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Women in Management Review

Organizational practices supporting women and their satisfaction and well-being


Ronald J. Burke Zena Burgess Barry Fallon
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Ronald J. Burke Zena Burgess Barry Fallon, (2006),"Organizational practices supporting women and their
satisfaction and well-being", Women in Management Review, Vol. 21 Iss 5 pp. 416 - 425
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WIMR SHORT PAPER


21,5
Organizational practices
supporting women and their
416
satisfaction and well-being
Received November 2005
Revised March 2006
Ronald J. Burke
Accepted March 2006 York University, Toronto, Canada
Zena Burgess
Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia, and
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Barry Fallon
Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia

Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this exploratory study is to examine the relationship of the perceived
presence of organizational practices designed to support women’s career advancement and their work
and extra-work satisfaction and psychological well-being.
Design/methodology/approach – Data were collected from 98 early career women in Australia
using anonymously completed questionnaires. Five organizational practices combined into a
composite measure were considered; top management support and intervention, policies and
resources, use of gender in human resource management, training and development initiatives and
recruiting and external relations efforts.
Findings – Women reporting more organizational practices supportive of women, with higher levels
of job and career satisfaction, and indicated fewer psychosomatic symptoms and less emotional
exhaustion. Organizational practices were unrelated to intent to quit or extra-work satisfactions and
physical or emotional well-being.
Research limitations/implications – Further research is needed to determine if results generalize
to women in later career stages.
Practical implications – Guidance for organizations interested in supporting women’s career
advancement are offered.
Originality/value – The paper illustrates an understanding of the qualities that are part of work
environments that are supportive of the career aspirations of women (and men).
Keywords Women, Career development, Equal opportunities, Careers, Job satisfaction, Australia
Paper type Research paper

Several factors have come together in making organizations more interested in


supporting the career aspirations of professional and managerial women (Burke and
Nelson, 2002). These include increases in the numbers of women who have the
Women in Management Review
education, experience and track record for advancement, the shortage of qualified
Vol. 21 No. 5, 2006
pp. 416-425 Preparation of this manuscript were supported in part by the Schulich School of Business, York
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0964-9425
University, Toronto, Swinburne University and the Australian Catholic University (Melbourne).
DOI 10.1108/09649420610676217 Lisa Fiksenbaum assisted with data analysis; Louise Coutu prepared the manuscript.
leaders and the lack of leadership bench strength reported by most organizations, Organizational
increased competitive pressures that have put the spotlight on tangible job practices
performance, the loss of qualified women as a result of “opting out” and the need to
recruit and retain “the best and the brightest” if one is to win the way for talent.
A small but increasing number of organizations in the UK and North America have
implemented practices to support and develop managerial and professional women
(Morrison, 1992; McCracken, 2002). These organizations have reported positive 417
outcomes such as increasing numbers of women now participating in key training and
development activities, increases in the number of women on the short list for
promotions and increases in the numbers of women achieving more senior positions.
Several authors have chronicled the efforts of leading-edge organizations in
supporting women’s advancement (Mattis, 2002; Spinks and Tombari, 2002; Jafri and
Isbister, 2002; Mays et al., 2005; Rutherford, 2005). These writers describe specific
initiatives (e.g. flexible work hours, gender awareness training) and in some cases
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present evidence of the success of these efforts in supporting women’s career


advancement.
We still know relatively little about how managerial and professional women
experience these initiatives, however. The present exploratory study attempts to fill in
this gap in understanding. It considers the relationship of a number of organizational
practices designed to support and develop managerial and professional women and
their levels of job and career satisfaction and psychological health. The general
hypothesis underlying this research was that women describing a greater number of
practices supportive of women by their organization would also indicate more
favourable work, career and health outcomes. That is, the simple perception that such
practices exist will have a positive relationship with women’s satisfaction and
well-being.

