A not-so-bundle-of-joy

By Bronwyn Neal

Imagine this:

You are at the height of your career, you’ve found the love of your life, had your dream wedding, and not too long ago, you brought a little life into the world. You’re at the top of your game and nothing can bring you down. Or so you think. What if I told you that your new little bundle of joy now influences the way your co-workers, bosses and future employers perceive you as a professional? Don’t worry boys, you’re safe. Ladies on the other hand, pay close attention…

Over the past few decades, women have been making their way out of the house and into the workplace, morphing the image of “woman” from housewife to professional. Although this all sounds fine and dandy, women have not made this transition smoothly and are still trying to claim their rightful place in society.

In 2004, researchers Amy Cuddy, Susan Fiske, and Peter Glick conducted a study to find out how professional women are perceived after becoming mothers.

Here’s how: 122 undergraduates of diverse gender read profiles of three consultants who worked at a corporate company and were asked to respond with their first impressions. The profile described either a man or woman, and provided a brief background of their education, job requirements, hobbies, and whether or not they were a parent.

After each description, participants were asked to rate the consultant on 20 traits using a scale of 1 to 7. Of the 20 traits, a handful measured competence and several measured “warmth”-related traits.The rest were “filler” traits, meaning that they did not necessarily factor into what the researchers were trying to study.  

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Although this approach sounds simple, the results they found were anything but.

When reviewing the results, they found that the working mom was perceived significantly more warm, but marginally less competent than working women without children. Men on the other hand, did not differ on competence regardless of if they were a father or a working man without a child. Furthermore, working moms were preferred less than women without children, whereas working fathers were preferred less than a man without children.

There is a lot more than meets the surface with a study like this one.

Women being perceived as warmer after having a child is not absurd (I guess I’ll give them that). What is absurd, is the fact that women are perceived as less competent due to having a child. Correct me if i’m wrong, but I don’t think that bringing a life into the world affects how well a woman can complete a task or do her job for that matter.

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This same accusation becomes even more ridiculous when men receive brownie points for doing what they are expected of them as a father, whereas women have to jump through hoops and bend over backwards in order to get a simple “good job” for going above and beyond what is expected of them. This difference in perception can be explained by  old original gender roles of men and women: breadwinners vs. housewives.

A woman and man have the same job, they both fall in love and have a family. The man is now seen as a great father and the woman, as warmer, motherly. And as for their work ethic? Nothing changed. Why? Because babies don’t affect competency. Point being: we, as a society, shouldn’t let them.  

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