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62nd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 25-31, 1996

Motivation to Manage: A Comparative Study Between Male and Female Library and Information Science Students In the United States of America and India

Sarla R. Murgai
Associate Professor
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Chattanooga, TN. 37403


This study compared the managerial motivations of library and information science (LIS) students in the United States of America with the LIS students in India. The students responded to a questionnaire containing 41 statements on managerial motivation. These statements were divided into 10 categories:-- task orientation, fear of failure, perseverance, reaction to success/failure, future orient ation, competitiveness, independence, rigidity, social needs and acceptance of women as managers. Demographic factors such as educational attainment, age, marital status, mobility etc. were also compared.The respondents consisted of 665 students from 11 southeastern universities in the United States and 808 from 23 universities in India. In the India study 50% of the total were males; whereas, in the U.S.A. study the male constituted 20% of the total population. The majority of Indian students were younger, unmarried, and full-time students, with very little or no work experience. Fifty percent of the Indian students graduated from coeducational institution. The American students were older, had more library experience, with a majority being part-time students; who were working to support themselves while studying. The majority of both Indian and American students were motivated to achieve the objectives they set for themselves. They were future oriented. They were aggressive in setting their goals and expected that task orientation and perseverance would enable them to accomplish those objectives. Whereas social acceptance and social recognition were not the motivatin g factors for most of the American students, for most of the Indian students both these factors were significantly more important. Also, the majority of Indian students enjoyed racing against the clock, whereas majority of the American students did not. Forty percent of the Indian males compared to two percent of the American males thought it less desirable for women than men to have a job tha t requires responsibility. Thirty percent of the Indian males versus three percent of American males thought women are not ambitious enough to be successful in managerial positions. On the whole Indian male students were much more conservative about accepting women into management positions than the American male LIS students.


Human behavior is influenced and shaped by social forces and personal characteristics. Work behavior is social behavior. To understand gender related issues one has to build a joint construct of individual agents and their social cultural context. This is even more true when the countries involved are oceans apart as in this study i.e. the USA and India. Different nations have different cul tural heritages which are values collectively held by a majority of population (possibly differentiated by social classes), and these values are transferred from generation to generation through education, early childhood experiences in the family, schools and through socialization in organizations and institutions. These values become social norms for that society. It is hard to see this proce ss in one's own culture. A deep and painfully acquired empathy for other cultures is required before one becomes sensitive to the range of social norms., for truths in one society may be falsehoods in another.

Hofstede (1980) after analyzing research data from forty different modern nations has come up with a scale of characteristics that can be used to distinguish the prevailing cultures in various countries of the world.2 Based on that scale Americans would be characterized as high in individualism, low in power distance, low on uncertainty avoidance, and high on masculinity. Indians (middle class) would be high on individualism, high on power distance, high on uncertainty avoidance, and high on masculinity.

Management itself is very much an American concept. Other countries can learn new ideas in management and organizational politics from America, however to apply to one's own setting, needs prudence and judgment Indian middle class already shares American values about achievement, that is the reason perhaps McClelland could build on those values when he did research in India.3

Up until 1954 researchers tended to ignore females workers as subjects of their research. Between 1954-66 sex-role measures developed. From 1974 to 1982 androgyny was established as sex-role ideal.4 Later, the females researchers pointed out some meaningful differences between the sexes and new theories of sex-roles are still in formation.5, 6 As far as management motivation is concerned most of the recent studies show that there is very little difference in the aspirations and goals between males and females in Library and Information Science and other fields. 7, 8, 9 The experience by females of finding a "glass-ceiling" (1991)10 at the top of the promotion ladder, and the lower salaries have brought to the front how personal motivation is held hostage to the stereotypical social values about sex-roles in our societies, even to the level of human exploitation. These conditions prompt further research.

The concept of achievement-motivation draws on four basic theories:-Need fulfillment, Social Learning, Personality, and Development.

The basic needs of survival, pleasure and contribution motivate humans to seek employment.11 Economic conditions, a sense of devaluation of the domestic, and a desire to find self-fulfillment drive majority of women into the job market.

