Stereotypes in the South African mining industry : an exploratory study
Da Gama, Irene Yolandi Berreneace
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Since the first democratic election in 1994, the South African labour force has undergone various changes. As a result, a number of laws were implemented, which helped ensure the diverse nature of the South African labour force. Within a diverse workforce, stereotypes are more likely to occur, which is also the focus of the present study. This study explored not only the meaning and origin of stereotypes but also the prevalent stereotypes and the manner in which employees experience these within the South African mining industry. A qualitative research design from a combined phenomenological and hermeneutic approach was used for the purpose of this study by following a case-study strategy. A combination of both purposive and convenience sampling was used and participants’ responses were obtained by making use of semi-structured interviews. The population consisted of participants (N = 15) from different departments within a particular organisation in the mining industry in South Africa. The representation of the population was diverse and included male, female, various age groups, and different racial groups. Interviews were transcribed and thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Themes, sub-themes, and characteristics were extracted from the data and direct quotations of participants’ responses were analysed to support the findings. It was found that participants of this study are aware of and understand the meaning of stereotypes. Generalisation was the most prominent theme that was evident when asking participants about the meaning of stereotype. During the study it became clear that stereotypes exist within the mining industry and that individuals do entertain stereotypes of other individuals employed in this industry (out-groups), and also about themselves (in-group). The most prominent in-group stereotypes that individuals experienced are racially oriented. These stereotypes were experienced by White individuals, Black individuals and Coloured individuals, and it was mostly negative. The most prominent out-group stereotypes that individuals hold of others in their workplace were found to be occupational stereotypes. During the present study most stereotypes turned out to be negative in nature. Findings of this study also indicated that employees experience stereotypes on three levels, namely emotional, cognitive and behavioural. Participants of this study experienced stereotypes mostly on an emotional level. The study’s findings did show various origins of stereotypes and participants indicated that it originated mostly from secondary exposure. In these instances influences can be a result of factors such as affirmative action, apartheid, social interaction and upbringing. To conclude the study, recommendations were made for future research and practice in an industry with a diverse workforce.
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