|Evaluating Affirmative Action|
|Written by Goga, Farhana|
Having explored perceptions and definitions of affirmative action, the study will now explore affirmative action within media organisations.
1. Affirmative Action is Effective
If affirmative action is defined in terms of management, that is, in relation to policies and individual empowerment, it becomes more of an investigation into overall distribution. Within the framework of this definition, the South African media in 1999 is more reflective of South African society, than in previous times.
a) Current Demographic Distribution of Media Organisations in Research Sample for all Job Categories
Race and Gender
There are more males of colour than any other group in the industry.
There are more people of colour than whites in the industry.
These results would appear to be more reflective of the general population in South Africa than before. The problem however is in the distribution of gender and racial groups across job categories.
There are more males than females in the industry.
If one examines the national figures that the country consists of 54% females, then there is an under-representation of women in the media industry, although managers may feel that women are doing "well".
b) Perceptions that Affirmative Action is Effective
Respondents who accepted a management view of affirmative action and those who believed that they have benefited from affirmative action also believed that affirmative action was working in South African Media. They felt that one should focus on the promotions.
When asked if he thought that affirmative action was effective, an older coloured male technician and a union representative (2) said :
A white male editor (1) stated that affirmative action was most effective in top and senior management positions rather than middle management and offered the following explanation:
An Indian female manager (5) said:
c) Changes Within Each Grade Between 1994 and 1999
A comparison between the 1994 and 1999 race and gender distribution within each grade also provides evidence proving that affirmative action is effective as change is noted. The number of people of colour and women are increasing in the higher grades. Further, there is a more or less equal distribution in the category of skilled labour, which is a change from 1994.
The grades are based on the Patterson scales and include:
Top and Senior Management (TSM): Executives, chairpersons/ group managing directors, general managers, senior managers, editors in chief
Middle Management (MM): Group managers, engineers, productions, managers, accountants, editors
Junior Management (JM): This is a specific category in some companies
Skilled Labour: Senior section leaders, foremen, senior technicians, artisans, bookkeepers, journalists, photographers, scanner operators, sub editors
Semi and Unskilled Labour: Section leaders, interns or trainees, receptionists, secretaries, driver, junior clerk, filing clerk
Top and Senior Management
Since 1994, there has been a 9% reduction in the number of jobs held by white males in the 13 companies which provided access to its personnel files. There has been no real change in the employment of white women. A 4% increase in the number of jobs held by males of colour occurred. In 1994, there were no females of colour employed. In 1999, change occurred as females of colour hold 6% of the positions.
White males currently hold most jobs. This figure is however 12% less than that of 1994. There has been a 4% increase in the number of jobs held by white women. The jobs held by males of colour have increased by 10%, whereas those held by females of colour have decreased by 2%, possibly due to promotions.
There has been a 10% decrease in the number jobs held by white males. A 5% reduction in those held by white females is noted. A 6% and 9% increase in those held by males and females of colour respectively, is evident. Reduction of white females in this category may be due to promotion to middle management.
There has been an 11% decrease in the number of jobs held by white males, a 2% reduction in those held by white females and a 2% increase in those held by males of colour. The above changes in this grade have served to level the distribution between these sectors.
There has been an 11% increase in the number of jobs held by females of colour. There is now just a 5% difference, (as opposed to 15% to the next group in 1994) between them and the number of jobs held by the next two groups.
Semi and Unskilled Labour
The number of jobs held by males of colour has increased by 7%; those held by white males have decreased by 9%. The number of jobs held by white females has increased by 2%. The number of jobs held by females of colour has remained the same at 40%.
It is possible that the decrease in white men is due to retrenchment.
2. Affirmative Action is Not Effective
a) Perceptions of Affirmative Action
People who felt that affirmative action was not effective responded with anger, disillusionment and sadness. These included journalists and administrative staff of colour. They expressed that the policy was in place but that in fact, in terms of them really benefiting, there were no real changes on a personal level. Power relations have not changed. Interviewees were asked, "do you think that affirmative action has been effective in the company". A young black female journalist (3) responded that it was not something she saw in either the newsroom or in the final product:
Often respondents acknowledged the existence of the policy. They however felt that the government forced the company into it and was not really committed to affirmative action. A coloured female journalist (4) said:
She went on to say that perhaps the company felt pressured into putting the policy in place.
An Indian male journalist and union representative (11) responded that it was "words reduced to paper".
