not change soon, although professionally qualied sample had a fast track record. For 60 percent sample qualications, self condence, clarity of goals, sharpness, legal, nancial and mathematical skills and business objectives were most important qualities to be on the top, along with business acumen with a thorough business understanding, knowing business rules and strategies to play the game; personal reputation, track record, and performance. Moreover, ambition and assertiveness were important characteristics for 65 percent sample, while career-orientated mindset was necessary for 35 percent. Other important attributes identied by them were exibility, adaptation, strong business acumen, strong communication and relationship-building skills, integrity, transparency and determination and many of them are already using them. A majority of senior managers, want to avoid extra responsibilities that come along with the role of a top executive, hence want to stay, they have never been offered the top position, and have no formal succession planning. About 15 percent never experienced any barriers to career or promotional growth in all their lives, except a few who encountered certain personal, cultural and structural barriers. For majority, personal barriers such as family responsibility, a lack of job experience, in-sufcient qualications, existing prejudices, attitudes and perceptions about women and conicting relationships amongst women in senior executive management and top management positions, were most prevalent barriers. Non supportive organizational culture and dis-trust in womens capabilities were huge barrier for some. Domination of male value system, gender bias in promoting women, informal promotion without advertising, insufcient personal contact, lacking track, were additional barriers, which the sample identied. Owing to SAs history, women lack experience and qualications compared to men; they also allow opportunities to pass by. Over and above, gender equity being overshadowed by racial and ethnic equity in the present day SA, is a huge barrier to womens career growth. Category four: experience of the glass ceiling effect While 50 percent sample agreed on the denite existence of glass ceiling in SAs banking sector, 20 percent believed that it is a myth, and 10 percent sample while not having had a personal encounter, agreed to share their in-depth indirect experience of glass ceiling that hit their colleagues and friends in three separate events. Consecutively, they also believe that glass ceiling can be shattered through most advanced qualications, business acumen and by being alert and visible. Despite it is clear indications, the nature and background of the term is unidentied by both the corporate governing board and the glass ceiling recipient yet it is used from time to time for a strategic action. The glass ceiling references used here were all women, due for their promotions to top management positions, who were deliberately framed in a corporate conict, without being directly guilty for it. For a detailed explanation of the phenomenon, three different incidence have been used in the present study, shared by the sample and are directly linked to the glass ceiling effect. A pattern has followed all the three events, in

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which the subject worked for the area of human resources and held very senior management positions, such as the HR head national ofce, HR director regional ofce and the HR director for the national ofce. They were due for promotion to the top management positions and had worked at the same workplace for 25, 28 and 35 years. They all had masters degrees and were professionally qualied within their respective jobs. They were hard working, loyal, and had no major family commitments, hence could devote more time to their professional careers. Additionally, they were highly praised and valued managers within their respective organizations. Hence, when forced to take the blame for a huge nancial mistake made by her superiors, the national head HR was left with the single choice of resigning from her job. She was quite terried and confused, thus easily accepted the offer to leave, and later found that her name was recommended for the position of the national director by the international heads. Therefore, perhaps being threatened by this approaching decision, the local heads decided to strategically get rid of her. Likewise, the other two women with similar circumstances, also due for promotion to the top crashed into the glass ceiling, before they got there. After being involved with board meetings and participating in the top management events for a number of years, they were strategically sidelined, closer to the time of their appraisal and promotion. And to their dismay, they were asked to stop attending all the boardroom events. They were suddenly informed that the top management was dissatised with their performance, and therefore, has decided to keep them from it, and tie them more to the day-to-day tasks and functions rather than wasting time on boardroom events. Eventually when they inquired about the delay in promotion, they were told that they needed further training to handle executive portfolios and with that consideration, a male senior manager with more experience and groundings, was handed over the position. Finally losing all hopes for a promotion and going through sever embarrassment these women resigned from their jobs. They were unaware of the nature of the glass ceiling term until more experienced women managers, explained it to them. Currently, the subjects are suffering from severe low self esteem, shattered condence, and immense pain, hurt and frustration. Category ve: entrepreneurship option Of the sample, 60 percent reported that the thought of becoming entrepreneurs by starting their own businesses, and escaping the corporate politics, did cross their minds several times, however, for various reasons, they could not take that plunge. According to some, the SA Government has provided nancial assistance to women and to the previously disadvantaged groups to start their own businesses. Hence, several women are fascinated to resign from the corporate jobs to become entrepreneurs. Currently, nearly half of all privately held businesses in SA are owned by women and are growing nearly twice as fast as other companies. Women want to create economic opportunities for others and build alliances with small business sectors to network with other business women. Present sample stated that they could not drive themselves towards a self owned business, due to fear of losing nancial stability, failure and racial and gender prejudice. They also lacked self-condence and business experience. Management and entrepreneurship training and government benets such as afrmative action and nancial support have assisted women at large in SA to start their own business.

