Summary

To what extent do our romantic relationships influence our attitudes and behaviours in the workplace? The authors of this study examined this question by looking at the effect of marriage structure on attitudes and beliefs towards women in the workplace. Based on five different studies surveying nearly one thousand married, heterosexual men and women, they found that men in “traditional” marriages (in which women do unpaid work in the household on a full-time basis) have primarily negative attitudes towards women in the workplace.

Men in traditional marriages are more likely than men in non-traditional marriages to make decisions that prevent the advancement of qualified women in the workplace.

Research

Our personal lives impact our work lives in many different ways (and vice versa). For example, parental obligations, such as school drop-offs and pick-ups, may limit the amount of time parents can spend in the office or require flexible working hours. If an employee has eldercare responsibilities, it may require them to request unanticipated personal days in order to accommodate doctor’s appointments.

In addition to the time and scheduling constraints our personal lives impose on workplace norms, the authors of this study argue that the structure of our marriages may also be influential. In particular, they examined how gender roles in traditional heterosexual marriages–where men are responsible for paid labour outside of the household, and women are responsible for the unpaid labour inside the household–affect men’s attitudes and behaviours towards women in the workplace.

The authors examined this idea through five different studies relying on a variety of data and methods:

  • Studies 1 and 2 used survey data to find that men in traditional marriages are more likely to have negative attitudes towards women in the workplace compared to men in dual-earner marriages, and men in traditional marriages perceive organizations with higher numbers of female employees to operate less smoothly.
  • Study 3 was an experiment using male undergraduate students who were married and employed full-time. It explored whether heterosexual married men respond differently to the presence of women in the workplace compared to men in dual-earner marriages. Participants were asked to evaluate a recruitment letter from a fictional company in which the gender of the recruiters and board members was altered. Some participants evaluated a letter written by female recruiters and featuring more female board members, while others evaluated a letter written by male recruiters and featuring more male board members. Aside from altering the gender of the recruiters and board members, the letters were identical. Research participants were then asked to respond to a series of questions asking whether the letter managed to make the fictional company look attractive to potential job-hunters. The study found that men from more traditional marriages were less likely to positively evaluate letters featuring female recruiters and board members.
  • Study 4 was an online experiment testing whether male managers in traditional marriages are more likely to deny qualified female employees opportunities for promot