Choosing not to go on upwards, by men

Paula Factor 5, you may remember, is positive choice:  where women make the decision not to go for a job which is above their current level because they actively prefer to stay doing what they are doing, or to move in a horizontal direction.  They don’t need the money or the status that a promotion would bring;  they feel they are exercising their competences already and/or learning new ones; and they do not want to rise to a level where they might perhaps become examples of the Peter Principle.

I’ve been discussing this with a male friend.  He sent me the following:

“I know clearly in my own career I have been very doubtful about seeking advancement because of concerns about not being sufficientlycompetent. But these get muddled up with rationales about not wishing to take on the strain of more responsibility. And then in  retrospect it often looks as though this perception of strain proved to be right – it matters how you anticipate that you will respond to anxiety, pressure etc. Some seem to enjoy it , many suffer with it though.

Then I worked in a very progressive college with a large proportion of highly capable women middle leaders. A strong pattern developed of them not seeking promotion (and some males too), so other candidates were promoted instead.

There are two open questions for me here:

1.  What happens if a significant fraction of people with a particular profile opt out of promotion – does it leave an opposite type as more likely to be in leadership roles, by default?

2.  Are higher level jobs the wrong shape’?”

To which I replied:

I’m increasingly clear that jobs are often defined quite dysfunctionally, and this is now a definite feature of the gendering of work – i.e. jobs, especially senior ones, are defined in ways which – quite understandably – reflect those who currently hold them or have held them in the past;  and therefore ‘discriminate’ against women.  The really interesting question is how much plasticity there is in different jobs, i.e. what the elbow room is for rewriting the jd.

It would be great to hear from anyone who wants to follow through on any of his comments/questions, with examples or questions of their own.

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