A Case Study of Career Success: Male Employees in Two Public Sector, Female-Dominated Occupations

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Solowiej, Kazia
  • Subject: BF | H1
    mesheuropmc: education

Patterns have been identified in the careers literature that suggest there has been a change from traditional to contemporary careers over time (Sullivan & Baruch, 2009). More recent research has seen definitions of career success being shaped to acknowledge the variety of career paths that now exist. Recent definitions therefore, often refer to the achievement of desirable work-related outcomes at any point in an individual’s work experiences over time (Arthur, Khapova & Wilderom, 2005), as opposed to achievements that are associated with the end of an individual’s career. However, it is argued that occupational context continues to play an important role in defining careers and subsequent career success.\ud Despite this, literature on gender and careers continues to advocate key differences in the success of males and females, regardless of occupational context. Predictors of male career success include objective indicators such as salary, promotions and hierarchical position; whereas subjective criteria, such as helping others and maintaining a work-life balance are thought to be more important to females (McDonald, Brown & Bradley, 2005; Ng et al, 2005). In contrast, many studies have focused on gender-segregated occupations and indicate that women experience discrimination and disadvantage in relation to success in male-dominated environments (Dann, 1995; Demaiter & Adams, 2009). However, despite a small body of research that documents mixed experiences of males in female-dominated occupations, career success of males in this context is yet to be explored.\ud This thesis therefore aimed to address the gap in the current knowledge by conducting an in-depth exploration of male definitions of career success in one professional and one non-professional female-dominated occupation. A qualitative methodology was adopted in response to calls from the career success literature to utilise this approach to uncover personal meanings of success.\ud First, a series of semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of male primary school teachers (n=15) and university administrators (n=19) to explore personal definitions of success, motivations for entry and experience of working in a female-\ud xi\ud dominated environment. Findings suggest that male definitions of success related to complex themes of personal, professional, social and life success, in contrast to objective and subjective categories in the existing literature. It was apparent that success was considered to be a fluid concept that could be achieved on a continuous basis in line with occupational and organisational influence.\ud The second phase of the case study evaluated career interventions available to males in primary schools and universities in relation to personal definitions of success. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with an opportunity sample of representatives from male’s employing organisations, including n=4 members of Senior Leadership Teams from primary schools and n=9 managers and personnel staff from universities. Themes that emerged suggested individual and organisational definitions of career success were conflicting at times. Specifically, career interventions did not always complement the achievement of success. Rather, males referred to the benefits of informal organisational mechanisms to support their achievement of success, such as communication, socialising and information sharing, which organisations did not appear to be aware of.\ud Overall, the case study provides a critique of the literature on generic predictors of male success by reconceptualising definitions to include themes of personal, professional, social and life success. Implications of the key findings are discussed and avenues for future research and applications to practice are considered.
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