How a ‘nurturing nature’ holds some women back
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Sarah Veit
Network’s just released "Women 2020" report says that women as well as
men "need to consistently challenge society’s gender stereotypes” to achieve
cultural — and workplace — transformation.
research supports this view: The way women perceive themselves and define
success has a major impact on their career trajectories.
who see themselves as more caring may choose to compete less in the workplace than
men, according to "How Competitive Are Female
Professionals? A Tale of Identify Conflict,” a study by C. Bram Cadsby, Maroš Servátka and Fei
Song published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.
by society’s gender stereotypes, many women suffer from an identity conflict — ambitious
professional vs. nurturing caregiver — when competing with work colleagues,
according to the study of MBA students at
the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Men’s professional identities,
researchers found, reinforce their gender role.
are learned early in life, become part of one’s cultural understanding and are
internalized as personal beliefs and values,” Song said. "Such stereotypes are likely closely related to the differing
levels of competitiveness exhibited on average by men and women.”
In an experiment, the
MBA students were asked to perform a task for which they would be rewarded with
a substantial amount of money if they performed well. They could choose to be
compensated according to their performance or by how they performed against
three of their peers. Before the task, the subjects were asked questions of
either a professional nature or relating to gender and family. A control group
was asked neutral questions.
The result: The
priming questions had no effect on performance, but women answering the
professional questions were more willing to participate in the competitive pay
scheme than the women who were primed with questions about gender and family.
Priming did not have this effect on the male MBA students.
"These results suggest that life-cycle events
such as marriage, pregnancy and parenthood could have very substantial and
long-lasting effects on the activation of family identities with their
consequent effects on attitudes toward competition,” Cadsby said. "The decision
to avoid or minimize competition made by many women in professional careers may
be driven not by lack of ability, but rather by the increased salience of
gender/family identity, based on stereotypical beliefs, attitudes and ideals
Family and gender
roles also pay a big part in the way women perceive their own success, according
to a survey of 5,300 working women in 13 countries by LinkedIn and Cross-Tab. Asked to define "success,”
45 percent said success meant "earning a high salary,” down from 56 percent
five or 10 years ago. More than 60 percent defined "success” as "finding the
right balance between work and life,” up from 39 percent five or 10 years ago.
The survey, "What
Women Want @ Work,” asked the age-old question: Can women have it all — a
fulfilling career, relationship and children? Seventy-four percent said, "Yes.”
More than 40 percent of women said they are career-focused, but plan to switch
gears when they have children.
cited by the women ranged from lack of a clear career path (51 percent) and lack
of investment in professional development (47 percent), to inequality in pay
(44 percent), juggling family life (44 percent) and lack of a mentor or role
model (33 percent).
More than half of
working mothers (53 percent) said they love their children and career equally.
One-fourth said they love their children, but could never be a stay-at-home mom
and 22 percent said they love their job but would be a stay-at-home mom if they
Veit is a writer and editor and an MBA candidate at Rutgers
Business School in Newark, N.J., with concentrations in marketing and global
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