Do institutional cultures serve as impediments for women's advancement towards leadership in South African higher education?

  • N. Toni Nelson Mandela University
  • A.L. Moodly Rhodes University


The South African higher education sector has undergone various changes over the past 24 years. As far back as 1997, several policies that advocated for equity and redress were introduced. The introduction of these policies, in conjunction with the Employment Equity Act (1998), has not fully addressed the gender imbalances at executive management level in universities. This article delves into cultural and structural constructs in higher educational institutions that impact on women and leadership. It further explores how women in leadership describe the general organisational culture and the manifestations thereof. Critical realism is used as a theoretical lens to analyse the influence and impact of institutional cultures on women in leadership. Women leaders are confronted with the culture of exclusion in the form of male dominance, silencing of women’s voices and male patterns of networking. The article further advocates for extended leadership programmes that are specifically designed for women to change the status-quo. Such programmes can only be effectively implemented within an organisational culture that embraces gender equality and actively pursues recognition of women as equal members of society and other institutions, including institutions of higher learning.

Author Biographies

N. Toni, Nelson Mandela University
Director Teaching and Learning
A.L. Moodly, Rhodes University


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How to Cite
Toni, N., and A.L. Moodly. 2019. “Do Institutional Cultures Serve As Impediments for women’s Advancement towards Leadership in South African Higher Education?”. South African Journal of Higher Education 33 (3), 176-91.
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