Do you care if your married male co-workers’ wives work outside the home?
Better question: should you?
Because new research finds that working, married men whose wives who either don’t work or work only part-time are more likely to look down on women in the workplace.
Specifically, men with wives in these positions are more likely to:
- Hold an “unfavorable view” of women in the workplace.
- Think a workplace runs less efficiently with women.
- Find workplaces led by women “less desirable.”
- Consider women to be less qualified for promotions than comparable male colleagues.
The findings (from researchers from North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University; Women & Public Policy Program, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, NYU Leonard N. Stern School of Business and University of Utah) also point to the fact that men with these views are ”more likely to populate the upper echelons of organizations and thus, occupy more powerful positions.”
The most upsetting part isn’t that a married woman’s choice to work part-time or stay at home negatively impacts her working peers (although wait, that’s pretty upsetting). It’s that many men don’t even realize that they hold these prejudices.
Lauren Stiller Rikleen of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) cites an HBR Research Report that found that “only 28% of men, compared with 49% of women, see gender bias as still prevalent in the workplace.”
She writes about how when interviewing women for her book on women in the legal field, she spoke to many women who felt a lack of male support in their firms, and who had heard from their male colleagues that “the success of married women as equity partners invalidated the choices they and their wives had made about how to divide the responsibilities of work and family.”
Whoa. Let’s break that down: These men felt that when women were successful in the workplace, it cast aspersions on their own decisions to have their wives work less than full time and somehow implied that their choices were wrong or bad.
We know that working in the way you really want to (not at all, part time or full time) is a major part of happiness. And we know that women in leadership positions in the workplace are only beneficial for a company. So how are we supposed to convince men who may or may not be aware of their biases that working women are a good thing?
We’re not sure, but it probably begins with a power posture.