St Petersburg University psychologists have found out what gender strategies the women surveyed use more often in order to successfully climb their career ladder. The scholars spoke about their research outcomes within the section ‘Gender inequality phenomenon as a factor of women’s career development’ at the 5th St Petersburg International Labour Forum. 

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As part of the research, the psychologists from St Petersburg University, in particular, focused on gender strategies, which involve doing and undoing gender strategies. The doing gender strategy implies behaviour aimed at demonstrating, strengthening and emphasising one’s sexual identity. The undoing gender strategy, on the contrary, means behaviour that demonstrates resistance to public gender stereotypes in relation to women or men.

The study engaged 51 women aged 22 to 60 years with higher education, with most of them residing in St Petersburg. As a result, the scholars were able to identify not only which gender strategy women often resort to, but also how these strategies are manifested. So, when the doing gender strategy is used, women exploit their external attractiveness, enhance it with make-up and feminine clothing. They flirt, use emotional argumentation in communication, or pretend not to understand and appeal for support.

Sometimes the woman who uses this strategy can do by herself what she is asking someone to help her with. However, she prefers it to be done for her and asks for help absolutely consciously.

Uliana Udavikhina, Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Social Psychology at St Petersburg University and a coauthor of the research

According to Uliana Udavikhina, women who exploit the doing gender strategy deliberately play with the public stereotypes in order to get some kind of resource, save their time and reduce their efforts.

Women who follow the undoing gender strategy strive to demonstrate their expertise, suppress attempts at flirting by their male colleagues, and try to behave more persistently, confidently and even more aggressively than men in some situations. ‘Using this strategy, women position themselves gender-neutral, remove from their external image details that emphasise femininity: make-up, and bright and eye-catching clothes. Also, women try to show the skills of high selforganisation in order to be equally successful both at work and outside it,’ notes Uliana Udavikhina.

The analysis revealed that most often, namely about 65% of the respondents, exploit the doing gender strategy. ‘Interestingly, it is mainly used in situations of «vertical» communication, which is when they communicate with bosses and managers. It is exploited much less often with colleagues and partners,’ says Uliana Udavikhina. The undoing gender strategy is used by women half as often — only about 30% of the respondents use it. ‘However, it is used both «vertically» and «horizontally»: both in situations of communication with management and with colleagues,’ says Uliana Udavikhina.

The 5th St Petersburg International Labour Forum was held for the first time in both Russian capitals in a mixed format from 19 to 23 April 2021. The organisers of the Forum are the government of St Petersburg, St Petersburg University, and the Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS Member Nations with the support of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Federal Service for Labour and Employment of the Russian Federation.

Only 35.3% of respondents resort to both strategies, depending on the situation. Interestingly, these women reported more subjective satisfaction with their career paths. ‘This might indicate that it is probably more beneficial to use both strategies, which allows for a broader set of benefits for strategic career growth. Balancing the use of different gender strategies is the key to success,’ concludes Uliana Udavikhina.