Determining female employees' perception of the glass ceiling phenomenon in South Africa's business environment
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History tells us that females have worked in unrewarding jobs for lower wages due to traditional roles imposed on them. The opinion that males are the ‘breadwinners’ has been the undermining factor that views females’ work as being less valuable and insignificant to males’ work. Females realised that balancing work and family life was possible, and they strived towards a better education so that they could have better jobs. Although females’ roles in the workforce have increased exponentially over the last few decades, this did not secure equal job opportunities between genders, and this inequality forms the foundation of the glass ceiling phenomenon and the scope of this study. The glass ceiling is a corrupted bias that excludes females from having equal footing with males at top management levels within the business environment. The business environment is influenced by internal and external factors, also known as the macro- (external) and micro (internal)-environments. These environments may be indirectly or directly responsible for the functioning of a business and assist in identifying opportunities, usable resources, business growth and profit. Males have traditionally ruled the business environment and developed the rules, guidelines and social structure that reinforce the glass ceiling. This, consequently, strips females of their political, social and economic sense due to these customs that hinder their career advancement and social associations. Currently, a wage gap of 40 percent exists; the ratio of female wages in relation to their male counterparts in the same position. In 2019, females occupied 24 percent of the senior positions globally, even though their involvement in the workforce is consistently increasing. Females make up 51.1 percent of South Africa’s population, but only contribute to 43.4 percent of the workforce. While in society, male leadership skills and personality traits are recognised as the default, females are judged harshly and presumed not to be effective leaders when they also display these male characteristics. Therefore, female leaders are very scarce because they do not receive the same number of opportunities to demonstrate their potential. One of the obstacles females face is the perception of the glass ceiling. Perception can be understood as the process of how an individual judges a current situation through her past experiences. Perception of the glass ceiling is influenced by four factors, i.e., denial, resignation, resilience and acceptance, as indicated by the career pathways survey (CPS), which was vi implemented as measurement for this study. A quantitative (descriptive) research design was used, where the target population consisted of females working in the South African business environment with access to growth opportunities. A sample size of 110 was used to gather data through a non-probability snowball sampling method. A self-administered online questionnaire was distributed on social media sites to collect the data. The results of this study revealed positive correlations between the CPS factors as confirmed by previous research studies. However, the statistical analysis revealed a further grouping of the CPS factors according to their factor loadings, which also shows a positive correlation between them. This is a novel contribution and an improvement of the original scale and provides a unique understanding of the South African context on how to address and shatter the glass ceiling. Results revealed correlations between the CPS factors and marital status, qualification and management level. Females in domestic partnerships accept inequality easier and have less denial about it; they demonstrate more resilience and acceptance to seek promotion and growth. While females with higher qualifications have less denial and resignation towards promotion, they are more resilient and accepting, which make them more likely to shatter the glass ceiling. Although females in higher management levels demonstrate higher denial, resignation and resilience, they are optimistic and accepting of the challenges to seek promotion. Females in lower-level employment displayed a high acceptance towards work-life balance, and therefore they do not question the status quo. The results of this study can assist businesses to effectively address, minimise or eradicate inequality in the business environment, by addressing females’ perception of glass ceiling and establishing their place as needful and valuable in the business environment.