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Gender at Work

A Social Psychological Perspective


Melanie C. Steffens and Ma. Àngels Viladot

While many women receive equal education, such equality is nowhere in sight when it comes to women’s and men’s career success: men still earn significantly more than women and are more likely to be promoted. In this book, the authors offer a state of the art review of applied social-psychological research on gender at work, shedding light on all the different ways that work-related perceptions, attributions, outcomes, and the like differ for women and men. Focusing on domains (e.g., engineering) and positions (e.g., leadership) that are marked by women’s underrepresentation, the first part of the book looks at gender at work in terms of stereotypes, attitudes, and social roles, including parenthood, while the second part takes a social identity and communication perspective, exploring the situations in which men and women interact at work. Many chapters focus on applied questions, such as career choice, effects of role models, and sexual harassment at work. Theories and findings are applied to these topics, with conclusions and recommendations drawn throughout the book.
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Chapter 12. Parenthood and Work-related Impressions


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In addition to having effects on women’s overall burden and the conflicting tasks they try to juggle (see Chapter 7 on social roles), parenthood also affects how working women are perceived by others. Mothers appear to embody the essence of womanhood (e.g., Okimoto & Heilman, 2012). What does this imply for the careers of women (and men) who have children? Several experiments have tested this, generally using the Goldberg paradigm: Written information about women and men who had children or not was provided to different participants, who rated them on competence, job commitment, and the like. These experiments show that parenthood is costly in several respects to both women and men. For example, both mothers and fathers were perceived as less committed to their jobs, less available, and less assertive/competent than childless applicants or the “ideal worker” (Fuegen et al., 2004). Also, the information that someone had taken a parental leave of absence resulted in lower recommendations for overseas assignments for both mothers and fathers (Allen, Russell, & Rush, 1994). A sample of female employees working full time perceived parents working full time as more career and less family oriented than were perceived those with reduced working hours (Etaugh & Moss, 2001). Similarly, working parents appeared less warm than stay-at-home parents (Bridges, Etaugh, & Barnes-Farrell, 2002; see also Park, Smith, & Correll, 2008).

← 137 | 138 → In spite of these findings indicating costs of parenthood for both women and men, much additional evidence suggests...

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