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Insufficient data representing gender-based discrimination in public and private sector businesses in South Africa with a lack of understanding of employee perceptions of gender based discrimination and employee functioning perpetuates gender inequality in the work place. According to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), women are severely underrepresented in the labour force. Statistical data represented in the report for 2013-2017 reveals that women only make up 20.7% at top management level in the private business sector, and 30.8% in public sector organisations (Human Rights Commission, 2017, p. 15). Further research holds that between 2016 and 2017 men constituted 73.3% of the private sector, in local government sectors even more with 76.3% and 62.6% in national government sectors (Human Rights Commission, 2017, p. 15). Gender-based discrimination has been at the centre of equality talks across all economic and educational sectors globally in pursuit of eradicating the institutional pillars upholding inequality and perpetuating indirect and direct discrimination women face on a daily basis in the workplace. “Indirect discrimination refers to policies and practices that do not explicitly distinguish between on the basis of any prohibited ground, but nonetheless have a discriminatory effect on particular groups or individuals” (van der Walt, le Roux, & Govindjee, 2012) .
South African legislation outlaws any form of discrimination as described in the Employment Equity Act (EEA), which holds that “no person may unfairly discriminate, directly or indirectly, against an employee, in any employment policy or practice, on one or more grounds including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility…” (van der Walt, le Roux, & Govindjee, 2012). Earlier data gathered regarding gender equality in the South African workplace found that on average, women only made up approximately 12% of senior and top management level in the private business sectors (South African Human Rights Commision Equality Report, 2012). This was especially observed in mining and technical industries (South African Human Rights Commision Equality Report, 2012). Occupational Mental health has been shown to be significantly related to productivity and other desired organizational outcomes such as commitment and satisfaction. In particular, many studies have found a close link between mental health and job satisfaction. Although there were some companies that presented various methods and measures designed to promote gender equality such as “leadership training, mentoring and coaching programmes and remuneration as measures”, the SAHRC found no supporting evidence of these efforts actually being implemented and effectively so (South African Human Rights Commision Equality Report, 2012, p. 27). This study presents a research opportunity to explore the different perceptions of gender based discrimination between managers and employees regarding perceptions about gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Existing research have shown some short comings and gaps in available information around this topic. The importance of this research is highlighted by previous research as there seems to be a lack in available in-depth exploring and analysis of gender-based discrimination including various perceptions help by employees and management (Steyn, 2014). To achieve gender equality in the workplace we need to understand the main challenges involving gender based discrimination which have been highlighted by pervious researchers as the “lack of effective implementation of existing laws and the lack of effective monitoring and application of appropriate sanctions in cases of poor compliance or lack thereof” (South African Human Rights Commision Equality Report, 2012, p. 26). The broad area of organizational psychology this study focuses on is occupational health, labour law and employee relations. The variables concerned with this study include occurrence of unfair discrimination, employee perception of discrimination in the workplace and the perception of interpersonal injustice. It is vital now more than ever for I/O psychology to aid in transforming the workplace to be a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all social groups and groups that are marginalised and previously disadvantaged groups in society. The main research question for this study considered, is there a relationship between employee’s perceptions of gender based discrimination and employee functioning? Sub questions relating to this are does gender based discrimination have a greater effect on women? Moreover, how are high levels of gender based discrimination related to the well-being of working women between ages 18-35 in South Africa?
The fight for women’s rights and non-conforming persons is being brought to the forefront across all employment sectors globally. Previous research conducted has yielded great information which indicates that gender bias typically occurs during recruitment processes, interviewing, hiring, and when determining employee salaries (Steyn, 2014, p. 10). This study investigated 1 740 different employees and 145 managers from 29 companies in South Africa. The results showed that 12.1% of the employees reported incidents of being discriminated against based on their gender and 19.3% of managers reported witnessing gender-based discrimination (Steyn, 2014, p. 121). Managers’ general perception of consequences of gender-based discrimination were associated with “promotions, job applications and receiving training” in contrast to employees that viewed the effects as primarily being associated to pay received as well as benefits and promotions (Steyn, 2014, p. 124).
Experiencing unfair treatment in the workplace can lead to different negative outcomes including decrease in job satisfaction and organizational citizenship according to (Miner & Cortina, 2016) that found a direct linkage which poses important questions on perceived justice and the implication and effectiveness of the Employee Equity Act. Empirical evidence produced from the study argued that “perceived unjust treatment may directly lead to an employee’s discontentment with the organization” (Miner & Cortina, 2016, p. 2). .Interpersonal justice is an even that poses a threat to ones’ self-esteem and in effect can lower an individual’s self-esteem (Miner & Cortina, 2016). Further studies similarly found that collectively department-level perceptions of interpersonal injustice were related to lower levels of supervisor satisfaction and affective organizational commitment, and higher turnover intentions among hotel employees (Miner & Cortina, 2016)
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