The purpose of this paper is to examine: gender differences in the choice to perform challenging tasks, gender differences in the actual performance of challenging tasks, and the impact of challenging experiences on supervisors' evaluations of individuals' potential for career advancement.
In study 1, a sample of 158 students participated in a laboratory study that examined gender differences in choosing to perform challenging tasks in a situation that stressed individual performance. In study 2, a sample of 93 interns completed questionnaires in which the authors measured their challenging job experiences. Interns' supervisors evaluated interns' potential for career advancement.
In an achievement situation, women chose to perform fewer challenging tasks than men (study 1). During their internships, females had fewer challenging job experiences than males (study 2). Having challenging experiences was positively related to supervisors' evaluations of interns' potential for career advancement (study 2).
The use of student samples may be considered a limitation of these studies. However, the nature of the research questions justifies an initial examination among students. Moreover, small gender differences in experiences at the start of individuals' careers may ultimately lead to increasing discrepancies between men's and women's careers.
The study is the first to examine individuals' own impact on the extent to which they experience job challenge. Moreover, it is the first that empirically examines the relationship between job challenge and evaluations of career potential.
De Pater, I.E., Van Vianen, A.E.M., Fischer, A.H. and Van Ginkel, W.P. (2009), "Challenging experiences: gender differences in task choice", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 4-28. https://doi.org/10.1108/02683940910922519Download as .RIS
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