Women’s careers: Beyond organizational boundaries
This British Academy/Leverhumle funded research project conducted in collaboration with Women to Work, a local business with social aims, challenges conventional assumptions about how women's career paths differ to those of men.
Women’s career paths are generally different to those of men in as much as they may not be linear (i.e. gradually climbing upwards through hierarchies), instead tending to be characterised by periods of absence from paid employment and by limited hierarchical advancement. Many women do not see career success as residing in such advancement, but rather view the achievement of balance and personal fulfilment as important career outcomes. At present, however, our available theories of career do not adequately capture these realities because they assume that work and life represent separate elements of our life and that making successful career choices is largely driven by our ability to accurately evaluate our job related strengths and weaknesses.
This British Academy/Leverhumle funded research project conducted in collaboration with Women to Work, a local business with social aims, challenges these assumptions. Based on a qualitative study of women attending work-life balance workshops (run several times a year by Women to Work), using observation of workshop activities coupled with interviews with workshop participants, the study has explored how women make sense of their lives inside and outside of paid employment and what this means for contemporary understandings of career and career outcomes in both practical and theoretical terms.
The findings to date suggest that work and life are not separate spheres of existence but are intimately related to each other, strongly influencing women’s career journeys, career expectations and career aspirations. The study further suggests that career choice is not a rational process based on accurate assessment of strengths, weaknesses, values and aspirations but is rather a serendipitous process driven by chance encounters and ongoing and constantly evolving awareness and development of personal attributes, personal values and goals, and possibilities for the future.
The Women's Careers project hosts a group on LinkedIn. This group is for women (and men) at any stage in their careers who would like to learn more about the findings from this project, and what they imply for us, our children, and for government and organizational career policies.