Challenges impeding women into leadership roles in a student-led organization at a South African higher education institution

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The study shows that a patriarchal society where women are still in the minority when it comes to leadership positions is still dominating. A few studies are exploring the role of women in leadership in government and industry, and very little focus is paid on higher education institutions and more especially – from a female leadership perspective. Therefore, this paper aims to determine the factors that hindered female students from attaining leadership positions and simultaneously make recommendations to create more leadership opportunities in a nationally recognized student-led organization known as the Student Representative Council at a large public South African higher education institution – the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The target population was 16 female leaders who served in the University’s Student Representative Council from 2019 to 2020 of which 13 had responded. A qualitative approach was followed and interviews were conducted. The study employed inductive qualitative thematic analysis using NVIVO 12. Findings revealed that the Student Representative Council structure at the university was patriarchal with little commitment to gender equality. Males outnumbered women in leadership roles. Portfolios assigned to women were mainly administrative rather than leadership. Females were subjected to stereotypical behavior. The study recommended ways to promote female student leadership whereby policy and constitution change is required to facilitate gender equality and the implementation of quotas. Women should be empowered to enhance their leadership skills via effective leadership development programs specifically designed for females to address the leadership gap between males and females.

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    • Figure 1. Age
    • Figure 2. Qualification
    • Figure 3. Length of service in the SRC
    • Conceptualization
      Nokwanda Jali, Sachin Suknunan, Anrusha Bhana
    • Data curation
      Nokwanda Jali
    • Formal Analysis
      Nokwanda Jali
    • Investigation
      Nokwanda Jali, Sachin Suknunan
    • Methodology
      Nokwanda Jali, Sachin Suknunan, Anrusha Bhana
    • Project administration
      Nokwanda Jali, Sachin Suknunan
    • Resources
      Nokwanda Jali, Sachin Suknunan
    • Validation
      Nokwanda Jali, Sachin Suknunan, Anrusha Bhana
    • Visualization
      Nokwanda Jali
    • Writing – original draft
      Nokwanda Jali
    • Software
      Sachin Suknunan
    • Supervision
      Sachin Suknunan
    • Writing – review & editing
      Sachin Suknunan, Anrusha Bhana