Advancement Of Blacks Into Management Positions Education Essay

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This story of a doctoral journey began sixteen years ago in 1994 at a time when South Africa was witnessing a sweep of unprecedented political change and moving from an institutionalised apartheid structure towards a democracy.

On the 2nd February 1990 President de Klerk announced the unbanning of political organisations, heralding the start of a transition to democracy. While it was possible, from then, to effect change in the political sphere by dismantling apartheid structures and re-writing the Constitution, it would prove far more difficult to deal with unacceptable wealth, income and skill disparities brought about by unacceptable inequalities of power and opportunity. Undoing the effects of apartheid and meeting the needs of the majority of South Africans would take many years to accomplish.

At this time, business leaders were confronted with the need to identify a distinctive role for their organisations. These enterprises were, and still are, operating in an arena where political change, changing consumer profiles and re-entry into global markets highlight the need to address gross racial inequalities in the workplace.

The situation was exacerbated by an acute skills shortage of competent black people to fill managerial and supervisory posts. The formal sector of the economy had a dearth of black management with less than five percent of managerial and supervisory posts occupied by Blacks (Human, 1990). Studies suggested that by the year 2000, South Africa would need an additional 120 000 high-level managers with Whites able to fill only 45 000 of these positions (CBM, 1993:31). This resulted in affirmative action and black advancement programmes becoming a strategic issue.

As Binedell states:

South African business has become accustomed to a white, male-dominated hierarchical social and economic system. Although changing slowly, the South African management class is almost exclusively white and male and draws from one small sector of the South African social spectrum (1993:8).

Executives were faced with addressing and creating an awareness of these shifting paradigms. The African National Congress (ANC) Government's initial strategy seemed to be hope that the threat of legislation would be sufficient to persuade businesses to institute affirmative action programmes. Some companies were aware of the need for change and implemented some form of advancement programme, while others, rather than run the risk of affirmative action legislation in the future took pre-emptive action. However, at this time most chose to ignore the situation.

The increased awareness of the need for the advancement of Blacks into management positions led to a number of training and development programmes being implemented, with limited success. There was an increasing number of training providers, who seized the commercial opportunities, and this resulted in an increase in workshops, seminars and training courses being offered to companies by consultants and training enterprises. In most instances, huge sums of money were spent on expensive training for a privileged few.

The unstructured nature of courses, where measurement was based on how many employees completed a course rather than on whether or not the employees learned, or what they learned, was a common occurrence in South African work places (Crawford, 1995:82). This was particularly relevant in the early 1990's when Government provided subsidies and tax rebates for training schemes.

The courses offered at this time were often inappropriate or inadequate, being theory based principles of management, which had little or no relevance to the practical aspects or requirements of the employee's job. They did not take cognisance of the need to develop an education process that would cater specifically for the needs of the people involved, nor did they address the issue of career paths and they certainly did not empower unskilled people.

In fact the 'quick-fix' solution they provided often resulted in a confused and frustrated, rather than enlightened, employee. This, in turn, resulted in disgruntled bosses who felt that the programmes did not work and that their employees either lacked the ability or the motivation and commitment to learn.

Efforts at developing a comprehensive management education programme generally appeared to be haphazard. It became clear that there was a need for a well thought out strategy, which would map the road ahead and draw on solid research information. Unfortunately there was a shortage of research data in this field relevant to South African organisations and a large percentage of the education and training programmes available in this country were American (Charoux, 1986:7).

At this stage, 1994, the researcher was running two businesses. Her primary business was management consulting in the field of organisational design, while at the same time she was involved as co-founder and director in the running of Educate, Develop and Learn for Life, an Educational Foundation that provided educational opportunities to disadvantaged adult learners.

In April 1994 the researcher was approached by the Managing Director of a manufacturing company situated in Meyerton and asked to design and deliver a management education programme for four black supervisors who did not have the requisite educational qualifications to enrol for formal management programmes at a tertiary institution. He was of the opinion that these supervisors had the potential and the ability to be trained as managers, but were being unfairly excluded on the grounds that they had failed to achieve the necessary educational standards through circumstances beyond their control.