About 20 percent sample felt that the formal business management qualication could perhaps help in enlarging their vision, thereby fostering self-condence and business goals. Category six: support system and social networking About 75 percent sample had access to mentors, 40 percent sample had access to social networks and almost 100 percent had access to career development training programmes. Moreover, the entire sample had access to at least one type of career or work-related support structure, 60 percent were major decision makers, 35 percent could were frequent board meetings, and 60 percent had succession planning for their career advancement. Of the sample, 40 percent were allowed to work exi-time and 30 percent mothers had access to their organisations child-care facilities. However, there was no support on formal work systems for women having family responsibilities, such as less expectation from work demands to prove performance. About 25 percent sample strictly did not favour socialising with colleagues or business associates after work hours, as they preferred to go straight home after work. All the mothers in the sample were responsible for bringing back their kids home from schools and preparing meals. Of those, 20 percent women often for work purposes did socialize, but none were mothers. Only two women in the entire sample were actively involved in making business dealings after ofce hours and one of them was well connected in the corporate social circles. Only 5 percent women rarely socialised with anyone and preferred their own space. About 20 percent women lacked networking skills, hence never did business dealings in informal settings. A quarter sample did not feel comfortable with their involvement at the corporate social networks as they found most entertainment tools geared towards male managers, such as entertaining guests at sports stadia suites, treating them to a day on the golf course (although numerous women are picking up golf in SA these days), and socialising with colleagues or guests at pubs after work. Many women nd the sports and pub environment uncomfortable due to it is strong masculine culture, yet do it purely for business reasons despite feeling disconnected to such venues. Discussions Given below are discussions from the present ndings and previous research. Category one: demography and conformity Present study reports, 45 percent sample as the familys primary and sole breadwinners and managing both family and a full-time career. Present ndings widely correlate with the previous study (Mathur-Helm, 2002) indicating South African society as a traditional and male dominated, strongly believing that only men can be familys primary breadwinners. While womens changing role as familys breadwinner, is growing in SA, yet societal perspectives and moreover mens perspectives towards women have not changed much. Therefore, although men are acquiring the status of secondary breadwinner and stay home, they are still considered the prime breadwinners. Since, traditionally, the role of provider and breadwinner was associated with power, the society still prefers to links power status to this role. Hence, with societal transition, although mens roles have shifted, but the stereotypes of

