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Effective Executive Magazine:
Empowered Powerlessness in Production Environments
 
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The research encompasses the study of the lived experiences of empowered, senior women managers (executive, board and senior management levels) within environments producing materials or finished goods in South Africa. Production environments, with respect to this research, have included mining, food and beverages, pharmaceutical, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and healthcare, which are all experiencing increased global competition. It assesses the working relationships of these managers with their male colleagues, often characterized as prejudiced and biased environments, and the feelings of powerlessness that have arisen for the women as a result of these relationships. Despite the transformation of women in the modern workplace, women still feel alienated, locked-out, not taken seriously, and do not have sufficient support structures to turn to, as they continue to represent a minority in technical working environments—environments where progress is slow and not evenly spread.

   
During the last century, the makeup of women and leadership in the world has significantly transformed. Despite the increase in representation of women in the business environment, women leadership opportunities are still unequal compared to those of men. Barrett (2009) claims that the world has changed as a result of women’s struggle for equality, but with this change complexities in inter-gender relations have arisen. Another contributing factor to the increase of women in leadership positions is the recognition that women provide an array of skills different to their male colleagues, which can help organizations adapt to the rapidly changing work environment (Boud and Garrick, 2012; OECD as cited in Trzcinski and Holst, 2010).