Uncovering the social and institutional experiences of academic women in leadership positions at South African public universities
Motale, Cora Njoli
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Globally, women face a number of challenges as they pursue career paths to become academic leaders. This study aims to comprehend the rarity of black women vice-chancellors inside South African public universities by exploring their lived experiences as academic leaders. The study examines family backgrounds, educational experiences, previous career paths, and patriarchal obstacles as factors that affected them. The study explores how these women navigated both, their way into leadership positions and the practices inside universities. The study further probes how such women in academia have embraced the intersection of identity in relation to race, gender, age, and to a lesser extent, class. Since these women have experienced inequalities in a political context, this study used feminist theories to explore the post-colonial feminism framework, which supported the study's purpose. These female pathfinders are powerful role models, and role-modelling is a form of education that is available to all people across all walks of life. The research design followed the epistemological position assumed in the biographical approach. Semi-structured interviews and documents were used as research tools for data collection. The thematic results revealed that the participants' shared trait of middle class, professional backgrounds played a major role in their professional ascension. Furthermore, these participants formed a cohort of black women vice-chancellors that broke the proverbial glass ceiling, ending over 300 years of white, male-dominated academic leadership and practice. The common thread in these rare stories is achievement against all odds, which inspires the next generation of women leaders.