Women in the Workforce

January 26, 2021

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Buffalo, NY - While women perform as well as their male counterparts at work, they are drastically underrepresented in the onboarding process to senior leadership. To shed some light on this disparity, Rosanne L. Hartman, PhD and Emily G. Barber MS ’19 examined the potential differences of occupational self-efficacy, work engagement and career aspirations between women and men.  Hartman is a professor of communication studies; Barber is director of contract staffing at StraussGroup Executive Search Consultants. The study originated from Barber’s capstone research paper at Canisius College.

Results showed that occupational self-efficacy has a positive effect on career aspirations of women in the workplace. Further, there was no statistically significant difference between occupational self-efficacy and work engagement between men and women. However, the research found men to have statistically, significantly higher career aspirations than women.

Individuals who are high in occupational self-efficacy may set their own path in advancing within their career. However, individuals who are low or moderate in occupational self-efficacy may require further encouragement and development using additional resources as a catalyst for advancement guidance. While no differences were found between men and women in occupational self-efficacy, the study suggests that individuals who are low or moderate in occupational self-efficacy would benefit from coaching, training and/or mentoring to build leadership capacity, increase self-efficacy and career-planning acumen.

Further, men and women behave differently when seeking career advancement and in their career aspirations. For men, advancement is linked to performance, whereas, women use a multi-pronged approach focusing on preparing for career success and building role competency.

Differences in strategy for advancement mean men will actively engage in behaviors to advance even when they do not have the knowledge or experience to perform in the new role. Conversely, women seek to feel competent in a work role prior to seeking it out.

The study, Women in the workforce: The effect of gender on occupational self-efficacy, work engagement and career aspirations, was published in Gender in Management –An International Journal (January 2020).