Method
Respondents
Data were collected from 98 female business school graduates from the same
Australian university working in a wide range of industries in Australia.
Questionnaires were mailed to female business school graduates and returned to a
university address; the sample (N ¼ 98) represented a less than 10 per cent response
rate.
Table I shows the demographic characteristics of the sample. Most were 30 years of
age or younger (77 per cent), had undergraduate degrees (80 per cent), were single or
divorced (60 per cent), childless (78 per cent), worked full-time (87 per cent), had
graduated within the past 5 years (55 per cent), were in non-management or lower
management jobs (65 per cent), had worked continuously since graduation (69 per
cent), worked between 41 and 50 hours per week (46 per cent), had relatively short
organizational and job tenure (77 and 93 per cent having 5 or fewer years, respectively)
and worked in relatively small organizations (78 per cent having 1,000 or fewer
employees).

Measures
A variety of single and multiple item measures were used.
WIMR
N Per cent
21,5
Age
25 or less 41 41.8
26-30 35 35.8
31-35 7 7.1
418 36 or older 15 15.3
Marital status
Single/divorced 59 60.2
Married/co-habiting 39 39.8
Length of marriage
1 year 5 11.6
2-5 20 46.5
6-10 7 16.3
11 or more 11 25.6
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Year of business degree


1995 or earlier 4 4.2
1996-2000 39 40.6
2001-2004 53 55.2
Organizational level
Non management 35 36.5
Lower management 27 28.1
Middle management 24 25.0
Senior management 10 16.4
Hours worked
30 or less 8 8.2
31-40 36 37.2
41-50 45 46.4
51 or more 8 8.2
Organizational tenure
1 year or less 31 32.3
2-5 43 44.8
6 or more 22 22.9
Organizational size
50 or less 24 26.7
51-200 25 27.7
201-1,000 21 23.4
1,001 or more 20 22.2
Type of degree
Undergraduate 78 79.6
Graduate 20 20.4
Employment status
Full-time 85 86.7
Part-time 9 9.2
On leave 4 4.1
Parental status
Children 21 22.3
Childless 73 77.7
Number of children
0 74 78.7
Table I. 1 5 5.3
Demographic 2 3 3.2
characteristics of sample (continued)
N Per cent
Organizational
practices
3 9 9.6
4 or more 3 3.2
Worked continuously
Yes 67 69.1
No 30 30.9
Worked part-time
419
Yes 58 61.6
No 37 38.4
Job tenure
1 year or less 47 48.4
2-5 44 44.9
6 or more 7 7.1
Role
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Core 39 41.1
Support 56 58.9 Table I.

Personal demographics and work situation. These included age, current employment
status, current marital status, parental status, number of children, type of business
degree, year of business degree, hours worked, organizational level, organizational and
job tenure, organizational size, continuous employment since graduation and whether
one’s job produced core products or services or provided support for these products or
services.

Supporting women’s career advancement


Five areas of organizational practice for supporting and developing professional and
managerial women were examined using measures developed by Morrison (1992).
Respondents indicated how descriptive each item was of their organization on a five
point-scale.
Management was measured by six items (a ¼ 0.92), e.g. “Top management
provides resources to support the development of women (e.g. space, time, money)”.
Policies/resources was measured by ten items (a ¼ 0.89), e.g. “Organization has
policies against sexism. Childcare resources are available”.
Administration was measured by nine items (a ¼ 0.93), e.g. “Competence in
managing women is considered in management succession planning”.
Training and development was assessed by seven items (a ¼ 0.86), e.g.
“Organization provides gender and women training programs”. “Development
programs exist specifically for women having high potential”.
Recruiting and external relations was measured by seven items (a ¼ 0.89), e.g.
“Organizations’ efforts for women are given extensive public exposure”. “Organization
supports an internship program for women”.

Work outcomes
Job satisfaction was measured by a seven item scale (a ¼ 0.80) developed by
Kofodimos (1993), e.g. “I feel challenged by my work”.
Career satisfaction was measured by a five item scale (a ¼ 0.87) developed by
Greenhaus et al. (1990), e.g. “I am satisfied with the success I have achieved in my career”.
WIMR Intent to quit (a ¼ 0.67) was measured by two items, e.g. “Are you currently looking
21,5 for a different job in a different organization?”. This scale had been used previously by
Burke (1991).

