Connections and disconnections: towards an understanding of reasons for mid-career professional women leaving large corporations
Silverstein, Jill S.
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The research study focused on the reasons why professional women are leaving corporate life at mid-career. In a series of in-depth interviews, fifteen mid-career women who had left large organizations recalled their initial expectations of corporate life and expanded and illustrated the ways they felt that these expectations had not been met. There were two key findings. The first was that while the women interviewed needed to work interdependently with others in order to grow professionally, develop personally, and to achieve satisfaction in their work, the corporations in which they worked were seen to hold mainly contrary values. Predominantly, the corporations in which they found themselves esteemed masculine ways of working, rewarding individuality, self-sufficiency, and individual contribution, and valuing tangible outputs, competitiveness, and rationality instead of valuing relationships, interdependence, and collaboration that the women sought. The second finding, corollary to the first, was that the women interviewed had experienced disconnections in the workplace. They felt disconnected from colleagues, clients, and co-workers, from meaning in the work itself, and most importantly, from themselves. By mid-career, they had concluded that in order to find satisfaction, growth, and development in work, and to be rewarded for their relational skills that they considered essential to success, they needed to leave corporate life. Miller and Stiver's (1997) relational theory of women's psychological development helps to explain the women's sense of disconnection in large corporations. The data make clear, consistent with the theory and relational practice, that a central question of development and satisfaction in the professional workplace for the women interviewed was "whether relationships can change so that they can allow and encourage expansion" (p. 53).
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