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January – June 2018

The SABPP Women’s Report 2018: Women blue-collar workers

SABPP
  • Prof Anita Bosch
  • JUL 2018
  • Tags Reports, Women
10 minutes to read

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What does the future hold for women blue-collar workers? This is the theme of the 2018 edition of the SABPP Women’s Report, with USB’s Prof Anita Bosch as editor published a collection of research papers on various aspects of fairness impacting women in the world of work.

Chapter 1, written by futurist Dr Lize Barclay, is titled Rise of the machines: Friend of foe for female blue-collar workers? Artificial intelligence is developing at a rate that had several of the world’s leading technology thinkers create a charter for ethical development of AI. But how will the Fourth Industrial Revolution and automation affect women blue-collar workers? Over and above upskilling, there is the artisanal niche with a growing demand for ethical, responsible and sustainable homemade products and handmade goods. Technology as the support system for female blue-collar workers could boost sales, enhance accuracy, limit downtime, and open up possibilities for more customers and products. Blue-collar workers should be made comfortable with technology. They should be assured that they are not destined only for pink-collar positions, but for a world of well-paid artisan jobs available to them.

Blue-collar workers should be made comfortable with technology.

In Chapter 2, Dr Tessa Wright from the Queen Mary University of London takes a look at how to increase women’s representation in the construction sector based on a project in the UK. The Women in Construction (WiC) project was established in 2008 to provide opportunities for women to work on the construction of London’s Olympic Park, and, due to its success, has continued to support women into construction employment. This chapter focuses on the lessons from the WiC project that could be adopted more widely by employers and other stakeholders who wish to increase women’s participation in the sector. Today, the WiC project offers a model for how women can be assisted to gain employment in the notoriously male-dominated construction sector.

The WiC project offers a model for how women can be assisted to gain employment in the notoriously male-dominated construction sector.

In Chapter 3, Nthabiseng Moleko, a lecturer at USB, says technical vocations offer a way forward for blue-collar workers. It is clear that we need to increase women’s economic participation as women are currently the highest recipients of social welfare. The employment of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sectors is lower than that of men. However, entry into STEM positions requires education, skills and training. Technical and vocational education is typically offered by the former technikons, now referred to as Universities of Technology, Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) colleges, and universities. The level of participation by women in these sectors remains low, with only 35% representation at management and professionally qualified levels. TVET colleges remain under-utilised in driving broader national economic priorities, and it is crucial to strengthen linkages between labour market entrants from TVET colleges and employment opportunities in these sectors, particularly for women. It is also important to retain women in these sectors to promote diversity and limit their exit due to adverse conditions. It is about recognising the full humanity of women and removing the barriers that prevent us from making our best unique contribution to the development of our country.

TVET colleges remain under-utilised in driving broader national economic priorities…

In Chapter 4, USB’s Dr Babita Mathur-Helm explores the lack of HR management interventions for women blue-collar workers. Compared to men, women blue-collar workers are consigned to low wages, unmotivating job terms, and unpleasant employment conditions. These inequalities adversely affect human resources practices relating to women, for example policies, decision-making, job enactment, hiring, training, pay and promotion. This chapter therefore aimed to identify the conditions under which women blue-collar workers do their jobs and receive rewards that may or may not motivate them. Among others, it was found that paid leave is a significant motivator for women blue-collar workers. Money is not the main motivator for women blue-collar workers, but they do desire security in the form of retirement plans and health benefits. In South Africa today, women workers continue to face challenges such as higher unemployment, lower income, and less access to assets. Poor HR practices related to women blue-collar workers are causing a lack of motivation, dissatisfaction, disengagement, and health problems, which affect their performance. HR practitioners need to understand the choice of rewards that are real motivators of job performance for women blue-collar workers, who prefer job security over monetary rewards.

Money is not the main motivator for women blue-collar workers, but they do desire security in the form of retirement plans and health benefits.

In Chapter 5, Prof Hugo Pienaar, Prinoleen Naidoo and Lerato Malope look at labour law and the trial and tribulations of women blue-collar workers. Women in blue-collar industries still experience significant discrimination and victimisation. The root cause of these injustices is employers’ failure to distinguish equality from equity. This is in direct contrast to the values of the South African Constitution and the non-sexist agenda of the labour movement. Employers are encouraged to adopt a proactive approach in dealing with these systemic problems, as dealing with them on a case-by-case basis is not only a financial risk, but also undermines their constitutional duties.

Women in blue-collar industries still experience significant discrimination and victimisation. The root cause of these injustices is employers’ failure to distinguish equality from equity.

Prof Anita Bosch lectures in Women at Work, Human Capital Management and Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

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