Download data and study materials from OSF
Sample size: 1013
Field period: 04/16/2015-07/08/2015
Despite advances made by women in the workplace, mothers have continued to be penalized with regard to job attainment, advancement, and pay. The goal of this project is to disentangle the various aspects at work in this penalty for working mothers by experimentally manipulating characteristics that are contributing to lower expectations for working mothers. For the experiment, I created a vignette where all information presented is identical aside from the manipulated conditions of gender, child caregiving condition, and sexual orientation of fictitious job seekers. After reading this vignette, respondents were asked a series of questions about how they would evaluate the candidate. Results indicate that, among heterosexual parents, primary caregiving parents (both male and female) are evaluated more harshly than secondary caregiving parents. Results also indicate that lesbian secondary caregiving mothers are evaluated more harshly than heterosexual secondary caregiving mothers.
H1: When caregiving status is not indicated, mothers should receive lower assessments compared to fathers.
H2: When caregiving condition is presented, primary caregivers should receive lower assessments than secondary caregivers.
H3a: For job candidates in the primary caregiving condition, gay fathers should receive lower assessments than heterosexual fathers. Hypothesis 3b: For job candidates in the secondary caregiving condition, gay fathers should receive lower assessments than heterosexual fathers.
H3c: For job candidates in the primary caregiving condition, lesbian mothers should receive lower assessments than heterosexual mothers.
H3d: For job candidates in the secondary caregiving condition, lesbian mothers should receive lower assessments than heterosexual mothers.
H4: When caregiving position is not indicated, lesbian mothers should receive higher assessments than heterosexual mothers.
H5: When caregiving position is not indicated, gay fathers should receive lower assessments than heterosexual fathers.
Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Child Caregiving Condition
Workplace evaluation measures: suitability of hire, likelihood of interview, likelihood of hire, likelihood of promotion track, and pay range.
Competence and commitment measures: competence, commitment, organized, capable.
Summary of Findings:
I find no evidence of a gender penalty on evaluations of a job candidate. When caregiving is not indicated, no differences emerge between male and female job seekers, thus disconfirming Hypothesis 1. Additionally, there was a non-significant main effect of gender of job seeker suggesting that mothers are not evaluated lower than fathers. Although the direct test of Hypothesis 2 comparing primary and secondary caregivers suggests disconfirmation of the hypotheses, results from additional tests hint at some support. Further tests reveal that significant findings involving the caregiving main effect stem from comparisons between conditions indicating caregiving status and the condition not indicating such status. I find that sexual orientation seems to exert a penalty on two of the outcomes, though further analyses are required to fully investigate these effects.
My goal with this project is to build on the body of prior work, much of it framed in terms of Expectation States Theory, where gender normative assumptions operate, suggesting a motherhood penalty and a fatherhood premium, at least for heterosexual parents. This study makes two contributions to this literature. First, for heterosexual parents, there is a penalty associated with primary caregiving. This underscores the mechanism that fuels the traditionally conceived motherhood penalty: not gender, but rather caregiving status. For heterosexual primary caregiving parents, the negative evaluations when contrasted with heterosexual secondary caregiving parents, emerges not in the workplace evaluations of interview and hire, but rather in the evaluations of competence and commitment. This underscores the importance of training hiring managers to consider the impact of implicit bias on perceptions.
Second, for gay and lesbian parents (and particularly for lesbian parents) there is a penalty associated with secondary caregiving. In summary, heterosexual parents who do not show commitment to work by prioritizing the work sphere over the home sphere suffer negative consequences in the workplace. In contrast, female parents in same-sex couples endure negative workplace outcomes when they do not show commitment to child caregiving. For lesbian breadwinning mothers, negative evaluations, when contrasted to heterosexual breadwinning mothers, are striking and are not limited to perceptions of competence and commitment. Not only would interventions and policies need to address getting such potential employees in the door, they would need to address implicit bias that hiring managers may have about lesbian breadwinning mothers.
Demerjian, Sascha W. 2016. The Wages of Parenthood: At the Intersection of Gender, Child Caregiving, and Sexual Orientation (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Emory University, Atlanta, GA.