Researchers from the University of British Columbia discovered the way by which parents share dishes, laundry and other domestic duties appears to influence gender attitudes and aspirations of their children, especially daughters.
While mothers’ gender and work equality beliefs were key factors in predicting kids’ attitudes toward gender, the strongest predictor of daughters’ own professional ambitions was their fathers’ approach to household chores.
“This suggests girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents,” said lead author Alyssa Croft, a doctoral candidate in the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology. “How fathers treat their domestic duties appears to play a unique gatekeeper role.”
The study, due to appear in the journal Psychological Science, suggests parents’ domestic actions may speak louder than words.
Researchers discovered that even when fathers publicly endorsed gender equality, if they retained a traditional division of labor at home, their daughters were more likely to envision themselves in traditionally female-dominant jobs — such as nurse, teacher, librarian or stay-at-home-mom.
The study involved 326 children aged 7-13 and at least one of their parents. For each household, researchers calculated the division of chores and paid labor. They also determined career stereotypes that participants identified with, their gender and work attitudes and children’s career aspirations.
Not surprisingly, researchers found mothers shouldered more of the burden of housework than men.
Traditional households — where the mother performs a majority of household duties, even if she worked — associated women more than men with childcare and domestic work, and girls were significantly more likely than boys to say they want be like adults who take care of kids rather than someone who has a career.
“‘Talking the talk’ about equality is important, but our findings suggest that it is crucial that dads ‘walk the walk’ as well – because their daughters clearly are watching,” said Croft, noting that girls might be learning from an early age to take on additional roles, rather than different roles, compared to boys.
“Despite our best efforts to create workplace equality, women remain severely underrepresented in leadership and management positions,” said Croft.
“This study is important because it suggests that achieving gender equality at home may be one way to inspire young women to set their sights on careers from which they have traditionally been excluded.”
Source: University of British Columbia