When mom is the CEO at home, workplace ambitions take a back seat

Jan 18, 2013

It's often said that women can have it all – motherhood and a successful career. But a new 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.

While household decision-making power was highly valued by both men and who participated in the UC Berkeley study, 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, according to the study.

"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 UC Berkeley psychologist Serena Chen, a co-author of the study.

Despite the feminist movement and other gender equity efforts, women largely retain authority over child-rearing and household chores and finances, with men deferring to their expertise in these matters, researchers point out. This paradigm has had an impact on women's career choices, the study implies.

"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. She will present the findings this Friday, Jan. 18, at the annual meeting of the Society of Personality and in New Orleans.

In the first experiment, 136 participants ranging in age from 18 to 30 were surveyed on whether being in control of household decisions is desirable and empowering. Both men and women agreed that household control is advantageous.

In another experiment, each of the 166 female participants was asked to imagine two scenarios: That she was married with a child and made most of the household decisions, or that she made most decisions with her husband. The women then rated their life goals in order of importance. 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 the final 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. But this time, there was another option: The participants had to imagine doing most domestic chores without the distinction of having control of the household.

Again, 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 did not vary across the household power conditions. Thus, the dampening effect of household power on workplace goals is specific to women, researchers said.

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 to 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," she concluded.

Explore further: Why are consumers willing to spend more money on ethical products?

Related Stories

Women in Spain still work double shifts

Oct 26, 2010

The proportion of the workforce represented by women rose from 20.7% to 41.1% between 1978 and 2002. However, this trend has not resulted in a similar increase in the proportion of men who participate in household ...

Why women are still left doing most of the housework

May 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- An Oxford University study says if current trends continue, women will probably have to wait until 2050 before men are doing an equal share of the household chores and childcare. According ...

How sexual power can be disempowering

Oct 01, 2012

Gender roles and norms play a key role in sexual behavior between men and women. It is often assumed that men should dominate women sexually. This assumption may lead to loss of both power and the ability to control sexual ...

Recommended for you

Poverty rate drops for the first time since 2006

12 hours ago

The poverty rate in the United States has dropped for the first time since 2006, bringing a bit of encouraging news about the nation's economy as President Barack Obama and Congress gear up for the November elections.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

210
1 / 5 (2) Jan 18, 2013
"Again, 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 did not vary across the household power conditions. Thus, the dampening effect of household power on workplace goals is specific to women, researchers said.
Read more at: http://phys.org/n...tml#jCp" OK....hey......I am sure we are not blaming GUYS for this, right?
Yes, a woman does have a vital role to play in commerce BUT lets not underestimate primal drives and yes, many eons of evolution. I, for one, cannot imagine a more important role than....mommy! Imagine it, a world full of men who cant die, get old, get sick, have all power, all wealth, and can fly to any point in the universe instantly....but, there are no women at home...these Supermen would kill themselves OR create WOMAN! Let women have equal pay, we need them!
word-
Infinum
3 / 5 (2) Jan 18, 2013
"participants was asked to imagine" - since when imagination is a good enough (i.e. verifiable with reality) basis for a scientific experiment?

Psychologists, nuff said.
FrankHerbert
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 18, 2013
This topic is going to devolve quickly. I look forward to your sexist comments.
Szkeptik
not rated yet Jan 19, 2013
Were the women asked to make a sandwich for the interviewer? Their individual reactions would have been a good way of correcting for cultural bias.