Beyond Belonging: Identifying Critical and Conflicting Factors in Women Leader’s Career Progressions

Syneathia L LaGrant, University of Pennsylvania


There is a clear relationship between diversity and financial performance in business. Because diversity and inclusion initiatives continue to be a major focus for organizations, there is a need to better understand how to retain and foster professional women in leadership roles. This study aims to examine how a sense of belonging influences a woman’s successful career progression. Belonging is defined as a feeling of comradery, connection, or community. Specifically, this study investigates how professional women define belonging in a work environment, how they perceive a sense of belonging has fostered or hindered their career progression, and whether company-led efforts have any impact on a woman’s sense of belonging. To test these assumptions, a mixed methods approach was used to examine belonging. First, a survey using a modified version of the General Belongingness Scale was distributed to a group of 30 professional women leaders ranging in ages from 25 to 65 in different industries and functions. Following the completion of the survey, the same group of women were interviewed regarding how they have experienced belonging in a work environment. The results of the analyses showed that belonging has little influence on a woman’s career progression. While the GBS survey indicated that women experienced a strong sense of belonging, the interview results point towards different findings. In fact, women leaders define belonging differently than the common definition and do not identify company-led interventions as having any influence on their achieved sense of belonging. This is particularly true for women more senior in careers. The results also suggest that there are other factors than belonging that significantly influence a woman’s career progression. On this basis, organizations should reconsider how resources allocated to diversity and inclusion programs and practices could be leveraged to have more impact in retaining and promoting women leaders.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Business administration|Adult education

Recommended Citation

LaGrant, Syneathia L, "Beyond Belonging: Identifying Critical and Conflicting Factors in Women Leader’s Career Progressions" (2021). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28317021.