Work and Home - Sexuality, Relationships, and Work

The Psychology of Sex and Gender - Jennifer Katherine Bosson, Joseph Alan Vandello, Camille E. Buckner 2022

Work and Home
Sexuality, Relationships, and Work

In comparison to mothers, fathers are less likely to take advantage of workplace parental leave policies.

Source: ©

Test Your Knowledge: True or False?

· 11.1 In the United States, since the 1960s, mothers and fathers have both increased the average amount of time per week they spend on childcare.

· 11.2 In heterosexual households in which women make more money than their husbands, wives tend to do less housework than husbands.

· 11.3 Women with severe physical disabilities experience more workplace stress than men with similarly severe physical disabilities.

· 11.4 Once you account for differences in the occupations that women and men choose, the gender wage gap disappears.

· 11.5 Flexible work policies, such as telecommuting and flexible hours, correlate with lower job satisfaction and generally negative outcomes for organizations.


How Have Work and Home Labor Divisions Changed?

How Do People Divide Housework and Childcare at Home?

· Trends and Inequities

· Who Does What?

· Childcare

· Predictors of the Division of Domestic Labor

o Time Availability

o Relative Income

o Gender Role Ideology

o Maternal Gatekeeping

How Does Gender Operate in the Workplace?

· Gender and Leadership

· Glass Ceilings, Glass Cliffs, Glass Escalators, and Sticky Floors

· Workplace Bias Based on Sex

o Bias Against Women

o Bias Against Men

· Workplace Bias Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Race, and Disability Status

How Can We Explain the Gender Wage Gap?

· What Is the Gender Wage Gap?

· Debate: Is the Gender Wage Gap a Myth?

· Possible Explanations for the Gender Wage Gap

o Education and Occupational Segregation

o Occupational Feminization

o Salary Negotiation

o Relocations and Career Interruptions

o Overwork

· Conclusions About the Gender Wage Gap

How Do Work and Family Roles Interact?

· Journey of Research: From Work—Family Conflict to Work—Life Enrichment

· Balance, Conflict, and Enrichment

· Flexible Work and Family Leave Policies


Students who read this chapter should be able to do the following:

· 11.1 Evaluate factors that influence the gendered division of labor in the home.

· 11.2 Describe subtle workplace gender biases that create and reinforce status differences between dominant and subordinate groups.

· 11.3 Explain the gender wage gap and the various theories that account for it.

· 11.4 Analyze the challenges and benefits of work—life balance and relevant factors, such as parental leave and flexible work arrangements.


Visit any public park in Sweden during midweek, and you will likely see men pushing babies in strollers and playing with their children. This is the result of over 40 years of top-down social engineering. In 1974, Sweden became the first country in the world to include fathers in work—family legislation, replacing maternity leave with the more inclusive parental leave. This legislation granted parents 6 months of paid leave after the birth of a child, with each parent entitled to half of that time. Gender roles can be resistant to change, however, and fathers did not take full advantage of parental leave at first. Most gave their leave days to their wives. In the first decades of Sweden’s new work—family practice, 90% of the leave days were taken by women (Rangecroft, 2016).

To combat this trend, Sweden changed the legislation to increase fathers’ involvement by instituting “daddy quotas” in 1995. These were nontransferable paid leave days that had to be taken by fathers, or else the couple would lose them. The first daddy quotas were only 30 days, but they increased to 90 days by 2016. Fathers now take about 25% of the total paid leave among Swedish parents. As of 2016, Swedish parents got 480 days of paid parental leave, with 390 of these paid at 80% of their salary (and the rest at lower rates). In fact, Sweden boasts some of the most progressive parental leave legislation in the world. It also consistently ranks among the most gender-egalitarian countries in the world (World Economic Forum, 2019).

The Swedish model stands in contrast to the U.S. model. Through 2019, the United States remained the only developed, industrialized nation in the world that did not have any national laws guaranteeing paid parental leave (Salam, 2019). This began to change in October 2020 when a law granted 12 weeks of paid parental leave to U.S. federal workers (Kelly, 2019). Still, fathers in most married American couples spend only half as much time as mothers on childcare, even when both partners are employed (Parker, 2015).

This chapter focuses on work both outside and inside the home. Both types of work play central roles in how people define themselves. When people work outside the home, they not only make money, but they form work identities as well. Similarly, people’s roles as homemakers, parents, or partners (for those who choose to adopt these roles) are often central to their sense of self. Recall from past chapters that most societies divide the two domains of work—outside and inside the home—along gendered lines. On average, women around the world work less and earn less money than men outside of the home, and they do a greater share of household labor and childcare inside the home. People universally associate unpaid domestic labor with women and femininity and paid labor in the workforce with men and masculinity. But work life and home life are not independent of one another. Personal decisions and organizational and government policies in one domain can affect outcomes in the other domain. Prioritizing paid work, for instance, means that a person will have less time to devote to home and family. As you read this chapter, keep in mind how gendered experiences in the domains of work and home intersect and mutually influence one another.


