What Keeps High-Achieving Women from Choosing Executive Positions: VII. Results: Themes Four and Five
Survey response: The women were asked to choose or name the top five things they need to feel good about their jobs. The words chosen most often were: Autonomy (52%), Opportunities to learn new things (49%), New challenges (49%), Making a difference (46%), and Appreciated and Recognized (36%). The items that were chosen by less than 20% of the participants were Support for personal development (18%), Fun (18%), People to dialogue with (15%), and Attention (6%). Clearly the women are task focused, they seek independence and they like to be acknowledged for creating significant results.
Their definition of success focuses on freedom and achievement. They want the freedom to do what they define as meaningful and of value, and for many of them this definition broadens with experience (their ‘sphere of impact’ increased with age).
Sample interview responses:
(AS) “I think success for me now is working in a field that I’m passionate about that’s contributing to society. That meets my needs on several different levels. Creating positive change meets my mental, physical, emotional, and social needs. If I could look back and say, okay I’ve created positive change internationally and it’s still contributing back to the greater whole, then that would be success to me.”
(AW) “I want acknowledgment not just for my work, but that I can do more. That’s what I want. I want them to say, ‘Yeah you did that, we gave that to you, you did great, now here’s something more.’ It’s not that I need to tell the entire world that I got it done in time and on budget, but I want the people who matter to know that so that they give me more to do…I should clarify that. It’s not just more, it’s always having something new to do that is important.”
(JS) “[Success] is the freedom to do whatever you want to do…to know that you don’t have to do this thing for 15 more years is really great freedom…That you can always go do something else you feel is more important and adds value.”
(JE) “I was restless. I now have an anchor… Too many days I would ask, ‘Am I going to spend 50 years getting up and doing this?’ Now I’m happy to answer yes to that question…Before I felt my drive was to impact the bottom line. Now I’m impacting people’s lives. It’s much more fulfilling…I’m in a peaceful place. Before, my life was not peaceful.”
(MR) “I define success as having the freedom to only do the work that fuels my passion and my joy. When I do that, I can make a difference in people’s lives.”