A new study published Jan. 18 in the journal Social Forces finds skewed leadership opportunities between mothers and fathers in the workforce. Fathers with very low academic performance in high school (1.0 GPAs) have similar leadership prospects to women who graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA.
The inequality only emerged after the participants had become parents. “When we examined the childless years before people became parents,” the study explains, “high school GPA was similarly associated with workplace leadership for both men and women.”
“Such an analysis clearly identifies the transition to parenthood as the main source of changes in men’s and women’s leadership opportunities,” the authors write.
Men supervise more people than women with the same high school grades
The Research also found that men supervise more people in the workplace than women, regardless of their high school averages (grade point average). This leadership gap between men and women was particularly pronounced among people who became parents.
Of those who earned a 4.0 GPA in high school, fathers have, on average, four times as many caregivers as mothers (19 for men versus four for women).
Also, a higher GPA is strongly linked to leading more people later in their careers, but only for fathers. As the Abitur average increases towards 4.0, the average number of supervisees increases from 4 to 19 for fathers, but changes little for mothers (increase from 3 to 4).
Analysis of 5,000 career paths
This study focused on a sample of approximately 5,000 people born between 1957 and 1964. The researchers had access to these individuals’ high school transcript data and their responses to how many individuals they mentored from 1988 to 1998.
The data comes from the NLSY79. This is a nationally representative survey of 12,686 people aged 14 to 22 when they first gave interviews in 1979. They limited the sample to 1988, 1989, 1996, and 1998, which consistently asked respondents about leadership roles. They also limited the sample to respondents with full high school transcript data; these transcript data were also provided by the NLSY79 survey. This resulted in a sample of 5,306 people.
A lack of barriers for men means more leadership opportunities
“Our research clearly demonstrates the barriers that women, particularly mothers, face in the workplace,” said the study’s lead author, Jill Yavorsky of UNC Charlotte.
“Given that even men with low grades achieve higher leadership roles than women,” she said, “perhaps this study demonstrates the lack of barriers that men face in achieving a Greater leadership is offset by opportunity.”
Researchers also examined why there was such a large discrepancy between mothers and fathers. They discovered that part of the GPA leadership gap is because high-performing fathers benefit significantly from college degrees or higher, while mothers with comparable degrees do not.
In fact, mothers with a college degree or higher have similar leadership opportunities to mothers without a college degree.
“Based on other research,” Yavorsky said, “we know that even when men and women work in the same field, including female-dominated occupations, men still tend to have better leadership prospects than women.
“This suggests that the differences are not just a result of men and women choosing different career paths. Rather, men benefit in terms of their leadership opportunities, regardless of which path they choose.”
Men work longer and take less vacation time
In addition, the study found that among the top performers were men better prospects for managerial positions than women because they tended to work longer in their jobs and had more work experience than women, especially after becoming parents.
Yavorsky said that mothers tend to have a disproportionate share of household responsibilities than Men are more likely to take parental leave and interrupt their careers to look after children or other family members.
But even after accounting for these explanations, leadership differences between high-performing mothers and fathers remain.
Will the same pattern hold for today’s young adults?
“It is likely that these general patterns will hold for younger cohorts,” Yavorsky said, “as recent research shows that much progress is being made Key actions for gender equality in the workplace have stalled or slowed down since the mid-1990s.”
“Moreover, current research in the field shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting women’s employment and productivity more negatively than men’s, in large part because mothers are taking on more responsibilities that associated with school and child foster closures,” she said.
“This pattern could further exacerbate the gender gap in work experience and thus future career advancement opportunities.”
Yavorsky noted two important changes in government policy could lead to greater use of female talent. One is subsidized childcare to make it more affordable and reliable for all families. The other is paid maternity and paternity leave, which encourages fathers to become more involved in household chores from the start of parenthood.
Study: “The Under-Utilization of Women’s Talent: Academic Achievement and Future Leadership Positions”Authors: Yue Qian and Jill E. Yavorsky Published in: Social ForcesRelease date: 18. January 2021DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/soaa126Photo: by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay