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How We Define Success: A Qualitative Study of What Matters Most to Women and Men

Abstract

In this article we explore how women and men define success and how their definition of success affects their career progress. Qualitative analysis of data from 40 interviews with successful women and men suggest that gender differences do exist. Women highlight the importance of balance and relationships. Men focus more on material success. Similar numbers of women and men thought that their definitions of success had limited their career progress, but the tradeoffs they reported making were distinctly different. Our results suggest that gender differences in the meaning of success exist even when occupational attainments are similar.

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Notes

  1. Respondents’ comments are quoted with an identifier that indicates their sex and interview number. For instance, W09 indicates the ninth woman we interviewed.

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Correspondence to Lorraine S. Dyke.

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This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Office of Research Services, Carleton University. We wish to thank Michelle Kealey, Siobhan MacDonald, Sheona McGraw, and Shirley McKey for their capable research assistance.

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Dyke, L.S., Murphy, S.A. How We Define Success: A Qualitative Study of What Matters Most to Women and Men. Sex Roles 55, 357–371 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9091-2

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Keywords

  • Gender
  • Success
  • Careers
  • Trade-offs