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Careers in cross-cultural context: Women bank managers in Finland and in the United States

Sarah Williams Jacobson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Assumptions of neo-classical economics have defined most career theorizing and research in management and organizational scholarship. However, over the thirty years following enactment of equal opportunity legislation in the USA, the incorporation of career experiences of women managers within this model has been uneasy. This dissertation, informed by feminist epistemological standpoints, demonstrates an approach for exploring career experiences of women managers outside traditional theoretical models. Assumed splits between organization/individual, career/private life, and objective/subjective experience, common in past scholarship, are abandoned in favor of a holistic view which considers the careers of individuals in relation to the organizational, economic, legal, governmental, and cultural contexts in which they are conducted. Adopting a comparative/polycentric research design, career experiences of women managers in two diverse societies (the USA and Finland) were studied. The inductive, socio-linguistic project was guided by two research questions: (1) How do a group of women managers in two diverse cultures frame the subjective experience of "career"? (2) What can be learned about cultural, institutional, and organizational values and priorities from the subjective expression of individually experienced lives? Using Q-methodologies for data collection in each location, career "scripts" were fashioned which connect the micro (individual) and macro (contextual) levels of analysis. Results support contentions that: (1) scholarship examining career experiences of women managers must, of necessity, include experience in both the world of work and private life; (2) universalizing career concepts are faulty because they ignore the importance of institutional form and practice in molding individual experiences; (3) scripts of career have a parochial dimension and are filtered through values of the wider culture in which they exist; (4) any study of "managerial careers" must distinguish the context in which notions of "management" exist; (5) traditional requirements of objectivity and neutrality in the research process, as well as a distancing relationship between researcher/researched, block collaborative research approaches; collaborative approaches, however, seem necessary in understanding careers in context; (6) it is important to recognize the contextual situatedness of traditional scholarship (mostly developed in the USA) when analyzing the current status of knowledge about "careers."

Subject Area

Management|Womens studies|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Banking

Recommended Citation

Jacobson, Sarah Williams, "Careers in cross-cultural context: Women bank managers in Finland and in the United States" (1991). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9207416.