Working moms who take on the role of running their households have less desire to take on those same leadership responsibilities at work, new research shows.
The study from the University of California, Berkeley suggests that women who rule the household have less energy for or interest in being a rising star in the workplace.
Specifically, the research revealed that while household decision-making power was highly valued by both sexes, women reported that running the home made them less likely to pursue promotions and other career advancement steps at the office. This was not the case for men, whose work goals were unchanged by their domestic role.
"It appears that being in charge of household decisions may bring a semblance of power to women's traditional role, to the point where women may have less desire to push against the obstacles to achieving additional power outside the home," said Serena Chen, a UC Berkeley psychologist and a co-author of the study.
The researchers found that despite gender equality efforts over the years, women largely retain authority over child-rearing and household chores and finances, with men deferring to their expertise in these matters.
"As a result, women may make decisions such as not going after a high-status promotion at work, or not seeking to work full time, without realizing why," said Melissa Williams, an assistant professor of business at Emory University and lead author of the study.
As part of the study, researchers asked166 female participants to imagine two scenarios: one in which she was married with a child and made most of the household decisions and another in which she made most decisions with her husband. The women then rated their life goals in order of importance.
The results show that those who envisioned exercising control over domestic decisions rated the perks of workplace power, such as earning a high salary, lower than participants who imagined sharing household decision-making with their husbands.
In a second experiment, 644 male and female participants were again presented with the scenario of being married with a child and the choice of wielding household power or sharing it with their spouses. However, this time they also had to imagine doing most domestic chores without the distinction of having control of the household. The test found that women who wielded household power expressed less interest in workplace power than women who imagined making household decisions equally with their husbands. Meanwhile, men's interest in workplace power didn't vary across the household power conditions.
The study's authors said that unlike the female participants who controlled the household, women presented with the "chores-only" scenario did not show a dampened interest in workplace power compared with those who shared domestic power with their spouse.
"This suggests that it is the power aspect of household control that reduces women's interest in power outside of the home," Chen said. "To realize true gender equality in both the private and public spheres, our results suggest that women may need to at least partially abdicate their role of ultimate household deciders, and men must agree to share such decision making."
The study's findings are being officially presented during this month's annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans.
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