Fatherhood boosts men’s careers

Fatherhood boosts men's careers
Fathers in Sweden have a better chance of being promoted to a managerial post than their childless counterparts.

But parenthood does not lead to the same level of career advancement for women, according to a new study from the Institute for Labour Market Policey Evaluation (Institutet för arbetsmarknadspolitisk utvärdering – IFAU).

For men and women without children, the proportion employed in management roles was discovered to be around the same for both sexes – 18 percent.

But a comparison of fathers and mothers showed that men’s careers appeared to really take off once they had children – 36 percent of dads were managers, compared to just 17 percent of mums.

IFAU – a research institute with ties to the Ministry of Employment – arrived at two main theories for the divergence of parent’s career paths along gender lines.

“First, it may be generated by a typically male response to the life-event of becoming a father. Because of socialization/norms/biology men react to this event in a gender-stereotypical way. They take the traditional household provider role, and entering into an authority position in their workplace may be one way of doing this. Women, instead, take the traditional role of caring for their children, which only with difficulty can be combined with an active career involving authority and the like,” the institute wrote.

IFAU’s second hypothesis centred around an attitude change among employers once men became, or were about to become, fathers.

“Because of norms and expectations around parenthood, employers may interpret the event of a man becoming a father as a signal that he is now prepared to take on more responsibilities at work, an interpretation that is unlikely to be made when a woman becomes a mother. On the contrary, employers may (often correctly) anticipate that when women become parents, they take the main responsibility for the children. Given the gender bias in child and household responsibilities, statistical discrimination against (potential) mothers, by not promoting them, may appear as a rational strategy for employers,” according to the study.

Despite the fact that Sweden is “one of the most equal countries in the world”, IFAU found that that proportion of managers among working women had only risen from 15 to 20 percent in the period from 1968 to 2000.

Among working men, the proportion in management positions had remained constant at around 30 percent over the same period.