Social learning theory emphasizes environmental factors as opposed to individual factors in the development of personality. Elements beyond the control of the individual exert a major influence on career choice. The principal task confronting a person is the development of techniques to cope effectively with the environment.12,13,14 As Maehr pointed out: (1974)

Achievement is a function of more or less ephemeral social expectations that are embodied in what we call norms. In a very real sense, a social group tells a person what to strive for as well as how to attain this end. The effect of such norms is clearly an important variable in an achievement situation. (p.66).15

Family and friends have a significant effect on occupational choices. Peer and parental expectations influence the vocational aspirations of youth. Girls have been taught not to aspire for high prestigious occupations.16 Sex role socialization leads women to focus on marriage rather than career. From this early experience comes the notion that one survives by marrying and taking care of the m an, who must earn the living. Girls learn to satisfy their pleasure needs and their contribution needs by direct service to others.17

Social values are changing in the USA as well as in the rest of the world. Worsening economic conditions, need for two incomes per family, rising divorce rates, and insecurity in marriage are prompting women to plan and prepare for a career. Younger women realize that they are more likely to satisfy their survival needs directly through their own earnings rather than indirectly through the in come of their spouses. Medical and technological advances such as amniocentesis, artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood, provide women a greater control over their lives and bodies. Added to this is the concept of smaller families and longer life expectancy. These concepts give women more freedom and choice to plan and prepare for such eventualities.18

Personality-Changing economic conditions may have driven women into the labor market, but after being in the workforce for a few decades they realize that paid employment along with satisfying their basic financial needs, also fulfills their individual needs of independence, provides them with a greater control of environment, and enables them to contribute more meaningfully to the socie tal and personal needs. Through the career they engage in productive work, develop skills and talents and find self-fulfillment19 The challenge of work that is valued by the society, gives them a sense of achievement, and a realization of self-worth. This gain of self-esteem in large part is instrumental in satisfying their pleasure and contributory needs.20, 21 Recent studies of females in professional employment show that men and women do not differ in self-ratings, self confidence and work values.22 Also, with the development of better measuring instruments of job evaluation there is a narrowing of the differences in the styles of management, motivation and leadership between males and females. Although most gender related issues like pay equity, sexual harassment, child-care needs, flexible schedules, minority and healthcare issues, started as feminist agenda, yet both men and women have benefited from the debate, and the resultant solutions at the workplace. 3 Thus one can conclude that the basic work motivation is the same for men and women, but due to early social and cultural influences we make different choices.24

Developmental theories- Developmental theories emphasize lifetime development and change. High achieving women have high expectations in both career and home areas.25, 26 For women to prepare for management and to develop self-confidence would be through education and training. Today, there is a dramatic increase in the number of women pursuing graduate and professional education. In the USA fifty four percent of college students are women, 36% of them are enrolled in business; 33% are law school students, and 13% of engineering students. In Library and Information Science ever since 1987 more women than men earned masters (79.9%) and now even doctoral degrees (68%).27 Women are undertaking in-service training and continuing education courses to improve on their skills and to stay abreast of the career needs and innovations in the field. Such exposure makes women aware of their strengths and boosts their self-confidence. Young men and women strive to be financially independent, prepare for a career and obtain recognition from colleagues.28, 29

Women with more education however show greater desire for independence and an opportunity to perform managerial roles, 0 and when such opportunities are denied to them, the results are low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and curtailed achievement levels31, 32 Their wages may have improved some but are still lower than men; and their status and promotion still lags behind the males.33, 34 A recent report showed that our education system leaves women with a lower self-esteem than men.35 They experience lower salary increases, fewer management promotions and lower hierarchical levels compared with men of similar education, age, experience, performance and career paths. When girls become economically independent through education, job and position, they want to be respected as equal members of the society. There has to be a motivational synergy towards new conceptualization of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation at workplace.36

Indian women

India presents a very interesting study of how class system of the West is no more egalitarian than the caste system of the East. At the beginning of this century Indian women did begin to move into professions like medicine and teaching. This happened as a response to the demand for education and healthcare among the female relatives of middle class men, and also because of sexual segregation. Female seclusion demanded that these services be provided by other women. Government service and administrative jobs were opened to women after independence.37, 38, 39 At independence (1947) the Indian women's movement also succeeded in bringing women's legal position on a level with many rich countries of the West. Indian constitution conferred equal rights and status to all citizens forbid ding any discrimination on the grounds of caste, creed, religion or sex. Educated elite women who had played an active role during the independence movement took up leadership positions. By 1988 ten percent of members of parliament were women and eighteen percent of women won in the state assembly elections compared to seventeen percent of the men 0

Increasing number of Indian women are preparing to take up professional careers. Of the total number of students enrolled in the professional colleges 43% females enrolled in medicine; 77% in higher education, 61% in graduate programs (B.A, B.Sc, M.A.and M.Sc.), 45% in doctoral programs, and 50% in LIS.41

A majority of women in India as in the United States however, are in feminist professions. Both societies place low status on such women's professions and pay them less than men. The Indian professional women also experience job segregation, as well as discrimination in selection, promotion, training and assessment. In employment restrictions are imposed on their physical mobility and their s ocial interaction with males, by sexual harassment at work, and by gossip affecting all aspects of their lives.42 The employment may not release women from subordination, but it does provide the psychological basis for women to exert and exercise power. Educational attainment and employment does bring status to individual women. It improves their chances of marrying in a higher caste or status family. It also gives them economic independence.

Unlike the American feminists, whose first hand experience of economic and personal injustice influenced the movement to focus largely on such middle class issues as job discrimination, and equal pay for equal work, Indian feminist movement started with the educated and elite. As a result of the 1974 report on the status of women,43 Indian government, private, national and international agencie s are working through Self Employed Women Associations( SEWA), and Women's Reform Organizations (Mahila Mandals) to educate women, apprise them of their rights, reform the laws, and to assist them financially. Local cooperatives help elect women representative to voice women's concerns at the local, state and national assemblies.44, 45

In the family women's lives are controlled through male authority figure, by imposing the entire burden of domestic work upon them in addition to the paid work outside the home. Most men believe that domestic work and child-care is not their job, and some of them consider it beneath their dignity to perform those tasks. Margret Alva, a member of parliament combines many roles but is proud to be a wife and mother-devoting a good part of her time to domestic duties. She said :-

Many successful women both in the USA and India are uncomfortable in discussing their professional achievements in front of their children and husbands, either because they are not relevant or disturbing to members of their family to whom they are a mother or wife47, 48 In many cases the husband is complimented for the achievements of the wife, and for his generosity to allow the wife to partic ipate and contribute. By defining women as primary domestic workers and sexual and reproductive property of men, and by assigning priority to man's paid employment, the society devalues educational attainment, and economic and social contributions of women.

One of the major locations of women's subordination rests on the personal relations of the family. Personal arena is the place where women have to negotiate the conditions of their lives on individual bases. Men resist conceding their privilege. They do not want to forego their domination of women. During the debates on the Hindu Code Bill, Pandit Nehru remarked -

Employment may not release women from subordination, but it does provide them the psychological basis to exert and exercise power. Economic independence, Self confidence and personal achievement motivation are the only tools that serve the women well in negotiating their status in the family with their husbands and other family members. Women's employment marks a significant rejection of male c ontrol. The positive things about Indian culture for women are the great women of the past, Goddesses that have great powers, and that women too possess great power and virtue (Shakti). The idea of women's power persists even today.52, 53

Indian women who have traveled to western countries for education and have later sought employment, often find that ideas of gender and race inferiority augment the discrimination they encounter in those supposedly enlightened countries. The context of western domination imports not only the idea of women's inferiority in relation to men, but also a notion of Indian women's inferiority in relati on to western women. The myth of the third world's inferiority helps justify continued western exploitation of India and its resources, which worsens the economic conditions in India. This in turn deteriorates the position of women’s chances of education and employment and reinforces the notion that women are less capable then men. Multinational companies use this to limit the opportunities fo r women in employment.54


Purpose-This study was undertaken to compare the managerial motivations of male and female library and information science (LIS) students in America with LIS students in India. Students are generally used for such studies because their values are as important to the researcher as those of the practitioners.55 An added advantage of surveying students is an immediate feedback.56 The LIS students are adults when they enroll for professional education. They have well developed personalities and attitudes towards sex roles.

Method Instrument-A simplified version of the Ory and Poggio Measure of Achievement Motivation was selected.57 The content validity of each item was related to an achievement motivation construct. The questionnaire consisted of two parts (Appendix B): the first section consisted of 41 statements requiring students to indicate relative agreement or disagreement, according to a forced choice L ikert-type format, with four response alternatives; the second part consisted of 16 short answers to multiple choice statements or statements that provided personal data.

The survey was conducted at the eleven Southeastern library schools in the United States of America, and the twenty three universities in India (Table 1). With the help of the statistical package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and Hewlett Packard computer at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the data were organized for statistical analysis and interpretation. Frequency tables were con structed and mean scores were computed for each of the aforementioned categories in the abstract. Analysis of variance and cross tables were used to identify the significant differences among males, females and country, in each category. Range of reliability coefficient was determined and compared according to Ory and Poggio's high and low achiever scale. Reliability coefficients ranged from .4 7 to .75. Demographic data were analyzed as to age, sex, marriage, education level etc. (Table 2). The significant relationships were compared at <.05 level.


