Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Career Success Factors of Women in the Public Sector: An Empirical Analysis of the Korean Central Government

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Career Success Factors of Women in the Public Sector: An Empirical Analysis of the Korean Central Government

Article excerpt

Abstract

The present study examines why some women are more successful in their careers than others. Although considerable research has been conducted on determining factors in women's career success in the private sector, those factors in the public sector remain under-researched. Two main goals of this study are (1) to investigate the factors affecting the career success of women in the public sector and (2) to assess the relative importance of personal factors and situational factors for women's career success. This study empirically tests a comprehensive model of career success that includes both objective and subjective elements using a survey of female public officials in the Korean central government. The results reveal that personal factors are associated more with women's objective career success than situational factors, and situational factors are related more to the subjective career success than personal factors.

Keywords: career success, gender, female public managers, South Korea

1. Introduction

As women's participation in the public sector has increased dramatically over recent decades, issues relating to women's careers have become more important. It is evident that many obstacles continue to inhibit women's career development in the workplace (Tower & Alkadry, 2008). Women working in the upper managerial levels occupy a relatively small proportion of the workforce in most countries (Adler, 1993; Burke, 2005). The majority of decision-making positions in government are still dominated by men (Guy, 1983). South Korea is not an exception to this phenomenon. Despite the increasing prevalence of women in the public sector, the representation of women officials in the managerial grade levels remains low relative to other countries that have joined OECD (Bae, Kim, & Kim, 2000; OECD, 2003). In 2013, women at the managerial levels occupied only 8.7 percent of positions in the Korean central government (MOSPA, 2014).

A considerable number of studies have investigated the question of why the proportion of women in the top managerial levels has remained relatively small, but many of those studies have discussed this issue using the concept of job segregation, the glass ceiling, and pay equity during women's integration process into the workforce (Tower & Alkadry, 2008). To offer another approach, this article deals with women who have managed to break through the barriers and constraints women continue to face. That is, this article is interested in what factors affect career success of women and what core competencies distinguish those successful women. Considering that it takes time to reform the existing human resources system dramatically, it might be meaningful to investigate the competencies of successful women who have already overcome existing barriers or ceilings in the public sector. The lessons from those women may provide real insights for women employees beginning their careers to establish the career model for the future. Although researchers have become increasingly interested in the characteristics of successful career women since the mid-1990s (Kirchmeyer, 1998; Northcutt, 1991), prior research on the determinants of factors of women's career success centered mainly on either the workforce in the private sector or took a case study approach for individual women. Therefore, this article tests empirically what factors contribute to more successful careers for Korean women in the public sector. Specifically, two main goals are explored in this study: (1) to investigate the factors affecting career success of women in the public sector and (2) to assess the relative importance of personal factors and situational factors for women's career success.

The present study is organized as follows. The first part examines the theoretical explanations concerning the concept of career success and determinants for women's career success. The second part deals with the research methods, and the next section shows the data analyses and results. …

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