Subjective experiences of employment equity in South African organisations

Rudolf M. Oosthuizen, Louise Tonelli, Claude Hélène Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Orientation: This article explores employees’ subjective experiences of employment equity (EE) within South African organisational contexts, adding diverse and in-depth insights to the post-apartheid EE discourse. Research purpose: The purpose is to hear the voices of employees of different social-cultural, racial and gender backgrounds on the experiences of EE in contemporary South African organisations. Motivation for the study: Research suggests that South African organisations are pressurised to redress past racial inequality. Understanding employees’ subjective experiences of EE adds value to the debate and provides the reader with an in-depth contemporary image of EE in post-apartheid South African organisations. Research approach/design and method: A hermeneutic phenomenological approach, within the qualitative interpretive paradigm, yielded in-depth, rich and detailed descriptions of employees’ experiences of EE in both the private and public sectors of the South African workplace. Main findings: Findings show five themes that are associated with experiences of EE within South African organisations. This study highlights differences of experiences regarding EE plans and processes based on racial background, gender and age, as well as on historical socio-cultural and racial classifications of being a member of advantaged and disadvantaged groups. The following findings are highlighted: the insight into the experiences of EE from the perspectives of the ‘born-frees’ (the differences in experiences of different age groups of employees) and the experienced discrimination of black male and female employees regarding race and the experiences of gender-based discrimination being described by black and white male employees. Practical/managerial implications: Findings show the focus of experiences of EE, the conflicting issues and what South African organisations need to focus on in terms of human resources management (HRM) and the development of employee relations across racial and gender divides. It shows which topics need to be addressed in employee development and training programmes to manage diversity constructively and effectively. Contribution/value-add: The findings can be used by human resources managers to: (1) monitor the progress towards EE competently and vigorously, (2) create awareness and communication within individuals, organisations and society regarding EE, (3) create best practices in order to benefit from EE (members of all racial, gender, cultural groups), (4) create a discourse on humanistic and reflexive HRM, and(5) implement consulting, training and development programmes in organisations that are strategically, sustainably and long-term orientated. Keywords: affirmative action; employment equity; diversity management; subjective experiences; post-apartheid South Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbera1074
JournalSA Journal of Human Resource Management
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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