A two way factorial analysis of variance by sex & country with each scale as the dependent variable showed significant differences in the following categories:-

Country:-Task Orientation (Table 3);Future Orientation (Table 4);Perseverance (Table 5); Social Acceptance (Table 6); Competitiveness (Table 7); Reaction to Success/Failure (Table 8); Reaction to Fear of Failure (Table 9); Rigidity (Table 10) and Women as Manager Scale (Table 11).

On the average agreement among Indians was greater than the Americans on each of the above scales

Sex:- showed significant difference on Perseverance; Social Acceptance; Reaction to Success/Failure; Fear of Success; and on Women as Manager Scale.

Perseverance:-A two way factorial analysis of variance by sex and country with the scale as a dependent variable showed a significant difference by country and sex. Average agreement among Indians was greater than the Americans. Average agreement among males was greater than average agreement among females.

Social Acceptance:- Average agreement among Indains was greater than the Americans. On the average males in both countries were more in agreement with the scale than the females.

Reaction to Success/Failure:- Average agreement among Indains was greater than the Americans. On the average the differences between females were more than males by country.

Fear of Success:-A two way factorial analysis showed on the average males were more in agreement with the scale than the females.

Women as Managers Scale:- Average agreement among Indians was greater than the Americans. On the average difference between females in both the countries was smaller than for males.

A high percentage of Indian males (39.7%) compared to the U.S.A males (1.5%) felt women should not hold responsible positions. Also, whereas only 3% of the American male LIS students felt that women are not ambitious enough to be successful in managerial positions, 37% of the Indian male students believed this to be the case. Interaction between variables:- Competitiveness and Women as Managers Scale showed a significant interaction by country.

Competitiveness:- On the average agreement among Indians was greater than the Americans. In this study Statement 38 -"I would rather work in a library that pays well" showed a significant relationship among the male and female respondents in the USA study, but not in the India study ( USA study 79% females & 91% males Vs India study 64% females and 59% males agreed with the statement). More males in the USA and more females in India wanted to work for libraries that paid well. A gr eater percentage of Indian students liked competing against the clock than the American students.

In the business world women are perceived as being dependent, passive, and subjective, and as lacking in competitiveness, ambition and leadership abilities. They are perceived as emotional and unfit for managerial positions. Women generally are not looked upon as leaders by the public due to stereotypical perceptions. In this study Indian males felt that women’s emotions will not let them hand le responsible positions more than the Americans cohorts. Women as Manage Scale:- On the average difference between females in both the countries was smaller than for males.


The response percentages of the majority of respondents both from the United States and India studies show that the majority of the LIS students were motivated to work hard, devote their energies to the task at hand, plan for future and be competitive professionally. Significant relationships were found in the following categories: task orientation, future orientation, perseverance, future orien tation and competitiveness, reaction to success/failure; reaction to fear of failure; rigidity, and women as managers scales. On the whole the average agreement among Indian LIS students was greater than the American students on each of the scales. The motivation among the Indian students was more than the USA students. Social acceptance showed a major difference in that, a greater number of Indian respondents felt that social acceptance is more important than personal success, and that the primary goal of any undertaking is social recognition. Very few American respondents shared that opinion. Evidently for the American students personal success is more important than social acceptance or the social recognition. This attitude on the personal level translates into self development and independent achievement at the individual level; whereas the value social acceptance and social recognition on the part of Indians translated into putting the goals of the society or the organization first and the achievement of the personal goals second. This coincides with Hofstede's criterion of the differences in the two cultures. Even though both the Indians and American are high on i ndividualism, but because of the high and low distance from the power Indians are more likely to look to their superiors for approval and direction. Indians are also poorer than the Americans and in need of the job, so they are afraid to disagree with their employer. It is brought home by the following remark by a senior Indian executive with a Ph.D. from a prestigious American university:-

On category acceptance of Women as Managers Scale many more Indian students agreed with the statement that-"women have the objectivity required to evaluate library situations properly" and yet 40% of the Indian males agreed with the statement -"It is less desirable for women than men to have a job that requires responsibility." Also, about 37% Indian males felt the women are not ambitious enough to be successful in managerial positions. On the whole Indian males were more conservative in accepting women as managers than the American males. Both males and females have similar career aspirations and both want to be leaders and/or managers. There seems to be a need to bring about an attitudinal change towards accepting women as managers based on such empirical studies.

I thought that the notion of women's inferiority to men is a western idea, contrary to the eastern view that woman is "too strong" in the Indian tradition.

Limitations of the study

This study is based on students, who have not had much experience in the professional world. They are adults however, and these attitudes are formed much earlier in life. These responses are at best at the perceptual level. In reality only five percent of the women reach the directorship level of libraries in the United States of America, and out of the twenty three schools visited by me in In dia only seven were headed by women.


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