By Christie Marsh
In April 2015, David Cameron introduced the shared parental leave legislation (Campbell-Barr, 2015) which was designed to increase fathers’ participation in the household and enable women to continue to work after the birth of a child (Department for Business Innovation & Skills, 2013). This policy enables couples to distribute their parental leave between themselves, and gives fathers more opportunity to take longer paternity leave. This policy is similar to the legislation that was already being used in other EU countries, however, these countries have not been experiencing equal distribution of parental leave between the mother and the father (Duvander & Johansson, 2012). Why is this? Do fathers just not want to take equal leave or are societal expectations of fathers playing a role? To understand this further, I have run some studies to understand whether fathers were choosing not to take longer parental leave due to the constraints of societal expectations and whether fathers do actually face social and organizational constraints if they decide to take longer parental leave.
Gender equality is an important topic in the current decade, whether you are a man or woman our behavior, and expectations upon it, does seem to be constrained by gender. Research in organizational psychology has shown that women face poorer promotional opportunities compared to men (e.g. Eagly & Karau, 2002; Phelan, Moss-Racusin & Rudman, 2008;Rudman & Glick, 2001), and when women do achieve leadership roles they are more likely to be put in precarious leadership positions (Ryan & Haslam, 2005). In comparison, there is not a lot of research on when men may face poorer organizational opportunities as a result of their caring responsibilities. Some research has shown that fathers face discrimination and feminisation due to adoption of flexible working schedules to accommodate the care of their children (e.g. Berdahl & Moon, 2013; Vandello, Hettinger, Bosson & Siddiqi, 2013). That work suggests that it is equally important to investigate how and when fathers experience workplace penalties and poorer promotional opportunities.
Over the summer, I worked with Dr Georgina Randsley de Moura and Dr Carola Leicht as part of the BPS undergraduate research assistantship scheme on a funded project investigating workplace opportunities of male parental leave users. We were interested in investigating whether length of parental leave affects perceptions and promotional opportunities of male job candidates. Therefore, we conducted a study where we asked participants to rate three candidates on a number of traits and behaviours before asking them to choose one of the candidates for a promotion. The only difference between the candidates was the length of parental leave they had taken previously, one candidate took 4 months, another candidate took 4 weeks and the last candidate took no parental leave. Our results suggest that fathers who took longer parental leave of 4 months were perceived as being less committed to their work and they also had a significantly lower chance of being chosen for the promotion. I am now following this up in my final year project research.
The implications of these results are that men face poorer organisational opportunities when they adopt the counter-stereotypic role of father. This suggests that when men do make use of their new rights to take longer leave, they may then face the problem of being less likely to be chosen for a promotion when they return to work. Therefore, would the new shared parental leave policy achieve the ideal of increasing men’s involvement in the household and women’s involvement in the workplace? Or will men be more likely to avoid taking the longer parental leave because they don’t want to be considered less committed to work? This is something that needs to be further investigated but the results of this study are an important starting point because we have shown that when males adopt a caregiving role then they are likely to suffer from violating societal expectations. Additionally, this research project highlights that both men and women are constrained by societal expectations in terms of the roles that are deemed appropriate for both genders to hold. A few weeks ago, Alice Eagly visited us to give a research talk, and Role Congruity Theory (Eagly & Karau, 2002) clearly has a role to play in these issues. In addition, exposure to counterstereotypes can lead to flexible thinking about groups and leaders (e.g. Crisp & Turner, 2011; Leicht, Randsley de Moura & Crisp, 2014). Taken together, I feel sure that this shows that in order to further gender equality we should enable women and men to “break the gender rules”.
Berdahl, J. L., & Moon, S. H. (2013). Workplace mistreatment of middle class workers based on sex, parenthood, and caregiving. Journal Of Social Issues, 69(2), 341-366. doi:10.1111/josi.12018
Campbell-Barr, E. (2015, April 11). Shared parental leave: ‘nightmare’ new rules, or the first baby steps to equality. The Guardian. Retrieved November 11, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/apr/11/shared-parental-leave-rules-equality
Crisp, R. J., & Turner, R. N. (2011). Cognitive Adaptation to the Experience of Social and Cultural Diversity. Psychological Bulletin, 137(2), 242-266. doi:10.1037/a0021840
Department for Business Innovation & Skills., (2013). Modern Workplaces: Shared Parental Leave and Pay Administration Consultation – Impact Assessment. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/110692/13-651-modern-workplaces-shared-parental-leave-and-pay-impact-assessment2.pdf
Duvander, A., & Johansson, M. (2012). What are the effects of reforms promoting fathers’ parental leave use?. Journal Of European Social Policy, 22(3), 319-330. doi:10.1177/0958928712440201
Eagly, A. H., & Karau, S. J. (2002). Role Congruity Theory of Prejudice Toward Female Leaders. Psychological Review, 109(3), 573. doi: 10.1037//0033-295X.109.3.573
Leicht, C., Randsley de Moura, G., & Crisp, R. (2014). Contesting gender stereotypes stimulates generalized fairness in the selection of leaders. Leadership Quarterly, 25, 1025-1039. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2014.05.001
Phelan, J. E., Moss-Racusin, C. A., & Rudman, L. A. (2008). Competent yet out in the cold: Shifting criteria for hiring reflect backlash toward agentic women. Psychology Of Women Quarterly, 32(4), 406-413. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00454.x
Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (2001). Prescriptive Gender Stereotypes and Backlash Toward Agentic Women. Journal Of Social Issues, 57(4), 743. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/ehost/detail/detail?vid=51&sid=0f480486-25d2-4a71-aa56-f235273b89e7%40sessionmgr4004&hid=4207&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=5487088&db=a9h
Ryan, M. K., & Haslam, S. A. (2005). The glass cliff: Evidence that women are over‐represented in precarious leadership positions. British Journal of management, 16(2), 81-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2005.00433.x
Vandello, J. A., Hettinger, V. E., Bosson, J. K., & Siddiqi, J. (2013). When equal isn’t really equal: The masculine dilemma of seeking work flexibility. Journal Of Social Issues, 69(2), 303-321. doi:10.1111/josi.12016