The researcher's belief that dormant or latent talent could and should be developed as well as her anger at the results and injustices of an apartheid ideology led her to accept the assignment.

Their theories were substantiated by Human, who states:

It has also been argued that an often arbitrary and generally too high level of education is required for jobs of a lower managerial and supervisory nature when these levels of education have not been proven to have predictive validity with respect to job performance (1990:144).

She went on to say that much of our thinking on management development in South Africa is "...sadly, not shaped by the needs in society but rather by the elitist nature of academic activity" (1990:144).

The researcher's brief was to develop a programme that would firstly establish what knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes were necessary for the effective performance of a middle manager in the company and secondly to ensure that the identified employees acquired and developed these attributes.

It was an exciting challenge for the researcher and created an opportunity to explore new ideas, concepts and models with a view to personal, educational and organisational development. It was also a daunting challenge which posed many questions that quickly had her trawling through related literature, which in many instances created even more questions.

When accepting the assignment the researcher was concerned about the power dynamic created by her relationship with the majority shareholder of the company who was her husband. However, he was not involved in the day-to-day running of the company. At this point she began to question the impact of power in the multiple roles she would be required to play throughout the study.

Every effort was made to assure the participants that the researcher would be employed on a consulting basis where her only brief was to ensure their succession to management positions by offering a quality management education and development programme. Because of her positionality she was aware that regardless of her ethical stance and no matter how sincere her promise of neutrality was, it would be problematic and her assurance of confidentiality could lack credibility.

The assignment also raised many issues for the researcher that caused her to ponder and reflect on her understanding of 'education' and in particular 'management education'. She concluded that the transfer of relevant knowledge and skills would be insufficient as the new managers would also need the self-esteem, values and the confidence to use their acquired knowledge and skills effectively. Furthermore, although the managers would learn a vast range of techniques and skill, they would be operating in complex, dynamic and often unpredictable situations for which specific training solutions could not always be provided.

This resulted in her assumption that the potential for managerial acumen should not be based on prior academic achievement alone as stimulating an enquiring mind would lead to growth. This view is supported by Dore who criticises an over concentration on the achievement of qualifications and poses the question:

What of imagination, creativity, honesty, curiosity and the determination to get to the bottom of things, the desire to do a good job for its own sake? These are not the qualities likely to be bred by a prolonged dose of qualification-orientated education (1976:53).

The researcher's intention when accepting the assignment was to find a way of redressing the injustice and disparity caused by political bias that had deprived many people of the opportunity to fulfil their managerial potential. This provided a means to assuage the researcher's 'white guilt' and anger at the inequity of apartheid and was one of the motivating factors for tackling the project.

However, it was impossible to defend a management programme inspired by an obligation to 'make right past wrongs' and the objective of the programme was therefore to make a meaningful contribution to four people's lives by providing personal development opportunities through a non-traditional management education programme, as well as make a contribution to management development, business improvement and socio-economic transformation.

By the end of June 1994 the business proposal to the company was drafted. This involved extensive desktop literature research, needed to inform and guide the process, and the development of a framework for the innovation. It was then that the researcher realised the enormity and true pioneering nature of attempting to design and deliver an educational management programme for four black females, without the traditionally requisite qualifications, in the prevailing socio-political and business situation.

The researcher envisaged that this deviation from accepted academic practice would create uncertainty, pose many questions and would be a difficult and problematic process. For these reasons she felt that it would be pertinent to record and write-up the process with the view of ultimately sharing it with a wider audience.

This inspired a return to academia and with informed consent from management and the participants she began recording each step of the process in detail. The idea of a PhD was born and a visit to the Centre for Research in Education in Southern Africa (RESA) at the University of London led to a meeting with a lady who had similar interests. Unterhalter's stated interest being:

I work on themes concerned with gender, race and class inequalities and their bearing on education. My specialist interests are in the capability approach and human development and education in Africa, particularly South Africa. My current concerns are with education, poverty and global social justice (Institute of Education, University of London, 2010).