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power have not shifted to women. And for the fear of this shift of power, even though, women are increasingly becoming the sole providers and breadwinners, its hard for men to accept them as a providers. Therefore, while women have started becoming sole breadwinners by occupying senior and executive positions in the corporate and government jobs in SA, mens traditional and domineering stance towards women have not changed and women in SA are still perceived as subservient to men. Furthermore, only 6 percent women in SA occupy executive and top management positions while a majority of executives and top managers here are still men. However, an interesting point to note is that, men in the middle management and other jobs are losing out to women, and therefore, women breadwinners are at a rise in SA. There are strong parallels between the previous South African study (Mathur-Helm, 2002) that found a third of the women sample being primary earners and breadwinners of the family and the present study that found 45 percent of the women sample as the primary breadwinners of the family. Over the years, South African studies have constantly demonstrated an increase in the numbers of women breadwinners. These parallels allow for the construction of a hypothesis that possibly the governments employment equity legislation, is favouring women over white men, who are increasingly getting retrenched from their jobs, besides having difculties in nding the right pool of talent amongst the previously disadvantaged men with specic managerial skills and qualications. Category two: education and training Several past studies (Davidson and Burke, 2004; Mathur-Helm, 2004; Booysen, 1999; Adler, 1993) have claimed a lack of education as a vital barrier to womens career advancement. Booysen (1999) indicates that women are increasingly realising that appropriate and adequate qualications can help in successfully breaking through the glass ceiling. The present results demonstrating samples awareness and understanding regarding importance of education and qualication, and believing that only through specic qualications and a focussed training, can they advance to top management, is consistent with the past study. About 8 percent sample in the present study with a diploma or under graduation are occupying senior management positions, and have remained there, compared to the rest who are professionally qualied and have moved up the hierarchy. This further conrms that most often womens career advancement is determined by their educational qualications, thus often women who are entrapped at the senior management levels, are those lacking qualications. For example, all professionally qualied sample in the present research, were part of the EXCO and the top management teams. Category three: reaching the top management level and growth barriers The present results and the past study (Bennett, 2002) strongly correlate as they recognize identical traits necessary for womens success and promotion to the top management positions in the banking sector, for example: adequate and appropriate qualications, self-condence, goal clarity, sharpness, legal, nancial and mathematical skills, ambition, assertiveness, a career-oriented mindset, exibility, adaptation, strong business acumen, strong communication, relationship skills, integrity, transparency and determination and claiming recognition for efforts utilizing opportunities, interaction. Present ndings convey that women either get

head hunted or are drawn through the succession planning for the top management jobs, however, it is their qualications and business acumen that determines that. They further demonstrate that even though womens progress is slow in South African banks, those with advance professional qualications quickly rise to the executive levels, but sadly though they remain there. Thus, indicating that it is easier for qualied women to move up the management hierarchy, however, it is difcult for them to advance to the top management. A strong correlation is found between the previous study (Cherry, 2001) and the present research. Both found family obligations as the most apparent barrier in professional womens career, as women tend to take on more family burdens than men. In the SA society, family by large is a womens responsibility, that compels them to compromise on their careers. Therefore, several women in SA would rather choose to stay at the senior management levels only by declining executive management job offers combined with extra job demands and responsibilities, to continue their family obligations. Beside several dynamics, South African womens biggest challenge is that they are becoming familys sole breadwinners as many husbands are losing their jobs. And to support their families women reject high paying positions for the fear of getting caught with extra burdens. While they fail to see family as a barrier to their careers, which pay them well to support the family they want to continue working at average positions to get both the worlds going. Contrary to this another group of women are uprising the management horizon who prefer to remain single to reduce family burdens, as work pressures are too many. Often career orientated women start taking family for grated which eventually leads to a separation followed by the divorce. Stella Nkomos statement in Bennett (2002) study stating:
I dont think discrimination now in South Africa is deliberate, as cultures develop and are cultivated over time. Men understand the male culture, but women nd it hard to get into it on a formal and informal level. It is this culture that woman struggle to grasp and that often drives them out of organisations where they feel they do not belong,

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present ndings agree with her statement. It is difcult for women to comprehend an organizational culture that does not directly discriminate, but does not accept or welcome them either. Men understand the male culture specially work related male culture, as they are the creators of it, in which no space is left for women. Therefore, women feel left out within a male culture, and nd it hard to develop a sense of belonging in the organizational system. Present study found work cultures and structural barriers preventing women from reaching the top positions in SAs banking sectors. These ndings are consistent with the past study (Mathur-Helm, 2002) that indicates South African business and MNC environments still reecting a strong traditional, hierarchical and male-dominated work culture, that does not promote women in work place, as organizations lack faith and trust in their capabilities. SA women encounter a corporate culture that is dominated by male values, gender bias in promoting women, informal promotions without prior advertising, insufcient personal contact, prejudiced personnel managers, women lacking specialized management track. Apparently, SA banking sector is largely dominated by males at the top levels. They still form part of the mens network groups and belong to the so-called old-boys clubs which excludes women, consequently alienating them.

