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Women in the workforce: The effect of gender on occupational self-efficacy, work engagement and career aspirations

Rosanne L. Hartman (Department of Communication Studies, Canisius College, Buffalo, New York, USA)
Emily G. Barber (Department of Communication Studies, Canisius College, Buffalo, New York, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 3 February 2020

Issue publication date: 18 February 2020

Abstract

Purpose

While women perform as well as their male counterparts at work, women are drastically underrepresented in the onboarding process to senior leadership. The link between occupational self-efficacy and the role it may play in how men and women make decisions about work has not been done. The purpose of this study is to examine potential differences of occupational self-efficacy, career aspirations and work engagement between women and men.

Design/methodology/approach

Online surveys were created and sent out as emails and on social network sites including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Findings

Findings indicate that occupational self-efficacy has 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, men were found to have statistically significantly higher career aspirations than women do.

Research limitations/implications

While men and women do not differ in occupational self-efficacy or work engagement, men do have higher career aspirations than women do. Although women may believe they can accomplish challenging tasks in the workplace, it does not mean this belief is acted upon.

Practical implications

The study highlights the importance of occupational self-efficacy and its relation to career aspirations. 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, human resource practitioners should develop those individuals who are low or moderate in occupational self-efficacy with coaching, training and/or mentoring to build leadership capacity, increase self-efficacy and career-planning acumen.

Social implications

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. Finding ways to mentor women toward higher self-efficacy for their next career advancement will benefit organizations overall.

Originality/value

Research examining the role of occupational self-efficacy and its relation to career aspirations does not exist in comparing men and women.

Keywords

Citation

Hartman, R.L. and Barber, E.G. (2020), "Women in the workforce: The effect of gender on occupational self-efficacy, work engagement and career aspirations", Gender in Management, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 92-118. https://doi.org/10.1108/GM-04-2019-0062

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited