New research finds middle-class men who take on “non-traditional” caregiver roles are treated more poorly by their colleagues at work than men who stay closer to conventional gender norms in the family.
The news is actually worse for women without children and mothers with non-traditional caregiving arrangements. Researchers from the University of Toronto and the Long Island University Post campus found those two groups are shown the shabbiest treatment of all.
The study authors based their results on two separate field studies, each using mail-in surveys. The first poll was geared toward unionized workers in female-centric occupations, with the second survey targeted at public-service workers in a male-dominated workforce. For the studies’ purposes, traditional gender norms were defined as men who did less caregiving and domestic tasks at home, and women who did more.
So, it seems that many employees whose home lives don’t look like a 1950s sitcom are having a tougher time getting respect around the office, be they man or woman.
“Their hours are no different than other employees’, but their co-workers appear to be picking up on their non-traditional caregiving roles and are treating them disrespectfully,” according to Jennifer Berdahl, associate professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, who co-authored the study with Sue Moon, assistant professor at the College of Management at LIU.
The studies—to be published in the Journal of Social Issues—found “consequences for any employee who violated traditional gender roles when it came to having a family,” according to the authors.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that the study saw fathers and mothers following more traditional gender norms experiencing the least harassment in the workplace.
Interestingly, the authors indicate these results suggest a worker’s gender role at home influences how they are treated at work more than his or her job performance. As such, men and women may well feel pressure to conform to traditional roles at home, says Berdahl.
“They may choose not to have children if these traditional roles are not feasible for them, or get in the way of family or career goals.”
Berdahl also notes that workplace treatment differs from pay and promotions, and points out that taking time off to care for family can also hamstring men and women alike in terms of opportunities for salary increases and advancement.
“What we really need,” she says, “is a more flexible workplace and policies that protect employees who choose to use that flexibility or not, regardless of their gender.”