Original Research - Special Collection: Women in Business in Africa

‘We are surviving well’: Adaptive strategies applied by women in an underground South African mine

Salome Jansen van Vuuren, Marius W. Stander, Vera Roos
South African Journal of Business Management | Vol 52, No 1 | a2431 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajbm.v52i1.2431 | © 2021 Salóme Jansen van Vuuren, Marius W. Stander, Vera Roos | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 October 2020 | Published: 01 December 2021

About the author(s)

Salome Jansen van Vuuren, Optentia Research Unit, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
Marius W. Stander, Optentia Research Unit, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
Vera Roos, Optentia Research Unit, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa


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Abstract

Purpose: Research into women working in mines in general is limited, and less so for their presence in underground mines. This study explores the adaptive strategies women employ to navigate harsh physical and perceived threatening interpersonal contexts in an underground mine in South Africa. A contexulalised framework and guiding heuristic contructs (structuration and agency) were adopted to identify and discuss women’s adaptive strategies for navigating challenging underground mining environments and to propose interventions.

Design/methodology/approach: A contextual, qualitative descriptive design was used. Twenty-one women in an underground gold mine in the North-West Province in South Africa were purposively selected and participated in semi-structured interviews (n = 18) and an informal group discussion (n = 3). Data was analysed thematically, using ATLAS.ti 8 (a qualitative data analysis and research software programme).

Findings/Results: The women identified challenges on three levels: intrapersonal, relational and systemic and adaptive strategies on four levels: intrapersonal (adopting a different perspective and questioning traditional beliefs), behavioural (self-defence, solution-focused actions, working hard); relational (supportive same-gendered groups, support from working teams, and safe interpersonal spaces for debriefing); and broader systemic support (approachable human resources (HR) department, supportive close relationships, and external stakeholder resourcing).

Practical implications: Interventions are proposed to support and strengthen the adaptive strategies of women working in mines.

Originality/value: Identifying and supporting adaptive strategies applied by women in the workplace can benefit women individually and their work-teams, as well as informing best mining practices and society more widely.


Keywords

gender theory; women; business research; female; entrepreneur; leadership; owner; work

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