A young black journalist (3) responded, talking about the effect of not having women and people of colour in top positions:
A white male manager (1) believed that the reason women are not in top positions is that they do not stay within the company:
In general, males and females shared the notion that the women in high positions are merely there as a gesture and are token women.
An Indian male journalist and union representative (11) stated that there were some changes but that it was merely a gesture without there being a real desire to promote and encourage women:
A coloured female administrator (4) reported:
A black female journalist (16) said that males still dominate:
However, staff in smaller companies reported differently.
A black male manager (13) said:
An Indian female journalist (15) in a small company:
A coloured male administrator (6):
b) Affirmative Action as Economic Empowerment
If affirmative action means spreading economic benefits then it is not effective across both race and gender. In all categories but semi and unskilled labour and junior management, males earned about 11%-12% more than females. In junior management women earned more than men.
TSM: Males earn 12% more than females
The largest discrepancy was with males earning 12 % more than females in top and senior positions and middle management.
Females earned 8% more than males in junior management and semi/unskilled positions.
Within the semi/unskilled labour category, there were more female receptionists, which is a higher earning job than the next job description dominated by men within this same grade.
The poor representation of women in top positions and their relatively smaller pay packages is an international trend. In general it is related to the belief that women are regarded as wives and mothers and not breadwinners (Dyer 1989; Gallagher 1981; Gallagher 1995; Hersh 1993; Johnson 1989; Joshi 1987; Manhando 1994; Smith et al 1989; UNESCO 1987; UNESCO 1997). In South Africa, the emphasis has been to redress race discrepancies rather than those of gender.
Salary discrimination affects morale. In a 1984 study conducted by Smith et al (1989) on Television: Sex discrimination in the newsroom in USA, figures confirmed that women earned less than did men. From 1955 – 1983, women earned between 57% and 64% of male salaries. In 1986, women earned 70% of what men earned. Overall salaries decreased as women entered the media industry (Gallagher 1981; Smith et al 1989; Joshi 1987). Women also received less of an economic return for their years of experience. The explanations given by managers were that women spend a shorter time at work than men do and do not invest as much due to other commitments. Further, women take time off work to raise children and when they return their skills are stale (Lafky 1989). Women however argue that they leave because of the lack of benefits. They also argue that women leave because of the salaries. A black female journalist (16) in this study remarked: Many female journalists leave because of the salary.
Similar trends occurred in comparison of people of colour and whites concerning salary. People in small companies complained that they get "pathetic" salaries. This ensures that people in these companies often leave to join other companies. Journalists are not aware if there is a salary discrepancy across race and gender, an Indian female journalist in a small company (15) said:
The South African trend is that whites earn more than do people of colour. The data from the questionnaire revealed this, except for the case of the new affirmative action positions in junior management.
A coloured male technician (9) said:
TSM: Whites earn 10% more than people of colour
The highest discrepancy was in skilled labour with whites earning 14% more than people of colour. The lowest discrepancy is in middle management, whites earned 2% more than people of colour. People of colour earned 9% more than whites in junior management positions. Interestingly, in the middle management category, males earned 12% more than females but whites earned just 2% more than did people of colour.
Generally, whites earned more than people of colour and males earned more than females. The salary discrepancy in terms of race was less than that of gender. Perhaps there is more pressure on companies in relation to redressing racial imbalances rather than those of gender, in the context of affirmative action. In addition, in junior management positions, people of colour and women earned more.
Junior Management is a new category for creating well-paid affirmative action positions. Further, companies do not want to lose these individuals as they are in high demand.
There has been a slight increase in the number of women and people of colour in the higher job categories within the industry. This has taken the form of shifts, in terms of employment within and between the job categories in the company, with a general decrease of white male employees, possibly due to retrenchment. This is a reflection of companies’ attempts to address the past imbalances. The debate that arises is how are people experiencing these changes and are companies focusing on gender, race or both. The establishment of the new positions is in keeping with the belief by management that affirmative action is a process of identifying, recruiting, training and promoting an individual into a junior management position (Alperson 1993a).
Redressing the salary discrimination on the basis of gender and race should be of utmost importance and specific attention should be paid to this in the company policy.
c) Distribution of Power
Trade Unions and Schreiner (1996) define affirmative action implementation as collective empowerment. If one accepts this definition then affirmative action is failing. Empirically, the best reflection of power is through the analysis of job categorisation. This section investigates the distribution of each group across sectors/grades of the industry.
