Women’s perspectives on career successes and barriers: A qualitative meta-synthesis
Despite scholarly debate on the topic of success, how women define career success remains unclear. For many decades, research on the concept of success has largely used quantitative methods to assess the external aspects of success in a male-dominated culture. Using a total of 18 articles from 1999 to 2020, this qualitative meta-synthesis aims to gain detailed insights into women’s definitions of career success and to capture their perspectives on the barriers they face. A systematic search was conducted across four databases: Sociological Abstracts, SocINDEX, SCOPUS, and Google Scholar. This study is novel in that it is the first synthesized research that qualitatively studies the concept of career success. From this review, three distinct themes regarding women’s definition of career success emerged: (1) having support, (2) having accomplishments, and (3) feeling belonging. This article also establishes three themes regarding the obstacles to women’s career path toward success: (1) work–family/work–life imbalance, (2) gender bias/gender discrimination, and (3) the lack of mentors and role models. In contrast to previous research, the findings of this qualitative meta-synthesis indicate that while women define career success individually, they acknowledge that the professional objective aspects of success are important or even central to them in their life. The limitations of the study are noted, and the implications and future research directions are discussed.