Gender Differences in Professional Advancement: The Role of Goals, Perceptions, and Behaviors
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CitationWilmuth, Caroline Ashley. 2016. Gender Differences in Professional Advancement: The Role of Goals, Perceptions, and Behaviors. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractWomen are significantly underrepresented in senior-level positions within organizations. A great deal of research has provided evidence that both demand-side factors (e.g., bias and discrimination) and supply-side factors (e.g., the different behavioral tendencies of men and women) significantly contribute to this gender disparity. However, demand- and supply-side factors are inextricably linked, such that differences in supply-side behaviors are often elicited in response to the divergent demand-side treatment that members of each gender receive. The aim of the current research was to investigate whether men and women’s goals, which are a strong predictor of downstream behavior, are similarly affected by differences in the ways that men and women are evaluated and treated. Thus, across 12 studies, employing a total of 6,245 participants, we examined differences in the professional advancement goals, perceptions, and behaviors exhibited by men and women. Our findings reveal that, compared to men, women view attaining power at work as less of a goal and opportunities for professional advancement as less desirable. To explore what may be shaping these differential objectives, we examined four potential contributing factors: (i) perceived attainability, (ii) perceptions of negative outcomes, (iii) perceptions of resistance and backlash to one’s ideas and abilities, and (iv) perceived belonging among one’s coworkers. While we found no gender difference for perceptions of attainability, resistance and backlash, or belonging, women did anticipate more negative outcomes (i.e., conflict amongst one’s goals, trade-offs, time constraints, and sacrifice) being associated with a promotion or high-power job opportunity. Moreover, these perceptions explained the relationship between women’s reduced desire for and pursuit of opportunities related to career advancement. These results are in line with the disproportionate level of domestic responsibilities placed on women as well as the conflicting nature of what it means to be a leader and what it means to be a woman from a societal expectations standpoint. Past research has shown that women’s perceptions of this imbalance and incongruity exert considerable influence over their behavior, but the current research suggests that this role conflict manifests itself on an even deeper level, by influencing the underlying goals that women have for themselves.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33493559
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