In a study on Women Broadcasters and Affirmative Action at the SABC, Susan Manhando (1994) found that the SABC was not reflective of the demographic picture (in terms of race and gender) in South Africa. Further, through interviews conducted with staff, she found that there still existed discrimination based on race and gender. While men held most senior positions, white women held those few posts held by women. In general, promotion of women referred to white women. In general, women had to work twice as hard to show that they could do the job.
Karen Jackman (1998) conducted a study on Women Journalists and Career Advancement in the Case of Independent Newspapers in Durban over the preceding four years. She found that more males (especially white males) than females were employed in top and senior positions and hence that the glass ceiling effect continued. Treatment of leaders differed based on gender. Women had to work harder than did men in the same positions. She also found that workers felt that the affirmative action policy merely played lip service to women and was not effective in ensuring real change. Racial issues dominated gender issues and workers felt that affirmative action applied specifically to black men.
Distribution of Race and Gender by Grade
There are more males of colour in the industry than white males. The distribution of this across grades however shows that most white males (38%) held top and senior management positions. Most males of colour (36%) worked as semi/unskilled labour. There was an approximately even number of white females and females of colour in the industry, however, 45% of females of colour held semi/unskilled jobs. White women were equally concentrated among middle management, junior management and skilled labour.
Distribution of Race by Grade
There were more people of colour than whites in the industry. The semi/unskilled sector employed 40% of the total number of people of colour and only 5% of the total number of whites. Whites were concentrated in the top and senior management, middle management and junior management positions. There were more people of colour than whites in the category of skilled labour.
Distribution of Gender by Grade
Males were concentrated in top and senior management and middle management positions, with a steady and gradual reduction of the number of males in the lower grades. The opposite was true for females in the top and senior management positions, with a gradual increase of women from middle management to semi/unskilled positions.
The race and gender distribution and general trends reflect the historical legacy of the country. Some groups (Indians, coloureds and Africans) were excluded (strategically and structurally) from developing and thus from being able to advance within the corporate structure (Innes 1993; Kraak 1996; Sikhosana 1993). This occurred via legislation to inhibit economic growth, including ownership and access to facilities of certain groups, making it very difficult for Africans, in particular, to penetrate the centres of power in this country. This also explains the salary discrimination in terms of race (Innes 1993; Kraak 1996; Leresche 1993; Nkuhlu 1993; Sikhosana 1993). Thus, there is a need to rectify the past discrimination as emphasised by the new government. This has to occur via the Equity Act and affirmative action policies of the companies.
The lack of women in senior positions is a problem experienced internationally in media organisations (Beasley 1989; Gallagher 1981; Hersch 1993; Jackman 1998; Joshi 1987; Manhando 1994; UNESCO 1987). Women have to be empowered and barriers created by men have to be broken. It is to this that we now turn to in the following section.
d) Women in the media
Statistical information and experiences of media staff in this report show that there is an unequal power distribution, with white males dominating. Thus, although change is noted, marginalisation of women and people of colour occur. The marginalisation of people of colour is specific to the South African historical context (Apartheid laws and residue beliefs). Findings by Manhando (1994) and Jackman (1998) support this. Results in relation to gender follow international trends.
In a study by UNESCO (1990) covering eleven countries and seventy television stations, women were located in very specific areas in the organisation. Women accounted for 44% of jobs in administration (most of these jobs were junior secretarial and clerical posts which offered few career prospects in media), 30% in the newsroom, 4% in the creative professions and 1% in the technical sector. Thus, there appeared to be some barriers on jobs offered to women in the media. Further, women were allocated specific types of stories, as some were considered too dangerous for them (Smith, Fredin, Ferguson 1989).
Various studies conducted around the world concluded that sexism continues to exist in media. Women do not hold decision-making positions and hence positions of power within organisations (Dyer 1989; Gallagher 1981; Johnson 1989; Joshi 1987; UNESCO 1997). This is the result of the stereotyping1 of the sexes. The reason men gave for this sexism, was that women were incapable of making independent decisions (Joshi 1987).
DuToit (1996) found that even in community stations that relied on volunteers, usually men ended up on the air and in management positions. Women on the other hand, took on ‘invisible activities’ such as administration and secretarial work. When women did go on air, it was often as newsreaders and talk show hosts rather than music presenters. There was thus an off-air division of power as well an on-air one. The latter she argued, was reflective of a basic split along gender lines with men acting out "self-interest" and women taking responsibility for community development.
This study supports international literature. In response to the open-ended question "In what fields are women concentrated", in the questionnaire, the majority of companies replied that women are found in the administrative fields, with a few token women in senior positions. Reiteration of this occurred in the staff interviews.