Follow up meetings in South Africa later in the year resulted in a research proposal being drafted. When it was realised that the study was going to take much longer than two years and that the cost of being a foreign student for a long period of time was prohibitive, the researcher decided to wait until the practical implications of her experimental management education programme manifested themselves. This was to take far longer than originally anticipated. When the time came to finally write up the study the researcher was encouraged to enrol as a doctoral student at Da Vinci by a long time friend and advisor.

At some point the researcher was asked about her political philosophy by her field supervisor. This caused her to reflect to herself:

"The foundations for South Africa's socio-economic and political woes were laid long before my time and growing up as a privileged white South African I was unaware of the harsh realities of life and in particular the hardships and injustices that were endured by people relegated to the status of 'second class citizens' by an apartheid ideology.

I attended an 'elite' all girls private school where the only time that any form of hardship or poverty was alluded to was when we contributed to the charity box for "black babies" every Friday.

Politics and power struggles were never discussed. Even the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, where 69 people died and hundreds of others were injured while protesting against pass laws right on our doorstep [1] resulting in the proclamation of a state of emergency, was hushed up at school and at home so as "not to upset us". In fact, the only real antagonism I was aware of was that between English and Afrikaans speaking white South Africans.

The Rivonia Treason Trial in 1963 and subsequent imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and the other co-accused Umkhonto weSizwe [2] cadres in 1964 had little impact on my life at the time other than creating the notion of 'Swart Gevaar [3] , a propaganda slogan introduced by the then ruling party. It was only years later, on reading Mandela's statement from the dock, that I realised that all they were fighting for was dignity and decent livelihoods.

Africans want to be paid a living wage. Africans want to perform work which they are capable of doing, and not work which the Government declares them to be capable of. Africans want to be allowed to live where they obtain work, and not be endorsed out of an area because they were not born there. Africans want to be allowed to own land in places where they work, and not to be obliged to live in rented houses which they can never call their own. Africans want to be part of the general population, and not confined to living in their own ghettos. African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men's hostels. African women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the reserves (Mandela, 1964. Statement from Rivonia Trial).

I became more politically aware during my undergraduate years at the beginning of the 1970's, mainly due to the multiracial political activity of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) on campus, but remained uninvolved and, for the most part, uninformed as my day-to-day life remained unaffected.

My first real reaction to apartheid and Government policies was in 1976. I was working in the Radiology department at Baragwaneth hospital in Soweto on the fateful day of the student uprising, where they were protesting against the education authority's decision to teach mathematics and social sciences in Afrikaans.

It was then that I realised that we were indoctrinated, generally being treated as idiots and in fact being lied to. I was observing and treating the horrific results of police brutality and listening to the reports on the handheld radio of the policeman sent to protect me, while at the same time listening to Government censored radio broadcasts that bore no resemblance to the actual situation.

I left South Africa the following year, shortly after Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko's untimely death, angry and disillusioned at being powerless to effect any real change in the lives of an oppressed majority.

My political education began in earnest when I befriended a group of ANC activists and political exiles living in London and on my return home two years later I became more involved in opposition politics and more determined to be involved in the process of change.

In 1990 I enrolled in the MBA programme at Wits Business School where for the first time I was exposed to a 'normal' multiracial educational setting. I was fortunate to be in a syndicate with two black gentlemen, now leaders of large business corporations in South Africa, who taught me that talent and potential, although it may be dormant due to circumstances, is always there and can be developed.

This belief in human potential and my anger and frustration at the inhumane injustices of the apartheid system positioned me to readily accept the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the four black women who were not as fortunate as I was.

Emerging from my reflections on our history was a strong feeling that decades of power, abuse and imposed political values had contributed to a lack of equality and that in the aftermath of apartheid all South Africans, but in particular business leaders, had a role to play in introducing positive change".

Initially the researcher was employed as a consultant to design and implement the management education programme. However, once the research project was conceived, she took the further role of an action researcher which created a potential dilemma. It was at this point that she became aware of her own ontological assumptions towards objectivity. When implementing the programme in the actual workplace her role distinction became more complex with the addition of the facilitator's role. The switching of roles created a sense of schizophrenia, which was compounded two years later when the researcher was forced to take on the additional role of coach. In 2008, her previous roles were replaced by that of a doctoral candidate.

