Glass Ceiling in Thailand’s Ministry of Defense: How Thai female soldiers overcome gender barriers in male dominant workplace (Chapter 3: Methodology)

เนื้อหางานวิจัยนี้ สงวนลิขสิทธิ์โดยผู้วิจัย Suthathip Sararith

Chapter 3: Methodology

In this section, the research Methodology was consisted of the description of the research design, research philosophy, data collection and the samples of the interviewing questions with the manufacturing factors of interview questions’ development. This research aimed to understand how women soldiers in Thai Military developed their career success in long remaining male dominant workplace and leadership interaction and approaches to their mixed gender subordinates. The objectives of this research were to explore the current working environment of female soldiers in Thai Military as the benefit for later generation who may want to become a soldier or study the career path of female soldiers in Thailand. Also, this research achieved to explore how women soldiers express themselves and fulfill the overall result of military performances. Moreover, this research intended to explore the leadership skills of women in male dominant organization where subordinates were both men and women in military and how these women overcame the gender barriers which could prevent them from reaching higher positions even though they had efficient performances with men.

3.1          Research Design

This research was an exploratory study, which was useful to explore new insight of the problem, and it was particularly useful if the researcher aimed to clarify the understanding of the problem; in case the researcher was not certain about the precise nature of the problem (Saunder, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). The research of Glass Ceiling in Ministry of Defense was a rare study in Thailand. However, the studies about women in all over the world, including Thailand, had gradually been increasing due to the United Nation designated the year 1975 as the international Women’s Year. This had the objective to promote equality between women and men. Also, this aimed to encourage women’s participation in the development and maintenance of the world peace (Somswasdi, 2003). Later, the leading universities in Thailand such as Thammasat University(1986) and Chulalongkorn University(1981) had established Women’s and Gender studies programs. Therefore, the design and concept of Glass Ceiling had become the awareness in Thai society, and it should be interesting to explore.

In order to understand the complexity of glass ceiling and gender discrimination in Thailand and Ministry of Defense, the qualitative approach had been mainly used. It was consisted of personal interviews with the female soldiers in the military organization. The interview questions were based and developed by various source of related literature reviews, news, academic journals and traditional teaching in Thai society to clarify the topic of Glass Ceiling in Ministry of Defense and Leadership roles of high rank female soldiers in the Ministry.

3.2          Research Philosophy

This research would be addressed by critical realism approach for the topic requires the deep understanding of social situations and going further than the observable functions (Bhaskar, 2008). Therefore, the multilevel of analysis would be contributed to finalize the data. The main concentration would be on the Thailand’s Cultural backgrounds and traditions concerning women roles in past to present society, the diversity of people in the case of socio economic statuses, the law inside the country and the regulation of Thai soldiers. Due to the critical realism, the analysis of data manifests the great understanding of Glass Ceiling and leadership roles of women in military offices. This research needed personal experience, knowledge and academic evidences to analyse the findings of the information towards Thai society and Thai military atmosphere. The women in Thai society were restricted to the traditional teaching, Thai literature such as Thai poem on women proper behaviour, ‘Supasit Sorn Ying(Teaching women dictum)’(Soon Thorn Pu,1786-1855), which was the compulsory in Thai Educational courses. Therefore, Thai girls had derived these teachings and became disciplined with the tradition and custom. However, these tradition and custom also gave them the opportunity to women to express themselves in appropriate ways and men could not violate them. It was very detailed and elaborated to discuss in the women’s perception and customs in Thailand. Therefore, the critical realism was appropriate method.

3.3          Justification

3.3.1    The Qualitative approach research

Qualitative research could serve the purpose of gaining a deep understanding of particular organization or phenomenon. It aimed to present an explicit rendering of the order, configuration, and interesting findings which were discovered among the group of the participants. It could be called field research or ethnomethodology which generates data involving human groups in social settings (California State University, 2011). Therefore, the qualitative approach was the most effective method to collect and analyse the data of this dissertation.

According to the research topic, the qualitative approach was appropriate to the researcher to have the opportunity to observe and ask for clarification from the participants. If this research topic was done by the quantitative approach, it could not access to the attitudes and perceptions of each participants; because the quantitative approach served the purpose of numerical data or mass scale data collection. According to Shuttleworth (2008), the quantitative research design was the proper method to finalise the results and provide or disprove hypothesis which was the standard and had not changed for years. It was the reasonable approach to narrow down the data and restrict the findings. However, this research on glass ceiling and women’s leadership approach were not focused on hypothesis, but it aimed to study for the alternative and more possible explanation and results. Therefore, the quantitative approach was not suitable. This research also required the analysis of cultural context, social values, gender discrimination issue in Thailand and personal experiences of each participant. According to these matters, the qualitative was appropriate to collect the data.