The reason given for this concentration was that women did not study in other fields and thus there was a lack of availability of women, in certain types of jobs. Further, one company linked this to a societal belief that certain fields are suitable for each gender. Societal beliefs and its effect on the employment of women is well documented (Joshi 1987). Thus, there is a need to address these issues.
A more recently formed media organisation stated however, that women were concentrated in all areas. In this study, women in small companies felt they have more opportunities than did those in larger companies.
In Manhando’s 1994 study, the SABC did have a plan in operation to redress the imbalances from the past. They investigated who was due for retirement and then filled those vacant positions in light of their plan. They found it difficult though to get the right qualified people for the new positions and had to deliver training on the job. They also introduced a mentorship programme that involved selecting individuals in the SABC to be ‘protégés’ which would ensure the advancement of their careers. The focus of affirmative action was more towards race than gender. Women however did feel that this policy would indeed help them.
Further, there was salary discrimination with women earning less than were men. The reason cited for this was the fact that society does not regard women as breadwinners. No day care facilities were available at the SABC. She also reported that women felt that there was a lack of consideration for the multiple roles they played. Coloureds and Indians felt marginalised (Manhando 1994).
The qualification of women as submissive, unassertive and unambitious is entrenched in society. Hence, in the workplace women encounter two types of gender discrimination. Firstly, those men who do not acknowledge women’s equality and potential; and secondly those men who feel that they are being kind when they give women fewer responsibilities because of their chores at home (Alperson, 1993b).
Women’s subordination then, occurs primarily through their destinies as wives and mothers. Society dictates that they should operate primarily within the private sphere, while men should operate within the public sphere (Rapapport and Rappaport 1993).
In this study, many companies felt that the uneven gender distribution was changing as women gained more opportunities due to affirmative action and skills training. However, another organisation, which stated that the employment of women has not changed as the focus is on increasing black representation as opposed to female representation, contradicted the finding. Thus, women still do not fill senior positions.
Thus, there is a need to address salary discrimination, maternity leave, paternity leave and child-care facilities, as recommended by Manhando (1994) and Jackman (1998). Men and women must be recognised for the complex roles they play. Entrenched and internalised gender stereotypes and attitudes must be addressed within the work environment and then perhaps a ripple effect will occur in the private sphere. Managers must realise that the exclusion of women from training for senior positions is illegal.
When this was presented at a SANEF meeting a white male manager responded:
When I responded that this is possibly due to the internalised belief that they are not good enough, he responded:
Four women editors retorted:
Based on this, it is clear that there are many possibilities for informal discrimination to take place against women and people of colour and we will now turn to that.
There are more people of colour than whites employed in the industry which is representative of the South African population. Further, there is a 42% employment of women in the industry. While this is not representative of the population, one could argue that it is ‘fairly impressive’. Further, if one compares the 1994 and 1999 race and gender distributions within each grade, change is noted. Thus, affirmative action is effective.
However, if one examines the distribution (race and gender, race, gender) across grades, the experiences of staff and the economic distribution, the conclusion drawn would be that affirmative action is not working. Further, that is it is not effective as inequality persists in the power relations. Even if one examines the new junior management positions, white males continue to dominate.
In conclusion, management felt that the implementation of affirmative action has been effective, while journalists and administrative staff generally felt that it was ‘window dressing’. From this distinction, together with the examination of the Affirmative action as a concept and in the Critique of affirmative action, we can conclude that affirmative action as a concept and in practice, is contentious.
There is a lack of women and people of colour (blacks, indians and coloureds) in senior positions. White males dominate and male corporate culture exists. There are more males than females in the industry and more people of colour than whites.
White males tend to dominate on a decreasing scale from the category of top and senior management to that of skilled labour. The next most predominant, in the grades of middle management to skilled labour is white females. This is followed by males of colour, except for the category of middle management where they have a stronger presence than white females.
Thus, males, particularly white males dominate the top and senior management positions. People of colour dominate the positions of semi and unskilled labour, White women are well and equally distributed across levels of middle and junior management. The distribution of white males, white females and males of colour is more or less equal at the level of skilled labour.
There is salary discrimination.
Further, women are concentrated in administrative fields.
The overall distribution in the industry and the examination of changes within each grade since 1994 shows that affirmative action is effective. This belief is supported by managers and technical staff.
An examination of the distribution across grades and the economic distribution provides evidence that the implementation of affirmative action is not effective. This is supported by journalists and administrative staff who feel that affirmative action had been "words reduced to paper".