Women and leadership within the public service: is the glass-ceiling effect real or imagined? a case study of Mpumalanga Department of Rural Development and Land Reform

20 Nov 2017

The purpose of this paper is to explore perceptions on the existence of barriers often referred to as a ‛‛glass ceiling’’, to women’s career development within the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in Mpumalanga. The term ‛‛glass ceiling” refers to an unseen and unreachable barrier that prevents women from climbing the corporate ladder regardless of their qualifications or achievements. The human socialisation process is said to have instilled and perpetuated gender inequality in the way both boys and girls are socialised, whilst boys are socialised to believe that they are superior, decision-makers, protectors, brave, heads of households, independent and assertive, girls are taught to be submissive, nurturing, soft and sensitive, passive, dependent, obedient and submissive beings. This kind of socialisation is said to promote autonomy for boys and dependency for girls; as a result, men are able to climb the corporate ladder with relative ease as compared to women. Reproductive roles such as taking care of the family, fetching firewood, water, taking care of the sick, attending community engagements such as funerals, are relegated to women due to skewed patriarchal customary practices. Working mothers are said to find it hard to balance work and household responsibilities and find themselves taking more time off from work in order to take care of children and other members of the family. This creates loss of confidence in women as they are deemed unreliable and less committed to their work. It is argued that the lack of mentorship specifically targeting women as a group is another invisible barrier preventing women from climbing the career ladder. The results of this study confirms what literature asserts that women face barriers such as lack of mentors, inability to balance work and household activities due to unequal division of household activities, and general gender discrimination by men and women who believe that women are not born to lead.