3.3.2    The Research Questions

The primary research question was: how Thai female soldiers overcome gender barriers (Glass Ceiling) in male dominant workplace like Thailand’s Ministry of Defence. Then, the 2 sets of questions to interview the senior and junior participants had been composed. The theory of career stages (Dalton, Thompson and Price, 1977) was added to distinguish the groups of participants. In this research, the participants were in the stages of ‘sponsors’, the senior military officers, and ‘independent specialist’, the junior officers. This theory manifested the roles, responsibilities, plans for their career future of the participants. Both set of questions shared similarities to find out the women’s motivation, work environment, career advancement and keys to success in the military. However, the senior participants’ questions would include leadership approach as to implement their working performances and command their mixed genders subordinates.

The theories of Sexual Gender Discrimination (Madden, 1977) and Glass Ceiling (Hymowitz and Schellhardt, 1986), concerning maternal wall and women qualities which prevented women to achieve career success, had been identified to find out whether Thai women soldiers feel oppress with this condition or they understood it as a part of organizational culture. The Glass Ceiling issue could relate to Thai women soldiers’ perceptions on motivation [why women enrolled to male dominant workplace] working environment [how women became satisfied or overcome obstacles in the military], career advancement [how Thai military encouraged women’s roles in the military] and women’s fulfillment in the military [how Thai female soldiers supplement the needs of the military]. Lastly, the theory of Leadership in women by Kanter (1977) and Heilman (1995) would be addressed to amplify or argue the leadership approaches which Thai women soldiers operated in the military whether they needed to derive masculine qualities to become efficient leaders or they could fit to Early and Karau’s (2002) on ‘role congruity’.

3.4          Data Collection and Analysis

3.4.1  Collecting Primary Data

The primary data was collected from interviews. Nine personal interviews, consisting 6 senior female soldiers and 3 young female soldiers were conducted. The women with colonel and higher ranks were chosen to represent the senior soldiers. Their ages were between 48 to 54 years old. The senior soldiers are consisted of leaders and assistant leaders to their departments. Also the young and less than 5 years working experiences in the military were chosen to represent the junior soldiers. Their ages were between 28 and 34 and their ranks were from Sub Lieutenant to Lieutenant. Some of the young soldiers were the senior soldiers’ subordinates; therefore, I could observe and analyse whether their answers were relevant or contradict to each other. The Military Officers were selected through the personal contacts of the researcher. Therefore, it was easier to make the individual interviews and obtain the military allowance to proceed the interview and observe the actual military office in different departments. The departments, which the selected soldiers were belonged to, were Treasury, Accounting and Internal Audit. These departments had high number of female officers comparing to other departments such as the Defence Industry and Energy Center, Defence Energy Department and other departments, which were consisted of confidential working processes and weapons of the Ministry.

Before the personal interview process started an interview protocol, the list of questions, was submitted to each respondent and permission was obtained to conduct the interview in the specific dates and times. The benefits of sending the list of questions was the participants could justify whether the questions were appropriate for them to give the interview. Moreover, they could study the questions and prepare the proper answers before the actual appointments. The interviews were recorded on the mp3 player in conjunction with note-taking in individual senior soldiers’ private offices, and meeting rooms for young soldiers, in order to observe the real atmosphere of the Thai military offices and encourage their privacy during interviewing process. The advantages of note taking and recording sound clips were the researcher could list the key points of the interviews and repeat the recording voices to make the most efficient data analysis.

The interview questions’ intention was to find out if female military officers think the issue of Glass Ceiling was existed and it could affect their working performance and female leadership skills. The questions were mostly open questions, so the interviewees could have the opportunity to express their opinions, feelings, attitudes and understandings of the research topic (Colorado State University, 2011). Moreover, the open questions could offer the chance for the interviewer to ask for further clarification on the interviewees’ answers and observe the true feelings and reactions of the interviewees in order to comprehend the attitudes and answers more efficiently. In the last question of the list is the closed question. This helps the researcher to conclude the exact intention of the interviewees, and straight to the point if the female soldiers think there is a glass ceiling in the ministry of defense or not.

3.5          The Obstacle of Data Collection

This research had taken place in one of the most confidential organizations in Thailand, the Ministry of Defense; therefore the access to the ministry’s documents had been declared such as the number of soldiers in the whole organizations, the number of female soldiers in each departments and the training process in details of the new coming soldiers.  Although, the researcher derived the information by asking the military officers themselves; for they all had experienced the training processes. However, there were not written documents to support academically. Therefore, the evidences were not fully qualified to state in the dissertation.


3.6          Data Analysis

The qualitative data was the main source to analyse. It is the effective approach to explain the gender dimensions in military career advancement for women and female soldiers’ principles for their working. This research focuses on the customs on women’s custom, women’s development, the acceptance and perception of female soldiers in Ministry of Defence. The participants’ understandings and experiences towards their careers will be scrutinized in order to reveal their interplays of different matters, which manifest their experiences in their professions. Template Analysis had been applied to this research.

