In traditionally male-dominated fields, women are less willing to make sacrifices for their career because discrimination and lower fit with people up the ladder make sacrifices less worthwhile

Loes Meeussen*, Christopher T. Begeny, Kim Peters, Michelle K. Ryan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Women's lower career advancement relative to men is sometimes explained by internal factors such as women's lower willingness to make sacrifices for their career, and sometimes by external barriers such as discrimination. In the current research, positing a dynamic interplay between internal and external factors, we empirically test how external workplace barriers guide individuals' internal decisions to make sacrifices for the advancement of their careers. In two high-powered studies in traditionally male-dominated fields (surgery, N = 1,080; veterinary medicine, N = 1,385), women indicated less willingness than men to make sacrifices for their career. Results of structural equation modeling demonstrated that this difference was explained by women's more frequent experience of gender discrimination and lower perceptible fit with people higher up the professional ladder. These barriers predicted reduced expectations of success in their field (Study 1) and expected success of their sacrifices (Study 2), which in turn predicted lower willingness to make sacrifices. The results explain how external barriers play a role in internal career decision making. Importantly, our findings show that these decision-making processes are similar for men and women, yet, the circumstances under which these decisions are made are gendered. That is, both men and women weigh the odds in deciding whether to sacrifice for their career, but structural conditions may influence these perceived odds in a way that favors men. Overall, this advances our understanding of gender differences, workplace inequalities, and research on the role of “choice” and/or structural discrimination behind such inequalities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-601
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of applied social psychology
Early online date8-Jun-2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2022

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