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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore what organizations can do to facilitate the retention and advancement of women professionals into top leadership positions. A social exchange framework is applied to examine ways organizations can signal support for and investment in the careers of women professionals, and ultimately the long-term work relationship.

Design/methodology/approach – This paper employed a qualitative methodology; specifically, semi-structured interviews with 20 women executives, in primarily the US hospitality industry, were conducted. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and content analyzed.

Findings – Organizations are likely to strengthen the retention of their female professionals if they signal support through purposeful, long-term career development that provides a sightline to the top, and ultimately creates more female role models in senior-level positions. Organizations can also signal support through offering autonomy over how work is completed, and designing infrastructures of support to sustain professionals during mid-career stages. Findings are used to present a work-exchange model of career development.

Research limitations/implications – This research is an exploratory study that is limited in its scope and generalizability.

Practical implications – The proposed work-exchange model can be used to comprehensively structures initiatives that would signal organizational support to – and long-term investment in – female professionals and enable them to develop their career paths within their organizations.

Originality/value – Through offering a work-exchange model of career development, this paper identifies components of organizational support from a careers perspective, and highlights the factors that could potentially contribute to long-term growth and retention of women professional


Required Publisher Statement
© Emerald. Final version published as: Walsh, K., Fleming, S. S., & Enz, C. A. (2016). Give and you shall receive: Investing in the careers of women professionals. Career Development International, 21(2), 117-143.
doi: 10.1108/CDI-04-2015-0059
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.