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Title: Exploring the interplay between gender, social context and career: a study of professional women in Sri Lanka
Authors: Fernando, Weerahannadige Dulini Anuvinda
Keywords: Gender
Career development
Social constructionism
Sri Lanka
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: © Weerahannadige Dulini Anuvinda Fernando
Abstract: This PhD takes a social constructionist approach (see Burr, 2003) to explore how professional women in Sri Lanka make sense of and enact their careers. By explaining career through the recursive relationship between social context and individual agency, this study adds new insights into existing understandings of women s careers which are dominated by psychological models of women s development over their lifespans (see Maneiro and Sullivan, 2005; O Neil and Bilimoria, 2005; Pringle and Dixon, 2003). Most importantly this study which addresses women s experiences in Sri Lanka fulfils a significant gap in the extant literature which has paid only little attention to careers in South Asian nations. This study is based on qualitative interviews (see King, 2004) conducted with 24 professional Sri Lankan women: eight in early career, eight in mid-career and eight in late career (see O Neil and Bilimoria, 2005). All respondents aspired to reach the highest possible level in their organisations hierarchies and therefore continuously engaged with work organisations, home and family and wider contextual structures in Sri Lanka in pursuit of achieving their career goals, contributing towards maintaining and/or transforming these social structures in the process. Based on these findings I developed a theoretical framework to understand women s careers in a dynamic and contextually significant manner. This framework highlights eight different strategies women use to develop their careers which has four possible social outcomes. In illuminating specifically what women do to advance their careers within their social contexts and with what implications this framework makes a significant contribution to the careers literature which gives only little attention to individuals career strategies. Moreover by appreciating both social context and individual agency as explanations of women s careers this model refrains from taking an overly deterministic (see McRae, 2003; Crompton, 2011) or voluntaristic (see Maneiro and Sullivan, 2005; O Neil and Bilimoria, 2005) stance to conceptualising women s career development. Second, I outline a South Asian model of women s career development highlighting family, moral notions, religious philosophies and wider belief systems such as astrology and horoscopes as central constituents of women s careers. I highlight how these understandings could be used to identify blind spots in existing literature and further develop prevailing ideas of women s careers in the West. Specifically I argue that traditional notions do not altogether disappear as societies develop (see Gerth and Mills, 1991), but rather individuals use these notions to walk towards modernity. Finally I conclude the thesis by outlining how scholars could develop my work further, calling upon authors to bring moral character, traditional notions and enchantment back to the careers field. Key words: Gender, Career development, Social constructionism, Sri Lanka.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/9214
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Business School)

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