What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions: V. Method and Research Design
However, the intention here was not to take a person’s history in the academic sense, focusing on chronological events. The focus is on the word “story” to help the participant to feel fully engaged and safe enough (not fearing evaluation or judgment) to include emotions, interpretations and underlying messages. (Levinson & Levinson, 1996) The story is the medium where the participant can give a fuller, more textured, more coherent account of joys and sorrows, times of abundance and times of depletion, the sense of wasting one’s life or of using it well, and efforts at building, maintaining and ending significant relationships. (p. 9) Therefore, the interviews were conducted in an open, narrative way based on questions intended to stimulate the person to tell stories. (Polkinghorne, 1989) The interview encouraged reflection, supporting the person in “remembering, making connections, evaluating, regretting or rejoicing.” (Wagner, et al., 2006)
The interviewer’s task was to facilitate the storytelling by actively listening, by affirming the value of what was heard, and by offering questions and comments that help the participant to more fully describe her experiences. The intent was for the participant to feel more like she was having a conversation with a friend instead of recounting facts with a researcher. (Gersick & Kram, 2002)
The questions were open-ended. Although the bulk of each interview focused on career choices and behaviors at work, questions were also designed to explore particular life issues that impact her later career choices, such as how her parents encouraged her achievements, specific school-age experiences that played into career choices and significant adult relationships and events that affected occupational decisions.