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Perceived barriers to career progression amongst female students: evidence from India and the United Arab Emirates

Seena Biju (Department of Management Studies, Humanities and Social Sciences, Sikkim Manipal University, Sikkim, India)
Khyati Shetty (School of Business, Curtin University Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Jason R. Fitzsimmons (School of Business, Manipal Academy of Higher Education Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 18 June 2021

Issue publication date: 12 July 2021




The purpose of this paper is to explore the perceptions of barriers to career progression among female university students. While significant literature has examined career enhancement in the context of employed women, little work has explored the perceptions of future career challenges of females about to enter the workforce and embark on their careers. This study derives its motivation from research findings that confirm that women need additional focused preparation for career advancement opportunities.


The study used a sample of 484 Indian female university students located in the United Arab Emirates and India. The study uses the established Career Pathways Survey scale (Smith et al., 2012a) to measure the four dimensions Denial, Acceptance, Resignation and Resilience to career progression. Structural equation modeling was used to model the four constructs as indicators of perceived barriers to progress.


The study finds that among the female students about to embark on their career journey, there is a strong desire toward achieving career success. The model is validated by the use of a structural equation model, and findings indicate that there is a strong sense of Resilience and an element of uncertainty about whether perceived career progression will be satisfying overall. No significant differences were observed in the perceptions across the two geographical locations. The findings suggest that continued efforts in preparing female graduates for career success are warranted.

Practical implications

The Career Pathways Survey may be a useful method to assist young women in identifying their career goals prior to entering the workforce. Interventions through training programs during their higher education may be beneficial in addressing perceptions that might hinder their later career growth.


This paper contributes to the understanding of the perceived barriers to career progression for women. Prior research has concentrated on career progression in the context of employed women. This study extends that work to understand the perceptions of women about to embark on their career journey.



Biju, S., Shetty, K. and Fitzsimmons, J.R. (2021), "Perceived barriers to career progression amongst female students: evidence from India and the United Arab Emirates", Gender in Management, Vol. 36 No. 6, pp. 697-713.



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