Seven Women Speak: Perceptions of Economic Empowerment Among Women in Cape Town

Cole, Shanna

The research study described in this paper examines women’s perceptions of their economic opportunities and sense of empowerment in Cape Town. Although the status of women in South Africa has improved since apartheid, there are still significant inequalities among women and men in the workforce. This gender discrimination has reverberating effects on the poverty and development of South Africa as a nation, as many argue that women’s economic empowerment is directly correlated with the overall growth of a country. South African policymakers would benefit from comparing and analyzing women’s views of their own economic opportunities, as this study highlights that women experience complex forms of discrimination based on their identities in society today. The participants of this small-scale qualitative research study are seven women of diverse races and ages. The synthesis of this cross-racial and generational research provides a non-representative sample of the concerns of women in Cape Town regarding economic empowerment. From these interviews it was found that cultural upbringing is a highly influential factor in women’s economic success that can significantly limit or promote women’s economic empowerment. This research also highlighted underlying insecurities that many women in the workforce feel regarding their professional abilities and value, an issue that results from intersectional oppressions experienced by women and from apartheid’s legacies of patriarchal power dynamics. Overall, the findings of this study suggest that women’s experiences with economic empowerment depend greatly on their unique culture and family structure, rather than purely racial and class distinctions. This research highlights the intersectional gender discrimination faced by women in Cape Town and emphasizes the need to address oppressive remnants of apartheid in South Africa today.

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On Our Terms: The Undergraduate Journal of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies

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Athena Center for Leadership Studies
Center for Digital Research and Scholarship
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October 21, 2015