Researchers found “the life goals and outcomes that men and women associate with professional advancement are different.”
In one study, men and women were asked to list up to 25 “core life goals,” defined as, “things that occupy your thoughts on a routine basis, things that you deeply care about, or things that motivate your behavior and decisions.”
Women listed a higher number of goals than men, and a proportionately fewer amount of their goals were related to achieving power.
In another study, graduates from a top MBA program were asked to identify their current position, ideal position, and the highest position they could realistically attain on the rungs of a ladder labeled 1 through 10. There were no significant differences between the current positions and the highest positions they could attain, however the female participants chose significantly lower ideal positions on the ladder than male participants.
Women were also more likely to not accept promotions they were offered in the study, and women predicted more negative outcomes from the potential promotion such as stress, anxiety, difficult trade-offs or sacrifice, and conflict with their other life goals.
Slate ran a piece about the Harvard study, calling it a “convenient” explanation to a complex problem.
“There are plenty of well-documented external barriers to women rising in the workplace—little things like getting disproportionately negative performance reviews and not being hired in the first place,” said Slate writer Christina Cauterucci.
Cauterucci also said women’s preferences, “are deeply informed by things like imposter syndrome and socialization toward family care.”
The Harvard researchers do not dispute studies that suggest other reasons for the relatively low representation of women in positions of power, but argue that there is more to the story. Their key results indicate that men and women have different definitions of success, and many women do not define professional success as achieving power over others.
The ladies over at the Independent Women’s Forum have an informative video further explaining the facts behind the wage gap: