Journey to the Top: Are There Really Gender Differences in the Selection and Utilization of Career Tactics?

By Laud, Robert L.; Johnson, Matthew | Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Journey to the Top: Are There Really Gender Differences in the Selection and Utilization of Career Tactics?


Laud, Robert L., Johnson, Matthew, Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict


INTRODUCTION

There exists extensive research on career success characteristics, yet focused upward mobility studies are few and results have been inconclusive and often contested (Barrick & Zimmerman, 2009; Carter & Silva, 2010; Groysberg, 2008; Harris, 2008; Kelan & Jones, 2010). Moreover, researchers have noted that many gender questions regarding management success have gone unanswered and have repeatedly called for comparisons of how men and women in similar career situations create their upward journeys and what differences are exhibited (Gottfredson, 2005; Kirchmeyer, 1998; Powell & Mainiero, 1992; Whitmarsh, 2007). There is little empirical or theoretical support that provides an understanding of how males and females organize and formulate their career tactics on their ascendancy. To address this issue, our research provides empirical data specific to gender tactic selection and offers further theoretical insights into this dynamic. In addition, the findings have practical application that will contribute to the career strategies developed by both men and women.

Previous studies have largely explored pre-hire predictors or antecedents of career progression which emphasize factors that are established primarily prior to employment, but do not reflect the situational shifts and subsequent tactics that either males or females may exploit. The career literature on these career antecedents is extensive and includes factors such as demographic data, e.g., age, gender, race (Judge, Cable, Boudreau & Bretz, 1995; Kelan & Jones, 2010; Tharenou, 2001;); industry strength and profitability, e.g., (Bell & Straw, 1989; Eby, Butts & Lockwood, 2003; Siebert, Kraimer & Liden, 2001); and more psycho-social investigations, e.g., Big 5 personality dimensions, trait approaches (Boudreau, Boswell & Judge, 2001; Daft, 2008; Kirkpatrick & Lock, 1991; Stogdill, 1974); proactive personality traits (Seibert, Kraimer & Crant, 2001); and career and organization commitment (Sturges, Conway, Guest & Liefooghe, 2005; Sturges, Guest, Conway & Mackenzie Davey, 2002). However, these important studies provide little insight into those factors or tactics that can be controlled by individuals and modified against changing circumstances. And what few studies there are on upward mobility do not offer sufficient theoretical insight with regard to male-female differences (Whitmarsh, 2007). Further, within the growing body of research on women's careers there seems an overconcentration on barriers to advancement and work-life issues (Greenhaus & Foley, 2007; Kottke & Agars, 2005;). As women assume a greater percentage of managerial and professional positions, which the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports as over 51% in 2009, along with increasing economic power, there has been a call for new models of career development that more fully explain the multi-dimensional complexity of upward mobility actions, apart from prede-termanants (Kirchmeyer, 1998; Whitmarsh Browm, Cooper, Hawkins-Rogers & Wentworth, 2007).

Career Success

There exists a wide variety of definitional constructs applied to career success. Research on predictors includes demographic data, social capital, work orientation, and industry and organizational characteristics (Judge et al., 1995). Success, based upon this model, would include both objective and subjective measures. The objective measures may include compensation, title, level, and number of promotions. The subjective measures are focused on both work and life satisfaction as perceived from the viewpoint of the career player. Satisfaction measures, as well as predictors, have been subject to issues of standardization and have been contested (Ballou, 2010; Hall and Chandler, 2005).

The definition of success has been of great interest to scholars, career researchers, counselors, career aspirants, executives and organizations for many years. …

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