The participation rate of women in the labour force globally is increasing but the actual numbers that reach the top echelon of any organization are small. Many studies have cited this as the reason why women are considered unsuccessful in the workplace. However, studies revealed that the criterion of holding a top position is not necessarily considered a success indicator for women. The majority of studies thus far have tended to use an essentially male concept of success to measure women’s success in the workplace. This study sets out to establish how women and men conceptualize success and then try to answer the question: “How do men’s and women’s conceptualizations of the successful woman compare?” This multi-site and multi-case study comprised of 44 respondents from one public and one private organizations based in Malaysia. In-depth interviews were conducted with respondents across different type of employment, type of organisation, ethnicity and gender. Our study found that men and women have different conceptualization of success and of a successful woman. We identified 6 major elements of success for both male and female respondents, namely balance between work and family, spirituality, reference power, hard work leading to success, helping others, and happiness. However, both male and female respondents had difficulties in conceptualizing the essence of a successful woman. This paper presents the preliminary analysis with the hope to stimulate further discussion in preparation for a more detailed analysis of the links between culture, gender and the perception of success and the successful woman.
Lecturer, School of Management, OB/HR section., Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Penang, Malaysia
Associate Professor, School of Management, OB/HR section, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Penang, Malaysia
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