Corporate amazons or empowerment spice girls? Elite black businesswomen and transformation in South Africa

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2 Scopus citations


This study attempts to map the consequences of elite black women's mobilization for capitalism in South Africa in the context of the literature dealing with the role of women in post-revolutionary politics. Although a scion of the on-going quest for "black economic empowerment," elite black businesswomen also see corporate entrepreneurship as a platform for fighting gender inequalities and white racial privilege. Five of the most successful black women-owned businesses were evaluated based on on-site research conducted between January and June 2001. Although some pioneer activist women went into corporate business following the transition from apartheid to black majority rule on their own initiative, their ascent owes much to the government with occasional cooperation from white business. A preliminary review shows evidence of achievements that qualify these businesswomen as "corporate Amazons." However, their strategic partnerships with corporate South Africa, their fields of accumulation, and their familial attachments appear to have exposed them to charges of "empowerment Spice Girls," facilitators of wealth accumulation by captains of industry and beneficiaries of patriarchal institutions. Suggestions for further research, fleshing out the implications for women's movements are made.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-508
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Developing Societies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


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