Psychological well-being
Psychosomatic symptoms was measured by 19 items (a ¼ 0.83) developed by Quinn
420 and Shepard (1974). Respondents indicated how often they experienced each physical
condition (e.g. headaches) in the past year.
Emotional exhaustion was measured by a scale from the Maslach Burnout Inventory
(Maslach et al., 1996). The scale had nine items (a ¼ 0.94), e.g. “I feel emotionally
drained from my work.”
Physical well-being was measured by five items (a ¼ 0.61) developed by Kofodimos
(1993), e.g. “I participate in a regular exercise program”.
Emotional well-being was measured by six items (a ¼ 0.77) developed by Kofodimos
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(1993), e.g. “I actively seek to understand and improve my emotional well-being”.

Extra-work satisfaction
Three aspects of life or extra-work satisfaction were included.
(1) Family satisfaction was measured by a seven item scale (a ¼ 0.91) developed by
Kofodimos (1993), e.g. “I have a good relationship with my family members”.
(2) Satisfaction with friends was measured by three items (a ¼ 0.88) developed by
Kofodimos (1993), e.g. “My friends and I do enjoyable things together”.
(3) Community satisfaction was measured by four items (a ¼ 0.82) also developed
by Kofodimos (1993), e.g. “I contribute and give back to my community”.

Results
Practices supporting women
All five practice areas were significantly and positively intercorrelated; the correlations
ranged from a high of 0.74 (administration and training and development) to a low of
0.59 (resources and recruiting and external relations). The mean correlation among the
five areas of practice was 0.70. A composite measure of organizational practices
supporting women was therefore created by combining the five practice areas.

Correlates of supportive organizational practice


Table II presents the zero-order correlations between the measure of supportive
organizational practices and personal demographic and work situation characteristics.
Work and career outcomes and indicators of psychological health. The following
comments are offered in summary. First, number of supportive organizational
practices were generally unrelated to personal and work situation characteristics.
Number of supportive organizational practices were positively related to size of
employing organization, however. Second, number of supportive organizational
practices were significantly related to all work outcomes. Respondents indicating more
organizational practices supportive of women indicated more job and career
satisfaction, fewer hours worked per week and tended to report lower intent to quit.
Third, respondents indicating more organizational practices supportive of women also
included fewer psychosomatic symptoms; organizational practices were not correlated
with levels of emotional exhaustion and physical and emotional well-being, however.
Organizational
Organizational practices
practices
Personal and work situation characteristics
Age 2 0.01
Work status 0.05
Job tenure 2 0.04
Organization tenure 0.00 421
Education 0.14
Organizational size 0.24 *
Work outcomes
Job satisfaction 0.25 * *
Career satisfaction 0.28 * * *
Intent to quit 2 0.18a
Hours worked 2 0.20 *
Psychological health
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Psychosomatic symptoms 2 0.22 *


Exhaustion 0.04
Physical well-being 0.08
Emotional well-being 0.04
Extra-work satisfactions
Family 0.02
Friends 0.12
Community 0.21 * Table II.
Correlates of supportive
Notes: * * *p , 0.001; * *p , 0.01; *p , 0.05; ap , 0.10 organizational practices

Fourth, women indicating more organizational practices supportive of women were


more satisfied with their community participation; number of supportive practices
were not related to family or friends satisfaction, however.

Hierarchical regression analyses


Hierarchical regression analyses were undertaken in which various work, career and
psychological health outcomes were regressed on three blocks of predictors entered in
a specified order. The first block of predictors (N ¼ 6) included personal demographic
characteristics (e.g. age, marital status, type of degree). The second block of predictors
(N ¼ 6) included work situation factors (e.g. organizational size, job tenure). The final
block of predictors (N ¼ 1) was the measure of organizational practices supportive of
women. The first two blocks of predictors served as control variables before
considering the relationship of organizational practices with various work, career and
psychological health outcomes. When a block of predictors accounted for a significant
amount or increment in explained variance ( p , 0.05) on a given outcome measure,
individual variables within these blocks having significant and independent
relationships with this outcome ( p , 0.05) were identified. Given the exploratory
nature of this research a significant level of 0.10 was used when examining the effects
of the organizational practices supportive of women on the outcome measures.

