What Keeps High Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions: V. Method and Research Design
The researcher chose not to use academic degrees or salaries to qualify the participants. This study defines high achievement as a behavior, not as an accomplishment. Since the focus was to discover why women aren’t selecting, being promoted into or staying in executive positions, the results should apply to any high-achieving woman working in U.S. corporations whether or not she has advanced degrees, officer titles or make an income of six figures or more.
The women were between the ages of 28 and 52 with at least ten years of corporate experience. Women born before 1955 were the trailblazers in the history of American corporations, marking the first generation of women to launch professional careers and fill senior management seats in numbers. (Bell, et al., 2001) Therefore, the upper limit of the age range was set at 52. The age of 28 was chosen based on Daniel Levinson’s (1996) analysis which states that after the age of 27, women develop a fairly clear, coherent sense of self in response to their tasks and challenges. Prior to that age, they are in a time of exploration. Their identity is not fully formed, their environment changes more frequently and they experience more events that are new to them so they cannot rely on their own experiences for direction. (Roberts, Helson & Klohnen, 2002)
The researcher used her own clients and network of executive coaches around the United States to locate 92 women willing to participate. Once a pool of women was identified, they were given a DISC assessment and short questionnaire to ascertain if they met the criteria for inclusion. After 30 days, 75 women were selected who matched the DISC profile, age and experience requirements (thus, 17 women did not qualify). This list included married and single women, childless women and mothers with children, and women of color. From the 75 women, nine were randomly selected and invited to participate. All accepted. They were all interviewed in person with the researcher in five different cities.