Much has been said about female talent drain and the glass ceiling: women who decide to abandon corporations or that do not make it to executive positions, depriving organizations of the benefit of diversity. What can we learn about those women who decide to stay in corporations and grow hierarchically? How is their experience? What motivates them? Looking for answers to these concerns, we conducted an investigation to look into women career development in companies in Argentina. We interviewed women in different areas (Finance, Human Resources, Quality, Marketing, General Management, Sales), with children of different ages and without children, in positions of leadership, management and direction. In their stories, we did not listen to traditional and rational models in search of greater power and hierarchical growth, but a complex set of priorities that women seek in their career decisions.
1. Leaving a mark
Women want to leave a mark in society, in their environment, through their work. This can be achieved from an NGO or also from corporations that provide spaces to make a contribution on relevant issues such as poverty, gender, or education. Even in important personal moments such as the birth of a new child, we have witnessed women relinquish flexibility, to make a transition to a job with high workload, no flexibility, but in which they felt they added value and left a positive legacy in their offspring. For example, Laura commented: “I wanted my daughter to see me there, in a job that would satisfy me and where I was doing something for the community. Although it presented many difficulties, it filled me from that side and I think it is a good example for my daughter. “
2. Enriching opportunities
We also observed an emphasis on learning and enjoyment on the job. In the interviews, women reported that each potential position was analyzed in terms of how it contributed to their own development, seizing the opportunities originated in having done a good job. For example, Alicia said: “I knew that I was jumping to something different, even though it is very comfortable to be in a large company, its work environment and luxury surrounds you. But I measured it in terms of learning, of new knowledge, and I left. “
Balance emerges as a priority, although as we saw, not the only one. And balance means different things. While all women want balance, to some it may mean picking up the children from school, to others arriving in time for dinner, to others completely enjoying the weekend and to others turning off the phone when leaving the office. What they told us is that the important thing is to feel comfortable with your own balance equation. And the balance is not minute by minute, sometimes the scale can go to one side for a while, to then go to the other and return to its axis. In the stories told, the search for balance led to important career decisions as in the case of Marcela, who left a C-suite role, choosing an interesting but lower position in a company that understood that ‘life is not only about work’. She told us about the situation: “In family vacations it would happen to me… my son pulling on me: “Mom, come to play”; my partner saying: “Enjoy the sea” and I was struggling to talk on the phone. I said: I love working but I really like the balance between the personal and the professional roles; I am not a person who is willing to be losing her mind with the phone at all times and spaces. And I was in a company that got into your personal life all the time, all the time. “
In short, professional women want everything. If they are going to dedicate many hours to their work role, it has to be more than an income, it must allow them to grow, to be passionate, to leave a legacy, in balance with their other important roles in life. Understanding what motivates women in their career decisions is key for leaders to meet those needs within companies, preventing them from feeling the need to develop themselves in another context.
These and other results of the research are presented in the book: Gadow, F., Suzanne, P. & Vidal, V. 2018. “Mujeres y Trayectorias de Carrera: Claves y Desafíos.”, EDICON.
About the author:
Pamela Suzanne is Professor and Director of MBA Career Development Track MBA at Universidad de San Andrés. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org