Organizational practices and work outcomes


Table III presents the results of hierarchical regression analyses in which five work
and career outcomes were regressed on the three blocks of predictors. First, two blocks
WIMR
Work outcomes R R2 D R2 P
21,5
Job satisfaction (N ¼ 80)
Personal demographics 0.39 0.15 0.15 0.05
Work situation 0.48 0.23 0.08 NS
Organizational practices (0.21) 0.52 0.27 0.04 0.10
422 Career satisfaction (N ¼ 86)
Personal demographics 0.22 0.05 0.05 NS
Work situation 0.37 0.14 0.09 NS
Organizational practices (0.22) 0.42 0.18 0.04 0.10
Intent to quit (N ¼ 80)
Personal demographics 0.21 0.04 0.04 NS
Work situation 0.25 0.06 0.02 NS
Organizational practices 0.30 0.09 0.03 NS
Hours worked (N ¼ 80)
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Table III. Personal demographics 0.32 0.10 0.10 NS


Organizational practices Work situation 0.42 0.18 0.08 NS
and work outcomes Organizational practices (2 0.25) 0.48 0.23 0.05 0.05

of predictors accounted for a significant amount or increment in explained variance on


job satisfaction: personal demographics and organizational practices. Respondents
indicating more organizational practices tended to report more job satisfaction
(b ¼ 21). Second, one block of predictors (organizational practices) accounted for a
significant increment in explained variance on career satisfaction; respondents
indicating more organizational practices tended to report more career satisfaction
(b ¼ 0.23). Third, organizational practices accounted for significant increments in
explained variance on hours worked; respondents indicating more organizational
practices worked fewer hours per week (b ¼ 2 0.25). None of the block of predictors
accounted for a significant amount or increment in explained variance on intent to quit.

Organizational practices and psychological well-being


Table IV shows the results of hierarchical regression analyses in which four indicators
of psychological health were regressed on the three blocks of predictors. The same
pattern was observed on psychosomatic symptoms and exhaustion. That is,
organizational practices accounted for a significant increment in explained variance on
both; respondents indicating more organizational practices reported fewer
psychosomatic symptoms ( b ¼ 2 0.31) and respondents indicating more
organizational practices also reported less emotional exhaustion (b ¼ 2 0.26).
Organizational practices were unrelated to levels of physical or emotional well-being.
Table V shows the results of regression analyses in which three measures of
extra-work satisfaction were regressed on the three blocks of predictors. Two blocks of
predictors (personal demographics, work situation characteristics) accounted for a
significant amount or increment in explained variance on family satisfaction.
Respondents working full-time, respondents who were married and respondents
working in support roles were more satisfied with their families (bs ¼ 2 0.29, 0.28 and
0.30, respectively). No block of predictors accounted for a significant increment in
explained variance on friends satisfaction. Finally, one block of predictors – personal
demographics – accounted for a significant amount or increment in explained variance
Organizational
Psychological well-being R R2 DR 2 P
practices
Psychosomatic symptoms (N ¼ 80)
Personal demographics 0.29 0.08 0.08 NS
Work situation 0.34 0.12 0.04 NS
Organizational practices (2 0.31) 0.44 0.19 0.07 0.05
Exhaustion (N ¼ 80) 423
Personal demographics 0.34 0.12 0.12 NS
Work situation 0.35 0.12 0.00 NS
Organizational practices (2 0.26) 0.42 0.18 0.06 0.05
Physical well-being (N ¼ 80)
Personal demographics 0.34 0.11 0.11 NS
Work situation 0.38 0.14 0.03 NS
Organizational practices 0.38 0.14 0.00 NS
Emotional well-being (N ¼ 81)
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Personal demographics 0.38 0.15 0.15 0.05 Table IV.


