Exploring the perceptions of women pursuing leadership positions in a local government
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The purpose of this study is to gain a detailed understanding of the gender dynamics that help or hinder women in pursuit of leadership positions in a local government. The focus of this study is local government through a specific municipality. Local municipalities play a pivotal role in providing services for communities, and women in these communities play an essential role in influencing decisions pertaining to service delivery. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore the gender representation in this sphere of government. Further to this, the study aimed to explore the perceptions of women pursuing leadership positions in this municipality. Qualitative research of an interpretative nature was chosen for the research methodology. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight (8) women purposively sampled in the two wings that govern local government, the administration and political wing, to participate in the study. Five (5) women were in administration positions and three (3) in middle and senior levels of management in both the wings of the local government. The interviews were conducted in a language suitable to participants, data was recorded, transcribed and analysed. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse data and strategies to ensure that rigor of the study was applied. The findings of the study revealed that regardless of legislative provision aimed at empowering women in the workplace and gender equality, women continue to be under-represented in local government leadership positions, and that women still face societal and institutional gendered challenges. The study indicated the prevalence of gender dynamics, traditional stereotypes of women’s place in society, negative political interference and the lack of support towards women in pursuit of leadership positions. Further to this, the findings reveal that over and above the challenges that women face in local government, the pull her down syndrome is prevalent amongst women; simply put, there is a lack of support between women. Women working in local government showed to have developed coping mechanisms with regard to managing the gendered challenges they continue to face in pursuit of leadership positions and continue to seek ways that can assist them in advancing in their respective careers in local government. Recommendations have been made on strategies that can be implemented in support of women's career development, capacitating women for leadership positions and general supporting of the women in local government.