How do Working Malaysian Men and Women Conceptualize Success for Themselves?

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The participation rate of women in the labour force globally is increasing but the actual numbers that reach the top echelon of any organization are small. Many studies have cited this as the reason why women are considered unsuccessful in the workplace. However, studies revealed that the criterion of holding a top position is not necessarily considered a success indicator for women. The majority of studies thus far have tended to use an essentially male concept of success to measure women’s success in the workplace. This study sets out to establish how women and men conceptualize success and then try to answer the question: “How do men’s and women’s conceptualizations of the successful woman compare?” This multi-site and multi-case study comprised of 44 respondents from one public and one private organizations based in Malaysia. In-depth interviews were conducted with respondents across different type of employment, type of organisation, ethnicity and gender. Our study found that men and women have different conceptualization of success and of a successful woman. We identified 6 major elements of success for both male and female respondents, namely balance between work and family, spirituality, reference power, hard work leading to success, helping others, and happiness. However, both male and female respondents had difficulties in conceptualizing the essence of a successful woman. This paper presents the preliminary analysis with the hope to stimulate further discussion in preparation for a more detailed analysis of the links between culture, gender and the perception of success and the successful woman.


Keywords: Success, Women, Men, Malaysian
Stream: Gender and Sexuality
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: How do Working Malaysian Men and Women Conceptualize Success for Themselves?


Adida Yang Amri

Lecturer, School of Management
OB/HR section., Universiti Sains Malaysia

Penang, Penang, Malaysia

Currently pursuing Ph.D. in Human Resource Management at Universiti Sains Malaysia. Adida was able to gain extensive work experience in H. R Management from the opportunity of holding key positions as the Human Resource Development Manager for Dell Asia Pacific and as Recruitment Manager/ ER Manager of Intel Malaysia. She has been involved in various training programmes covering various areas of Human Resource Management and General Management for various public & private organizations.

Dr. Zainal Ariffin Ahmad

Associate Professor, School of Management
OB/HR section, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Penang, Penang, Malaysia


Ref: D08P0245