Washington: Working women feel like they are pushed out of their jobs after they get pregnant while on the other hand new fathers often get a boost in their careers, recent findings suggest.
As part of the project, the researchers studied two long-standing theories on why mothers are more likely to leave the workforce than fathers.
One suggests pregnant women feel “pushed out” of the workplace. The second indicates moms decide for themselves during pregnancy to “opt out” because of changing personal and career values.
The findings, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, confirmed inherent biases against expectant mothers that make them feel unwelcome in the workplace. This is the first study to show that women who feel pushed out of the workplace choose to opt out.
“We found that pregnant women experienced decreased career encouragement in the workplace only after they disclosed they were pregnant. Once they told managers and co-workers, we saw a decline in career encouragement for women but an increase in career encouragement for men,” explained Paustian-Underdahl, lead author of the study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
That kind of contrasting treatment between men and women in the workplace has been documented in past studies.
Known as the “motherhood penalty” and “fatherhood premium,” researchers have attributed both to old cultural stereotypes that favour fathers as breadwinners and women as caregivers.
Labour statistics back up this financial contrast.
When couples have children, women’s salaries tend to go down while men’s go up, yet little research has been able to pinpoint the causes of those wage differences.
Paustian-Underdahl’s findings indicate that as expectant moms receive reduced career encouragement at work, they experience lower motivation to stay with the organization or in the workforce. Fathers see the opposite effect. They get increased career encouragement from colleagues and managers and become more committed to their work.
The team of researchers also examined the opting-out perspective, which suggests working women with children become less motivated about their jobs so they decide to leave careers to focus on caregiving. Her research did not find examples of pregnant women becoming less enthusiastic about working.
“Contrary to expectations, career motivation increased for both men and women over the pregnancy. We expected career motivation to decrease for mothers throughout pregnancy, but we found the opposite to be true,” explained Paustian-Underdahl.
The study found one exception to that opting-out perspective. If expectant mothers felt pushed out by an organization, then their career motivation dropped and they chose to leave their jobs.
“This is the first study to show that being pushed out can actually drive women to adopt an opting-out attitude,” she said.
According to the researchers, the findings offer new ideas on how to treat pregnant women. Primarily, workplaces should not reduce their career-related encouragement toward expectant mothers. In addition, managers should provide both fathers and mothers with social and career support to help them attain their work and family goals.