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A previous study (Mathur-Helm, 2004), suggests that afrmative action in SA being primary addresser of racial inconsistency, overshadows other forms of discriminations in the work place; hence gender is marginalized and overlooked. This draws a parallel with the present ndings indicating marginalization of gender equity due to emphasis of racial equity in the present day SA, which without doubt is not obstructing womens career progress. SAs corporate environment is highly dominated by male values, and it has not changed much in the last few years. SAs banks are still extremely inuenced by male values at the top management levels. Category four: experience of the glass ceiling effect The present ndings directly shared by the sample are consistent with the past theories. A pattern can be observed in the corresponding results from the past studies (Chernesky, 2003; Powell and Buttereld, 2002; Maume, 2004; Morrison et al., 1987) as well as the present ndings, providing evidence of glass ceiling as a subtle yet strong barriers preventing women from reaching the top management. Findings of the present research prove that organizations are capable of playing mean tactics on women when threatened by their approaching advancements. In fact they try all sorts of sophisticated methods to get rid of woman. Past studies have continually shown how organizations create strong alignments and then use the management processes to support them, which are always unfavourable to women workforce. Women tend to take things at face-value, hence most often fall in the trap due to lack of understanding about the corporate politics. They feel sense of relieve and pride in choosing to rather leave the complex job and allow place for a man to take over. Often in a situation like this, women are replaced by a male manager. Present ndings clearly indicate that a glass ceiling is certainly present in SAs corporate environment. In fact glass ceiling is created by the organizational systems holding powers, who are threatened by the eminent women who are in the pipeline for top management positions. However, the irony is that in creating glass ceiling for women, organizations believe that it is a safety net for their own survival, and the women are completely unaware of it is existence when confronted, therefore, do not know what meaning to give it. Hence, present ndings conrms the past studies as the real experiences of glass ceiling effect have been shared by the women, subsequently adding practical knowledge to the pressing subject that often gets marginalized by the organizations, who choose to perceive it as a myth. Category ve: entrepreneurship option Present ndings suggest that even though the sample had been thinking of starting their own business by becoming entrepreneurs, 60 percent of them did not have the courage to do so due as they lacked self-condence, management qualications and will power. They also suffered from the fear of losing nancial stability. Although many often considered to take up private entrepreneurship and escape from the corporate politics. A previous study (Erwee, 1994) illustrates post apartheid SA, in which women increasingly took initiatives to start and manage their own small businesses with the help of the Small Business Development Corporation. Although the two are contradicting, yet it appears that while the SA government and the Small Business Development Corporation have implemented initiatives to support women entrepreneurs through funding their business initiatives, women in secure permanent

