Does Marriage Structure Affect How Women are Viewed in the Workplace?

genderTwenty percent of households in the United States still adhere to the traditional structure in which the wife stays home to care for family and household and the husband is the sole breadwinner. According to authors Sreedhari D. Desai, Dolly Chugh, and Arthur P. Brief in their article “The Implications of Marriage Structure for Men’s Workplace Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors toward Women,” recently published in the OnlineFirst section of Administrative Science Quarterly, this family format can have surprising ramifications on the perception of working women by men who exclusively provide a household’s income.

The abstract:

Based on five studies with a total of 993 married, heterosexual male participants, we found that marriage structure has important implications for attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to gender among heterosexual married men in the workplace. Specifically, men in traditional marriages—married ASQ_v59n1_Mar2014_cover.inddto women who are not employed—disfavor women in the workplace and are more likely than the average of all married men to make decisions that prevent the advancement of qualified women. Results show that employed men in traditional marriages tend to (a) view the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably, (b) perceive that organizations with higher numbers of female employees are operating less smoothly, (c) perceive organizations with female leaders as relatively unattractive, and (d) deny qualified female employees opportunities for promotions more frequently than do other married male employees. Moreover, our final study suggests that men who are single and then marry women who are not employed may change their attitudes toward women in the workplace, becoming less positive. The consistent pattern of results across multiple studies employing multiple methods (lab, longitudinal, archival) and samples (U.S., U.K., undergraduates, managers) demonstrates the robustness of our findings that the structure of a man’s marriage influences his gender ideology in the workplace, presenting an important challenge to workplace egalitarianism.

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