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Do gender differences in career aspirations contribute to sticky floors?

Nick Deschacht (KU Leuven, Brussels, Belgium)
Ann-Sophie De Pauw (IESEG School of Management, Lille, France)
Stijn Baert (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 3 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to test hypotheses regarding the importance of employee preferences in explaining sticky floors, the pattern that women are, compared to men, less likely to start to climb the job ladder.


The authors use original data obtained using a survey and a vignette study in which participants had to score the likeliness with which they would accept job offers with different promotion characteristics.


The main findings are that young female professionals have a less pronounced preference for more demanding and less routinary jobs and that this effect is mediated by the greater risk aversion and anticipated gender discrimination among women. No gender differences were found in the relative likeliness to apply for jobs that involve a promotion in terms of job authority.

Research limitations/implications

The vignette method assumes that artificial settings with low stakes do not bias results. Another limitation follows from the focus on inter-organizational promotions among young professionals, which raises the question to what extent the results can be generalized to broader settings.


This paper contributes to the literature on gender differences in careers by measuring the impact of employee preferences on gender differences in career decisions.



Deschacht, N., De Pauw, A.-S. and Baert, S. (2017), "Do gender differences in career aspirations contribute to sticky floors?", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 580-593.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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