How Motherhood Impacts Working Women

It is no secret that any working father who is involved in his children’s life is termed a ‘good father’. But for women who do the exact same thing, they are often met with apprehension and uncertainty. Women are expected to prioritize children in a way that is assumed to hinder their professional lives.

 Working women are assumed to be motherly, or ‘warm’ and assumed to put their families ‘above all else’ including their career. In a study done by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, the researchers found just that.

 What they did – In a study published in the Journal of Social Issues, they recruited 122 participants. In a 2×2 study, which means there were 4 situations (male, female, child, no child), participants rated three fictitious consultants on two traits – warmth and competence and then on three discriminatory items which were designed to evaluate the extent to which a consultant was valued or discriminated against.  

 What they found – 4 major findings “when working women become mothers, they trade perceived competence for perceived warmth. Second, working men don’t make this trade; when they become fathers, they gain perceived warmth and maintain perceived competence.

 Third, people report less interest in hiring, promoting, and educating working moms relative to working dads and childless employees. Finally, competence ratings predict interest in hiring, promoting, and educating workers. Thus, working moms’ gain in perceived warmth does not help them, but their loss in perceived competence does hurt them.

 What this means for us – This means that employers and managers and senior staff, ought to keep a look for an inherent bias towards assuming that working mothers are any less competent or committed. A worker ought to be gauged solely on their work ethic and commitment to projects and tasks at hand.

 While thinking od mothers as compassionate isn’t a bad thing, it is high time that we value their effort and work instead of doubting their capacity to carry out the work. Children may (and often do) add responsibilities to a to-do list, but they do not lead to a decrease in cognitive abilities!

Link to the study – When Professionals Become Mothers, Warmth Doesn’t Cut the Ice