The researcher's detailed field notes and a personal journal, as well as each of the participants' personal development journals where their learning progress was recorded, provided insights that are now being used to retrospectively recreate the actual journey as the process evolved.

This thesis is essentially for and about the black female supervisors who, despite enormous obstacles, persevered, grew and triumphed in their progression up the management ladder. The writing that the researcher has done on them in this thesis has been given back to them to read and this factor influenced the style of writing she has used. The researcher has subsequently met with them (2010) to get their feedback and to hear their 'voice' again.

Saturday morning, 27th November 2010, and the end of an intense session with my supervisors.

Jeann: "Wow! Thanks Rica and Willem [4] after 5 hours of critical conversation and reflection on my journey as a story, tossing around ideas and analysing the context, I now have more clarity and a tremendous sense of excitement as well as relief that the end is approaching!"

Rica: "I sit with compassion and a sense of pride. It was such an honour, Jeann, travelling a part of the long journey with you. As your academic study leader, I feel content. You did what was expected of you."

Willem: "Guys, this is what I like. It is all coming together."

Rica: "Yes! All the stitches of the tapestry came together in a beautiful, creative and integrative picture. All that is still needed is to tidy up the complexity at the back of the artwork."

Jeann: " I believe this will be the last phase of my journey!"




This section is devoted to providing a time line of the process of implementing a management education process, outlining the structure of the thesis, and explaining the key concepts used in the thesis.

Readers could find the structure of this thesis strange. I acknowledge that my layout is atypical and does not follow the conventional way of structuring a doctoral thesis, however, this is a non-linear qualitative study and the story behind an action research journey which has become so much a part of my life.

I therefore offer the logic of recording Part Two of the study in phases as opposed to chapters. Initially the entire thesis was written in phases that were strictly chronological. Following discussions with my supervisors the original phases were repackaged and the structure of this thesis has changed as new insights have been gained.


Given the unusually long span of time taken to complete the study, a timeline of milestone events is included below. This has been provided to set the chronological framework for the descriptions and discussions in the thesis.

It is hoped that it will also assist the reader to contextualise the research in the period that the study was conducted (1994 - 2008) and the time of writing and submitting the research report (2008 - 2010).

TABLE 1: Chronological sequence of events

April 1994

Approached by Managing Director with request to design and deliver a management education programme.

Conducted an extensive literature search.

Developed a framework for the design and implementation of the programme.

June 1994

Research idea was born.

Identified appropriate research methodology.

July 1994

Presented proposal and action plan to management team.

Proposal was accepted.

August 1994

Introductory meetings and workshops were held.

Curriculum was designed.

Programme was implemented.

October 1996

Coaching crisis.

Production manager removed as coach.

Moved into workplace as second coach.

December 1996

Production manager resigned.

Emerging manager promoted to production manager.

November 1998

Programme successfully completed.

Emerging managers now fully fledged managers.

December 1998

Exited programme.


May 1999

Attempted to replicate process in a different workplace.

November 1999

Owner of business emigrated and a new Managing Director was appointed.

March 2000

Programme abandoned due to lack of management commitment and support.

August 2002

Third attempt at implementing process.

March 2003

Company put into liquidation.

October 2004

Re-implemented programme in initial workplace for succession planning.

April 2008

Programme successfully completed.

August 2010

Revisited workplace. 'Where are they now?'


The study is recorded in three parts, with Part One being the overview, Part Two a description of the actual research project, and Part Three the concluding perspectives.

Through the use of a detailed journal of personal reflections and field notes, each phase of Part Two was written as the process evolved and therefore this section of the research report provides a chronological sequence of events. For this reason, the study is recorded in phases "a clearly distinguishable period or stage in a process, in the development of something, or in a sequence of events", rather than in structured chapters "sections of a book" (Definitions conform to Encarta Dictionary).

Over this period of time my role changed and evolved from consultant, to designer of an accelerated human development initiative, to facilitator of the innovation, and finally to doctoral student exploring "... whether the cycles of interventions chosen actually work to change the problematic situation to which the research project is addressed" (Grogan, Donaldson & Simmons, 2007:6). Throughout the process, the role of researcher was a constant.

