Single Dads & Single Moms Suffer at Work: Non-Traditional Roles May Incite Workplace Bias  New research reads like a tract from the hidebound 1950s, not the 21st Century. But in a series of new studies, University of Toronto researchers have found that as workers expand from traditional non-work related roles, the workplace proves a negative environment.

Investigators discovered that middle-class men who take on non-traditional caregiving roles are treated worse at work than men who stick closer to traditional gender norms in the family.

Furthermore, women without children and mothers with non-traditional caregiving arrangements are treated worst of all.

“Their hours are no different than other employees’, but their co-workers appear to be picking up on their non-traditional caregiving roles and are treating them disrespectfully,” said social psychologist Jennifer Berdahl, Ph.D., from the University of Toronto.

Berdahl co-authored the study with Sue Moon, Ph.D., from Long Island University.

Researchers performed two separate field studies, each using mail-in surveys. The first was targeted at unionized workers in female-dominated occupations and the other was targeted at public service workers in a male-dominated workforce.

Amazingly, the investigators discovered negative consequences when traditional gender roles associated with having a family were altered. In the same spirit, the least harassed employees were fathers and mothers who followed more traditional gender norms. For instance, men who did less caregiving and domestic tasks at home and women who did more were more likely to be accepted.

The results suggest that how well a worker performs their gender role in the home has more bearing on how they are treated at work than how well that worker performs their job.

As a result, men and women are likely to feel pressure at work to conform to traditional roles at home.

“They may choose not to have children if these traditional roles are not feasible for them, or get in the way of family or career goals,” according to Berdahl.

Berdahl points out that workplace treatment is different from pay and promotions.

“Both male and female employees suffer lower pay and fewer promotions after taking time off work to care for family, to extents that cannot be explained by possible skill loss, hours, performance, or ambition.”

“What we really need is a more flexible workplace and policies that protect employees who choose to use that flexibility or not, regardless of their gender,” Berdahl said.

The study is to be published in the Journal of Social Issues.

Source: University of Toronto

Business woman handling housework photo by shutterstock.