What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions

What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions

These needs often run counter to the traditional view of “ambition” focused on a self-centered drive for more titles and money. (Fels, 2004) Although most women, like men, embody a drive toward mastery which is selective, directive and persistent, (Erikson, 1950), they, more than men, would rather cooperate than battle to achieve their goals. (Fels, 2004) Even aggressive high achievers seek to complement rather than compete with men directly. (p. 54) However, since most corporate cultures are still fashioned around recognizing individual effort, after spending time in the workplace, high-achieving women are more likely than men to conclude that their goals aren’t rewarding enough to justify the effort required to reach them. They then make new goals, rarely following the paths they envisioned when they started their careers. (p. 57)

It appears that women are spending less time worrying about attaining prime corporate positions and more time on lifestyle choices and on their personal definitions of “being successful” and “being a leader.” (Ruderman, et al., 2002) Although they are often judged as not being ambitious or not caring enough about pursuing personal power, it could be that they define “ambition” and “power” very differently than traditional characterizations. (Konrad, Ritchie, Lieb & Corrigall, 2000) These perceptions would affect their choices to stay or opt out of a company or career path, and if they stay, what behaviors they would present.

Therefore, when it comes to determining the crucial choices women make for their careers and their lives, it is important to study their inner as well as their outer journey to provide them with clarity and insights that will help them be successful leaders. In other words, we need to know more about what factors into the difficulties women face in perceiving themselves as successful professionals in addition to the obstacles in the outside world. (Wagner, et al., 2006)

The entire dissertation is available as a download below: Marcia Reynolds (2007) Personal Factors of High-Achieving Women That Contribute to the Low Number of Executives in Corporations. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Professional School of Psychology, Sacramento, California, USA.


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About the Author

Marcia Reynolds

Marcia ReynoldsIn addition to coaching leaders in global companies, Dr. Marcia Reynolds travels the world speaking and teaching classes in advanced coaching skills, leadership and emotional intelligence. She is the author of 3 books and has been quoted in major online and print publications in the US and Europe.

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