In Part Two, Phase 1 outlines the setting in which the study took place and provides an expression of the aims, objectives and rationale of the study. It explicates the research strategy and method chosen for the study as well as providing a description and discussion of the particular form of action research that was used for this study.

In keeping with the tenets of action research, that requires an analysis of the social-political situation prior to the change experiment (Lewin, 1948), Phase 2 provides the historical perspective to the study which serves as a background to social reality and offers the reader an understanding of how participants in the study were disadvantaged.

Phase 3 is based on the literature review undertaken to gain a better understanding of the concept of education, in particular adult education and curriculum design, in order to develop a 'theoretical' position that informed my 'practice'.

Phase 4 looks at the initial action plan for the educational innovation and its rationale which is contained in the business proposal document that was submitted to the company.

Phase 5 is the start of the description of the story and records the early stages of the innovation and the organisational dynamics of getting the process started.

Phase 6 outlines the dynamics of curriculum design and includes a literature review on management theories required to inform the curriculum development process.

Phase 7 describes 'the action' taken, the operational dynamics of the process, the pitfalls encountered and the progress made.

Phase 8 provides the experiential perspective and an overall evaluation of the process as well as reflections of the story on the 'growth' of all the participants. It is in this phase that the active 'voice' of the participants can be heard.

Phase 9 goes beyond the initial case study and here I consider the implications of extending the study and describe attempts to replicate it in other settings.

Part Three provides the concluding perspective to the study and sums up the findings of this research and its significance.


The multi-voiced nature of this study was problematic in the writing of this thesis. It was decided at the outset that participants' feelings and reactions would be described by me in the story of our journey and that their voices would be heard in the reflective phase. Their letters to me are reproduced in the postscript.

Extracts from the participants' written and oral data are reproduced in this thesis with their permission. To avoid value judgements, they are reproduced verbatim without corrections to grammar or vocabulary.

To differentiate between quotations from other writers' work and those of the participants, their words have been indented, italicised and placed inside quotation marks.


In order to assist the reader and to avoid ambiguity, whenever the following concepts are used in this thesis they should be read and interpreted according to the meaning I have attached to them.


It has been argued that education, development and training are three distinct fields [5] . In this study I have adopted a general term from Hornby (2000:401) and therefore education is taken to mean a process of teaching, training and learning to improve knowledge and develop skills.


Adult education is taken to mean any form of teaching and learning to improve the knowledge or skills base of adults.


Management education is used in its broadest sense and is interpreted to mean empowering people through teaching the knowledge, skills and attitudes required by an effective manager.


This refers to learning that takes place in a recognised educational institution.


Apple refers to curriculum as "educative environments in which students are to dwell" (1990:111). Based on his assertion, curriculum design [6] encompasses all elements of curriculum development and was a continuous and flexible process that planned and guided learning including, what needed to be learned, what resources were required and what kind of interactions were required. The design process involved various stages that were both interdependent and interconnected.


I refer to the management education programme or programme in terms of the product that was developed in this study. Implementation refers to putting the action plan for the management education programme into effect. Education is viewed as a process and therefore planning, implementing, evaluating, reflecting on and modifying the action plan are regarded as a process.


Reflection is generally taken to mean contemplation, however, in this thesis I adopt the action researcher's meaning of deep and critical thinking in order to understand a situation and improve action. In the words of Schön:

The practitioner allows himself to experience surprise, puzzlement, or confusion in a situation which he finds uncertain or unique. He reflects on the phenomenon before him, and on the prior understandings which have been implicit in his behaviour. He carries out an experiment which serves to generate both a new understanding of the phenomenon and a change in the situation (1983:68).


Throughout the study I have attempted to meticulously index all the literature references used in this thesis. Where exact words from written sources have been used these quotes have either been placed in quotation marks in the text or in the case of longer excerpts have been indented and referenced. Where general ideas have been paraphrased reference has been made at the end of the sentence or paragraph.

However, during the 16 years of this study and prior to that in my undergraduate and postgraduate studies, I have read a huge amount of literature and have engaged in many academic debates and therefore I acknowledge that I may be unconsciously and unintentionally guilty of plagiarism.