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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Why do young women leave conglomerates? gender and the militarized workplace in South Korea Um, Se Jin


This study extends our understanding of gender inequality in the workplace by examining the reasons for early resignation of young women unaffected by motherhood responsibilities. Based on 22 in-depth interviews with young women who resigned from full-time positions at conglomerate firms in South Korea, complemented by interviews with 8 men who also resigned from these companies, I find that women resign because of the gap between their work expectations developed prior to employment and the militarized workplace culture. The militarization of the workplace is an overarching theme that emerged from interview narratives, which I engage as an organizing framework for analysis. Within the militarized workplace, rigid hierarchies and male-only informal networking marginalize women, and demand for overwork undermines women’s possibility of long-term employment. Combined with sexual harassment, the work environment makes the job not worth keeping. Interviewees also suggest that their work experiences in the conglomerates inform their future work attitudes and planned career trajectories. These findings highlight the important roles of gendered organizational norms and practices in shaping women’s discontinuous employment and their persistent underrepresentation in managerial positions in the workplace.

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