3.6.1    Template Analysis

The origin of ‘template analysis’ was a relatively descended from more structured analysis methods such as ‘Grounded Theory’ [an approach which developed the theory from the collected data (Learning Qualitative Data Analysis- QDA, 2011)] and ‘Interpretative Phenomenological (IPA)[ an approach which was mainly involved with psychology. It helped the researcher to understand the participants’ individual lives (QDA, 2011)]’ (Waring and Wainwright, 2008). However, this template analysis had been developed by Professor Nigel King (2004). The ‘template analysis’ was the way of organizing and analyzing textual data due to themes of the research (The University of Sheffield, 2008). King (2004) stated that the term ‘template analysis’ was referred to certain way of thematically analyzing qualitative data. It involved the progress of the ‘template’ codification. This template summarised and identified the themes, which the researcher aimed to organize into a meaningful and useful manner. Therefore, the broader themes would be narrowed down to efficient specific ones. Then the analysis often started with ‘priori’ codes which identified the research themes to be salient with the analysis. Nevertheless, these ‘priori’ codes could be modified or served each other if they did not prove to be efficient or proper (King, 2004).

3.6.2 Analysis Process

The Data Analysis started from the data collection and related literature reviews, according to the interviews and the keywords from the participants’ answers. Then these answers would be categorised into the same groups. If the answers were different from each other, they would be analysed individually and researched for further information from the second database such as academic journals, news and etc. After finalizing the answers into appropriate categories, the successive reports of findings and conclusion could be stated into the dissertation.

3.7          Research Ethics

3.7.1    Ethical Concern related to Consent Form and Questions

Before proposing an interview, the consent form had been sent to the participants. The consent form was consisted of the participants’ rights during the interview. They could stop the interview anytime if they felt uncomfortable due to physical and mental condition without giving any reasons. Also, the interviews would be recorded in the MP3 player for transcribing and later analysing. However, the interviewees had the rights to ask the research to omit some parts of the interviews, which could affect their reputations, law and the organisation’s image. Then the researcher would not state that part in the dissertation or use it in data analysis.

Along with the consent form, the lists of questions would be sent to the participants in order to help justifying their decisions whether they wanted to give an interview or denied it. Also, the lists of questions could help the participants preparing the relevant and proper answers for the research.

3.7.2    Ethical Concern related to Participants and Data Storage

According to University of Glasgow (2011)’s guidance on ethical principles, the researcher must take serious concern on ‘ethical implications and psychological consequences for the participants’ during the research.  The researcher must not threat the participants’ mental health, value or dignity. Moreover, the researcher must consider about the participants’ cultural background in order to approach appropriately to them. The interviewees and ‘gatekeepers’ would not be pressurized by the researcher in order to give useful and beneficial information to the researcher (Sauders, Thornhill and Lewis, 2009). Nevertheless, the researcher was familiar with military hierarchy and disciplines due to family and educational background; therefore, the problems of insult and disrespectful manners would be at eased.

The participants in this research were not children, nor physical challenged adults; therefore, the researcher did not need to provide special communicational helps or safe-guarding procedures. However, the information of the participants must be kept in safe and would not be used in other researches without the participants’ knowing and permission. According to this, in Chapter 4, the information of participants’ identities would be replaced with alias. Also, after finishing the research, the recorded information from the participants such as MP3 recording interviews would be deleted and destroyed right away, so that they could not be used in other researches.

3.7.3    Ethics Concern related to Data Analysis and Presentation

Exploring researches in national non-profit or government offices like Ministry of Defence must be handled with intensive care due to the national response and reputation in the international level. The researcher needed to ensure that all data were permitted and appropriate for the analysis and presentation processes.

The misinterpreting and misrepresenting of data could affect the result of the research and indicate to the wrong understanding. Therefore, the researcher must analyse the data with neutral judgment and accurate understanding of context based on academic literature and cultural perception. According to Saunders (2009), it was noted that the researcher should not misrepresent the data analysis and reporting. The confidentiality and anonymity were important.  The reporting stage must be presented with honesty and accuracy. Although, the researcher could use her personal experience and perception to codify the data, the secondary data such as academic journals, books and new articles could be cited to support the researcher’s ideas and codification towards the findings.

Research Objective Data Collection
Exploring Thai female soldiers’ current working environment in the Ministry of Defence  Observing the real environment of participants’ offices and interviewing them for insight perspectives towards their careers.
Exploring how Thai female soldiers express and fulfill themselves in military Studying the Thai culture and traditions which affected Thai women’s roles and interviewing women soldiers towards their roles, experiences and organizational culture.
Exploring Thai Military women’s leadership skills Interviewing women soldiers about their leadership approach and identifying with Kurt Lewin’s theory(1939)
Exploring how Thai women became successful in male dominant workplace Analysing the participants’ motivation in order to find out their goals in career and their adjustment to become successful in their careers.

Figure 2: Research Objective and Data Collection

More Chapters :

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Literature Review
Chapter 3: Methodology
Chapter 4 Findings and Discussion
Chapter 5: Conclusion