Staring at the Glass Ceiling

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Despite advanced employment equity legislation in South Africa addressing inequalities and discrimination, the glass ceiling still inhibits the advancement of women to top positions in both private and public sectors. The glass ceiling entails inherent and assimilated factors that contribute to barriers that limit women’s advancement into executive positions; for instance, women are the majority in South Africa, yet they are underrepresented in leadership positions in the corporate sector. A qualitative research approach was followed in exploring the challenges experienced by women in their efforts to become leaders within the South African corporate sector. The study used a phenomenological method to capture women’s lived experiences in corporate South Africa through unstructured interviews. The findings revealed that women are not climbing the career ladder as quickly as their male counterparts and tend to experience more obstacles in their leadership journey despite their skills and educational background. Furthermore, the study found that the factors affecting women’s advancement to top management are rooted in societal, cultural, and organizational circumstances. The study concluded that women are disadvantaged based on their gender, perceived notions, and stereotype capabilities, and that household expectations regarding women’s roles play a significant part in their journey to the top echelons. In addition, organizational culture influences how women are perceived and treated as leaders.