Engendering Corporate Social Histories: Reflections of White, Afrikaans-Speaking Businesswomen in Gauteng, South Africa

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 3:42 PM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Sinteche VAN DER MERWE , University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Using a qualitative, gender-sensitive approach, this particular case study explores the narratives of a group of white, Afrikaans-speaking, women employed in the financial sector of Gauteng in South Africa. Based on semi-structured interviews this study has aimed to explore corporate women’s political and personal experiences and how this affects their career choices and ideals on how to ‘balance’ work and home life. The study shows how women exude agency when they attempt to challenge out-dated but ‘embedded’ patriarchal norms and values. The study also illustrates how working women try to manage spending the little free time they have with family and their children and how most of them still have to assume the bulk of the  responsibilities at home. This particular group’s position is fairly ambiguous within contemporary South African society, since they have been known to have enjoyed certain privileges in the past relative to other groups, but they have also suffered and still suffer gender discrimination and gender inequality under patriarchy. Recently some have come to question whether white women should also benefit from Affirmative Action policies. This is not an easy question to answer since it has been widely acknowledged that women experienced discrimination and gender inequality during the apartheid era differently (Kongolo & Bojuwoye 2006: 364).  Thus, it is important to understand their accounts of the past, as well as, the future.