Career in Swedish retail
A career in retailing is to a large extent a boundaryless career. A career in retail does not limit the individual to a single organisation, to a single role/position, or to a hierarchical rung on the organisational ladder. Both co-workers and managers move quite easily among organisations within the same retail area, between different retail areas, and in and out of the retail sector. In the past, the description of retailing as a transitory employment sector has had a negative connotation. Yet this description can also have quite a positive connotation. For example, experience acquired in the retail sector can be very useful in other work sectors. Moreover, people working in retail are generally motivated by job security, a job that is possible to combine to leisure/family, and a job close to home. They are typically much less motivated by traditional career advancement opportunities, the exercise of power over others, and by the desire to make decisions. People working in retail have a rather limited interest in becoming managers in part because their major work motivators are not the motivators one usually associates with management career paths. Gender is a relatively weak distinguishing variable in terms of retail careers, but there are some statistically significant – yet small – differences in the work characteristics of men and women in retail. For example, women in retail prioritize work-life balance, the proximity of workplace to home, and outside interests more than men in retail. These priorities have a limiting effect on their opportunities to accept managerial positions and to follow traditional, upward career paths. There are more women than men working in the retail sector today, but a larger percentage of men in management positions. However, this cannot be explained by differences between the motivations of men and women to become managers or in their attitudes towards their own managerial capabilities. The explanation lies in other, more indirect factors such as the expectations of today’s managers. Women generally earn less than men in the retail sector. This inequality is especially evident when differences in work responsibilities exist (e.g., specialized areas, subbranches, management tasks). There is some general scepticism among employees in the retail sector as far as the extent to which their employers are willing to commit to their well-being and development. This finding has important practical implications when employees sense a lack of employer commitment to them. People outside retail sector generally have a more negative picture of the retail sector than the people within the sector. People in the retail sector are relatively satisfied and think their work is varied and interesting. The number of women at the lower management levels (at the store-level) is increasing. Because of this trend, which is expected to continue, in the relatively near future there may be as many female managers as male managers at this level. However, at the upper management levels in retail, there are more than ten men for every woman and no indications of change. Job security is the most important career anchor for retail employees in Sweden. This finding has very important practical implications because job security is typically not associated with employment in the retail sector. It is a factor that can be an important consideration for retailers.
Gothenburg Research Institute