Coaching female leaders in a male-dominated environment : stress managment trhough self-awareness and reflection

Singh, Asha (2012-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.


Worldwide trends indicate that women are increasing their engagement in the labour market. The Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (BWASA) 2010 census shows that there has been an increase in female labour participation (BWASA 2010). Although the levels are increasing, participation at management and executive levels requires attention. According to the Catalyst census conducted in the United States in 2010, 15,7% of all board level positions in the Fortune 500 companies were held by women (Xu, 2011). The BWASA 2011 census reports that 15,8% of directors and 21,6% of executive managers are women. Some of the key reasons cited for this poor inclusion rate are: the persistence of the glass ceiling barrier in many cases; differences in gender socialisation and language styles; gender stereotyping; the old boys’ club at the top level; ineffective operational and line experience; differences in male and female leadership styles; and the preference of some women for entrepreneurial opportunities over corporate careers (BWASA, 2011). Female leaders in male-dominated environments deal with specific occupational stressors, such as gender role stereotyping, and work-related sex discrimination (Long, Kahn & Schutz, 1992). Given the vastness of the subject of stress, the intention with this study was to narrow the scrutiny through the lens of role stress in order to provide insight into the impact of coaching on female leaders in a male-dominated environment. Seven women holding management positions in the male-dominated industry of earthmoving equipment were interviewed in this study. They were requested to share their personal experiences and perceptions about working in a male-dominated industry and the related stressors and challenges they face. The literature indicates that while progress has been made in terms of female growth and advancement in the workplace, there are still barriers; and organisations are required to review the organisational culture, strategy and structures to allow for the differing needs and leadership styles that women bring to the corporate environment (Cornish, 2007). Men cannot be held solely responsible for the lack of female advancement, as there is a level of ownership that women must take for personal growth, training, education and advancement. This study has found that there are unique challenges and stressors that act as barriers to female advancement. The findings also indicate that through leadership tools, such as coaching, women equip themselves with growing self-awareness and self-knowledge that may assist them in dealing with their stressors, and in implementing meaningful strategies, such as work/life balance, more effective management of their relationships, and understanding and knowing how to deal with gender stereotyping. This study was limited to seven participants in one organisation in South Africa. In future studies of this nature, researchers may wish to examine the effects of coaching in other industries and on a larger sample, and may wish to include the variable of race, which was not part of the scope of this study. The body of knowledge related to the long-term impact of coaching on self-awareness and related changes in behaviour would also be of interest.

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