Research Summary

The construction of self, profession & gender through transitions

by Kathleen L. McGinn


With Beth Humberd, Rachel Arnett & Judy Clair

We study the developmental transitions experienced by women leaders in the private and public sectors, exploring the role that gender, family & profession play in identity construction over a career. Our findings are based on the women's career histories as conveyed through extensive interviews. Women vary in the degre to which they understand transitions as a seiries of "struggles to overcome" vs. "triumphs along the way." Women leaders' definitions of successful transitions also vary. Some women define transition success solely by the impact on their career - all transitions are viewed as stepping stones to professional success. For others, personal and professional transitions and successes are interwoven, sometimes sequentially and sometimes simultaneously. Across examples, relationships are pivotal in successful transitions.