Compared to Men, Women View Professional Advancement as Equally Attainable, but Less Desirable
Women are underrepresented in most high-level positions in organizations. While a great deal of research has provided evidence that bias and discrimination give rise to and perpetuate this gender disparity, in the current research, we explore another explanation: men and women view professional advancement differently, and their views impact their decisions to climb the corporate ladder (or not). In Studies 1 and 2, when asked to list their core goals in life, women listed more life goals overall than men, and a smaller proportion of their goals related to achieving power at work. In Studies 3 and 4, compared to men, women viewed high-level positions as less desirable yet equally attainable. In Studies 5–7, when faced with the possibility of receiving a promotion at their current place of employment or obtaining a high-power position after graduating from school, women and men anticipated similar levels of positive outcomes (e.g., prestige, money), but women anticipated more negative outcomes (e.g., conflict, tradeoffs). In these studies, women associated high-level positions with conflict, which explained the relationship between gender and the desirability of professional advancement. Finally, in Studies 8 and 9, men and women alike rated power as one of the main consequences of professional advancement. Our findings reveal that men and women have different perceptions of what the experience of holding a high-level position will be like, with meaningful implications for the perpetuation of the gender disparity that exists at the top of organizational hierarchies.
Keywords: Personal Development and Career;