Beyond the Chinese Dream: How Women Executives Working in Multinational Corporations in the People's Republic of China describe and Make Meaning of Midlife Transition, Marjorie J.Woo
The purpose of this study is to gain understanding of Chinese women executives going beyond the Chinese dream, to learn how they describe and make meaning of their midlife transition experience. A narrative inquiry and holistic content and form approach was used to explore two-stage life stories: narratives of self-actualization of women executives and their midlife transition experience. A total of 12 women executives from the People’s Republic of China participated in the study. All participants had worked for multinational companies in China for 15 to 20 years and were at midcareer stages of development in their leadership positions. Based on my observations over the past decade as a leadership development executive coach, this generation of women executives is under-researched.
The study’s findings suggest several themes including early independence and accelerated assignment to leadership positions that characterize the process of midlife transition of these women executives. The study revealed that these individuals have a heightened self-awareness and capacity for self-reflection with a strong desire for continuous learning and commitment to reach their full potential. The results differ from the primarily Western midlife transition literature including the findings in this study of the younger age of midlife transition, emotional rather than physical symptoms, almost exclusively career anchored pre-transition focus, and consistently positive post-transition outcomes. In addition, this study provides new insights about the experience of Chinese women executives and how the China context influenced their life narratives. Kegan’s (1982, 1994) constructive developmental theory and the overlay between Kegan and Confucianism contributed to the understanding of the results. The conceptual and empirical results of this study will facilitate the description and understanding of the development of this generation of Chinese women executives working in multinational firms in China. The results will be of value to the participants, other professional women executives, and to those involved in the development of management talent in organizations and in China.
Key words: adult development, coaching, cultural context, globalization, midlife transition, One Child Policy, People’s Republic of China, talent retention, world systems, women executives, Kegan, Confucianism