jobs, to a large extent are more comfortable to venture into such enterprises. While, women in demanding jobs may complain and grumble about the unpleasant and demanding day-to-day work pressures, however, to leave that for a more peaceful and self owned business is a tougher task. This may therefore, suggests that women who struggled to nd work and are unemployment and unhappy within a respective career, are the ones who might enter into a self owned businesses. The study further disputes the reasons that the sample gave for not entering into an entrepreneurship. Are these indeed valid reasons, given that the sample held the most responsible and critical roles in their banking jobs? They are all hard working who have all the necessary traits such as condence, strength, vision, intellect and drive necessary to for business. Category six: support system and social network A past study (Booysen, 1999) indicating a lack of female role models and mentors as the contributing factor for the struggles that women face in reaching the top management levels. Present results demonstrate 75 percent sample having access to mentors, 40 percent being members of social networks and almost 100 percent having access to career development training programmes. Moreover, the entire sample had access to at least one type of career or work-related support structure, 60 percent being part of the major decision making, 35 percent women being frequently invited to board meetings, and 70 percent having succession planning for career advancement. Most women from the EXCO team stated that women are made to feel most comfortable in the boardrooms these days and their inputs are highly appreciated. It seems that efforts are being made by SA banks to be more women inclusive in order to meet with the strategic plan of the business, however, whether to pave a way for them to reach the top management or not still remains a dilemma. The present study proves that women in banking jobs had the option of working exi-time and also had the access to child-care facilities offered by their company. Thus, although it disagrees with a past study (Cherry, 2001) suggesting that companies at large do not provide support structures to women employees, which may still be true for many corporate organizations globally and within SA, however, according to Mathur-Helm (2002) women managers these days do nd professional as well as personal support structures and the ambitious and career orientated women, do not allow barriers to come on their way, not even family obligations. Findings of the present research indicate that 25 percent sample stated that they have not participated in social network activities ever in their career. They nd most corporate entertainment venues such as sports stadia suites, golf courses or pubs, where business dealings are made, unsuitable for most women as they are geared towards male managers. This contradicts a previous research (Mathur-Helm, 2002) revelling the view of most women managers who believed that in order to be successful in the business world, they have to indulge in male orientated activities. Hence, they believe that it is easy to get access to and inclusion into male activities ve that by playing male games which may improve womens chances of being successful in the business world. Likewise, Cherry (2001) study points out that women must learn the rules of cricket and rugby, and need to learn to play golf to be able to participate in such social events, geared towards male domain. A statement by professional female golfer Tania Fourie further reinforces this by saying that:

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. . . golf is one of the fastest growing sports among women in South Africa and that female executives nd themselves left behind if they dont play it (De Paravicini, 2002)

Hence, there will be continuous debates on such issues, as these opinions are based on personal interests.


Conclusions Womens changing roles from being family caretakers to becoming breadwinners and equal nancial partners at home as well as at work, has brought them to the forefront of various dilemmas, pushing them towards making complex personal choices, as their family responsibilities continue along with the pressures of increasing career goals. Today, with an increased focus on their career jobs, women are making remarkable progress as we move forward, yet they are still very rare at the highest levels of business as the glass ceiling remains. The glass ceiling considered a myth by many, is real and is nurtured by the organizational culture, policies and strategies and is highly presided by the masculine values and styles, besides womens own inadequacies such as: their decisions, qualications and skills, career plans, and career prospects. Thus, many women jump off the career wagon, frustrated and disillusioned before it reaches the top echelons. Discrimination against women, is deeply embedded in the organizational life, besides it is abundance with in formal work practises and cultural norms. However, with no past research presuming gender discrimination as an intend, determining that current work cultures benet all men will be unfair. Moreover, the work practises and cultural norms are sometimes unusually difcult for both women as well as for men, however, women are the worst affected. Retail banks in SAs are striving to remain competitive and efcient with in a global economy. Hence, perhaps a change in corporate culture may help them succeed in breaking down the glass ceiling to increase womens representation intop management positions. Several studies indicate that a male-based corporate culture does not essentially mean that all men are to be blamed for womens conditions or should be held guilty for the pervasive gender inequality in organizations. In fact numerous men-run companies are working hard to create a fair and conducive working environment to accommodate both sexes. Only the most decentralized organizations, characterized by a culture that supports women in management and leadership positions will help in breaking down the glass ceiling. Alternatively womens own efforts to grow, develop and empower themselves through academic and career development will also help. Limitations and implications for future research The present research is limited to SAs four largest retail banks, therefore, the future studies may nd it useful to investigate the existence of glass ceiling across different sectors of industries in SA as well as in the African continent, with a focus on various hierarchical, lateral and functional levels of management. Beside providing limited awareness about certain work practises that are insufcient tools to break down the glass ceiling, attention on glass ceiling and organisational work practises created by the present study, can be used by the organizational leaders to determine whether any growth barriers exists in their own organisations, leading their women workforce towards a glass ceiling. Hence,

future research may construct tools that will help in breaking down the glass ceiling. Finally, the extent to which glass ceiling exists in different countries and the inuence of the local culture in the formation of glass ceiling may also be investigated by the future research.
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