Work status (20.32) Organizational practices
Work situation 0.42 0.18 0.03 NS and psychological
Organizational practices 0.42 0.18 0.00 NS well-being

Extra-work satisfactions R R2 DR 2 P

Family (N ¼ 80)
Personal demographics 0.48 0.23 0.23 0.001
Work status (20.29)
Marital status (0.28)
Work situation 0.58 0.34 0.11 0.05
Role (0.30)
Organizational practices 0.58 0.34 0.00 NS
Friends (N ¼ 80)
Personal demographics 0.30 0.09 0.09 NS
Work situation 0.35 0.12 0.03 NS
Organizational practices 0.36 0.13 0.01 NS
Community (N ¼ 80)
Personal demographics 0.47 0.22 0.22 0.01
Age (0.46) Table V.
Work status (20.25) Organizational practices
Work situation 0.54 0.30 0.08 NS and extra-work
Organizational practices 0.56 0.31 0.01 NS satisfactions

on community satisfaction; younger respondents and respondents working full-time


were more satisfied with their community participation (bs ¼ 0.46 and 2 0.25,
respectively).
Three further observations are worth noting. First, personal demographic and work
situation factors had almost no relationship with the work, extra-work and
psychological well-being measures. Second, organizational practices had significant
relationships with majority of outcome measures (Tables III and IV). Third, the three
blocks of predictors accounted for moderate levels of explained variance on these
outcomes.
WIMR Discussion
21,5 This research adds to our understanding of factors supporting women managers and
professionals career advancement and the multiple benefits of these practices for
women.
Let us first consider the organizational practices that were examined. The five broad
areas of organizational practice were found to be very highly and positively correlated
424 suggesting, at least for our respondents, that organizations performing at high (or low)
levels in one area (e.g. training and development) were also likely to perform at high (or
low) levels on all the other areas (e.g. recruiting and external relations).
Turning now to the benefits of undertaking these supportive organizational
practices, the data (Tables II-IV) shows wide ranging positive outcomes. That is,
women describing more supportive organizational practices also indicated more job
and career satisfaction and higher levels of psychological well-being. Others (Mattis,
2005; Giscombe, 2005; Hammond, 2002) have reported favourable job and career
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consequences of supporting women’s career advancement but few have studied


psychological well being. Extending the benefits of organizational practices
supporting women to a consideration of their psychological health seems to be a
logical extension given the association of job experiences with psychological
well-being more generally (Burke, 2003; Nelson and Burke, 2002).
Finally, our findings have a direct bearing on practice. We have come to
considerable understanding of the qualities that are part of work environments that are
supportive of the career aspirations of women (and men). These include: top
management support and commitment to the exercise, the explicit use of gender in
decision-making in recruitment, career planning and employee development, the
development of policies and procedures consistent with the goal of supporting women,
the provision of rewards for providing the required support and achieving agreed upon
goals for women’s advancement, and becoming a model (in the wider community) of
what can be accomplished through commitment, resources and effort.
In addition to these context efforts, other initiatives follow logically from them.
These include providing support and encouragement to women offering women
challenging and visible work assignments, providing training and development
opportunities and supporting cultural values accepting of women (Morrison, 1992).
In addition, considerable progress has been made in integrating work-family concerns.

Limitations of the research


Some limitations of this study should be noted to put the results in a broader context.
First, the sample (n ¼ 98) was relatively small. As a consequence of its exploratory
nature, a significance level of 0.10 was used when considering the effects of the main
independent variable (organizational practices) in order to identify and develop fruitful
avenues for future research. It is important that future work replicate our study to
determine the generalizability and stability of our findings. Second, the response rate
was low raising concerns about the representativeness of the sample. Third, most of
the respondents were in the early career stage, having relatively short job and
organizational tenures. It is not clear the extent to which the findings would generalize
to women managers and professionals with longer job and organizational experience.
Fourth, all data were collected using self-report questionnaires raising the possibility of
response – response biases as a result of common method variance.
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Corresponding author
Ronald J. Burke is the corresponding author.

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