Original Research

Emerging models of power among South African women business leaders

Lisa Kinnear, Karen Ortlepp
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 42, No 1 | a1359 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v42i1.1359 | © 2016 Lisa Kinnear, Karen Ortlepp | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 March 2016 | Published: 29 November 2016

About the author(s)

Lisa Kinnear, School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Karen Ortlepp, School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: This paper represents a broader study which explores how South African women business leaders construct power in their life and leadership narratives. The research was approached with a feminist paradigm in its review of constructions of power and their potential for transformation of patriarchal power dynamics.

Research purpose: The purpose was to critically analyse emerging models of power among South African women business leaders to include their perspectives in the process of theory building.

Motivation for the study: Women in senior leadership positions are not necessarily enabling the transformation of organisations to include greater representation of women at senior levels. A critical understanding of women’s models of power may highlight unconscious processes contributing to this as well as emerging models that can facilitate change.

Research design, approach and method: Qualitative research was conducted within a feminist social constructionist framework, using the method of discourse analysis of narrative texts to identify emerging models of power. The 10 women in the study included executives within corporations across a range of industry sectors in South Africa.

Practical/managerial implications: The findings may guide approaches to gender transformation efforts in organisations and raise women leaders’ awareness of their conscious and unconscious impact on gender empowerment.

Contribution/value-add: A novel contribution of this study is the emerging transformative model of power and the tensions women experience in asserting this power.


Keywords

women; power; leadership; feminist management theory; gender equity; social constructionism; discourse analysis

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