Women Leaders’ Work-Life Imbalance in South Korean Companies: A Collaborative Qualitative Study

Yonjoo Cho, Jiwon Park, Boreum Ju, Soo Jeoung Han, Hanna Moon, Sohee Park, Ahreum Ju, Eugene Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this collaborative qualitative study was to investigate the lived experience of women leaders in South Korean companies who manage their work and life and develop their leadership in the face of organizational and cultural constraints. Critical to this investigation was the understanding of three concepts represented in the literature on women in leadership: cultural context, work-life balance, and leadership development. A team of eight researchers conducted a collaborative qualitative study to interview 50 women leaders using a purposeful and snowball sampling method. As a result, we found that women leaders experience difficulties in work-life balance and leadership development largely due to a gendered workplace. By gendered workplace we mean frequent drinking after work, the exclusion of women leaders from informal networking, and a lack of developmental opportunities. The gendered workplace forced them to sacrifice their personal lives in order to work long hours and develop their own strategies for work-life balance. We also found that there were noticeable differences in their narratives by position (28 team leaders and 22 executives) and marital status (37 married and 13 singles) concerning family support, major challenges, definitions of success, leadership styles, and mentors. Based on the study findings, we provided implications for research and practice and the study limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-487
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Resource Development Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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