Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Exploring Personality Traits, Mindfulness and Sense of Coherence of Women Working in Higher Education

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Exploring Personality Traits, Mindfulness and Sense of Coherence of Women Working in Higher Education

Article excerpt


Research in higher education institutions (HEIs) has emphasised that African institutions face managerial and social inequities, such as gender imbalances (Teferra & Altback, 2004), gender discrimination, stereotypes and bias (Martin & Barnard, 2013). These factors negatively influence the self-perceived psychological well-being of women (Mayer & Van Zyl, 2013) and affect their ability to cope with life/work-related demands (Mostert, 2009). Latzman and Masuda (2013) suggested that certain personality 'traits' may act as a buffer against the onset of psychopathology associated with the aforementioned demands. Yet, Human Resource Management (HRM) research on psychological well-being, sense of coherence (SOC) and mindfulness (MI), as well as the buffering personality traits (PT) amongst South African women in HEIs is limited.

Whilst HEIs aim to rectify gender imbalances by increasing the number of female students and staff (Chimombo, 2003), the latter still experience marginalisation and exclusion from senior positions (Mama, 2003). It has been emphasised previously (Baxter, 2012) that gender discrimination, glass ceiling effects, and work-life balance struggles as well as work overload impact negatively on women's health and well-being (Mostert, 2009). Past research on gender within South Africa mainly focussed on ill health (Macik-Frey, Quick, Quick & Nelson, 2009). However, with the recent shift towards positive psychology, research focus has been directed towards optimal health and well-being of women at work within African contexts (Darkwah, 2007; Louw, Mayer & Surtee, 2014; Opie & Henn, 2013).

With the increase of women in HEIs, research is needed that focusses not only on traditional concepts of women as caregivers (Boadu, 2000), but rather on women in 'feminine leadership' (Powell, Butterfield & Parent, 2002). Further research is needed on the sustainability of health and well-being of women from a positive psychology perspective (Mayer & Van Zyl, 2013). Previous research on (black) women in HEIs shows that women feel (1) challenged by 'Old Boy Networks', (2) isolated and disrespected, (3) salient of race and gender, (4) under or overloaded with work, (5) torn between family, community and career and (6) challenged by students (Viernes Turner, 2002, p. 77). These factors may attribute to a decline in well-being of women (Mayer & Van Zyl, 2013) and could affect work-related performance (Mostert, 2009).

Concepts, such as PT, SOC and MI, and their relationship within women in HEIs are described and investigated in this article to lay a foundation for scholarly inquiry regarding health and well-being in women. PT (extraversion and openness to experience) were shown to act as buffers against the effects of negative work or life demands (Latzman & Masuda, 2013), SOC and MI support female leaders in overcoming work challenges (Louw et al., 2014; Mayer, 2011) and PT and SOC are interrelated (Hochwälder, 2012; Kardum & Hudek-Knezevic, 2012; Latzman & Masuda, 2013). A meta-analysis indicated that MI is related to PT with the strongest correlations being between MI, neuroticism, negative affect and conscientiousness (Giluk, 2009).

The purpose of this paper is to determine the relationship between PT, MI and SOC of women working in South African HEIs. The study thereby contributed to the knowledge on PT, MI and SOC amongst women working in HEIs.

Literature review

Personality traits

The Big Five PT Questionnaire is based on one of the most cited models on personality research (Judge & Zapata, 2014). The Big Five PT provides understanding of PT at a broader level, including (1) extraversion (the extent an individual derives energy from both the social and material world and includes traits such as activity, assertiveness and sociability), (2) agreeableness (an orientation associated with altruistic, sympathetic and tender-minded interaction towards others), (3) conscientiousness (the extent of an individual's preference for self-control in relation to planning, organising and execution of tasks), (4) neuroticism (a dimension of normal personality associated with a tendency towards experiencing negative and dysfunctional emotions) and (5) openness to experience (the experience and acceptance of the breadth, depth, complexity and originality of one's psychological and experiential life and it includes traits such as an active imagination, sensitiveness to inner feelings, a preference for variety and acceptance of change) (Rothmann & Coetzer, 2003). …

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