Many of you reading this book are likely to be unmarried students who have not yet chosen a career. What does the future hold for you after college? You may have thought about what career you might pursue, whether you will get married or seek a long-term romantic partner, and whether you will have children. Today, in the United States and most Western, industrialized nations, the choices that people make regarding work and family differ from the choices that their parents and grandparents made. We covered several of these differences in Chapter 10 (“Interpersonal Relationships”), but we will review them briefly here.

In 1950, the average age of first marriage in the United States was 20 for women and 23 for men. By 2018, those ages had increased to 28 and 30, respectively (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018). Similarly, the age of first-time mothers rose from 21 to 26 over the past 45 years (T. J. Mathews & Hamilton, 2016), and more individuals and couples now opt to remain child-free by choice. Single and same-sex parents head more households today than in the past. In 1960, about 9% of children lived in single-parent households; by 2017, the percentage was 25% (Livingston, 2018). In 1990, same-sex couples headed about 145,000 households in the United States, and this rose to 935,000 such households by 2017 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017a).

What about divisions of labor? In 1965, White American woman with children typically spent about 32 hours a week doing housework and about 8 hours doing paid work. By 2011, mothers, on average, did 18 hours of housework and 21 hours of paid work (Parker, 2015). These patterns, however, vary considerably by women’s race and socioeconomic status. Recall from Chapter 10 that low-income and working-class women and women of color in the United States have always worked in the paid labor force at relatively high rates (Banks, 2019; Kessler-Harris, 2003). In 1960, men were the sole breadwinners in 70% of American married couples, whereas 60% of married couples were dual-earners by 2012 (Parker, 2015). In 1960, mothers were the primary or sole providers in about 11% of U.S. households with children, and that number rose to 41% by 2017 (Glynn, 2019). Many adults in industrialized nations now engage in both paid employment and unpaid family work, with fathers increasing their contributions to housework from 4 hours per week in 1960 to 10 hours per week today (Parker, 2015). However, there are exceptions to these patterns around the globe: Women constitute only 16%—20% of the paid labor force in Afghanistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, for example (World Bank, 2015).

Thus, by some measures, work and family trends have generally moved toward greater gender equality. Women’s labor force participation steadily increased over the past half-century, and many occupations have become less gender segregated. The gender wage gap has narrowed from several decades ago (American Association of University Women, 2017). In many societies, people expect men to be active parents and contribute to housework. By other measures, however, progress toward full gender equality has stalled. Worldwide, women hold only 14% of top executive positions and 4.5% of CEO positions (Noland, Moran, & Kotschwar, 2016), and men still resist entering traditionally female-dominated occupations, such as nursing and elementary education. A gender wage gap remains in virtually every nation, and women still do the majority of housework and childcare the world over. In the sections that follow, we will take a closer look at divisions of labor in both the home and the workplace, carefully considering both their causes and consequences.


Let’s begin by considering domestic labor, or the unpaid work that people do in their homes, from laundry and cleaning to meal preparation, childcare, and yard work. Social scientists have tracked people’s domestic labor for decades, so we can examine how much people are doing, what they are doing, and how these variables have changed over time.

Trends and Inequities

On average, women do more domestic labor (housework and childcare) than men, a pattern that holds true across ethnicity, culture, and time and persists regardless of whether both members of the couple are employed. Figure 11.1 shows how the amount of time spent on housework (not including childcare) has changed over the past several decades in the United States for both members of male—female couples (Sayer, 2016). Note that two main trends stand out. First, people do much less non-childcare housework overall now than in the past. This is probably largely the result of middle-class women being much more likely to be in the workforce today than in years past. Indeed, the decline in women’s time spent on housework over the past several decades is similar in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom (Robinson & Harms, 2015), all of which saw large increases in women’s labor force participation since the early 1960s. Second, the gender gap in housework is shrinking. Women continue to do most of the housework, but sex differences in contributions to housework are smaller today than they used to be. The slopes of the trend lines reveal the main reason for the shrinking gap. Women do much less housework now, about half of what they did in 1965, whereas men do about twice what they did in 1965, even though their rate of change is still slower than women’s (Sayer, 2016). And these figures may actually underestimate the work that women do in the home. Not only do women in male—female couples do the majority of physical housework, they also do the majority of “mental” housework—remembering and reminding their partners about personal and household tasks and obligations such as errands or doctor visits (Ahn, Haines, & Mason, 2017). Although it is usually not captured in counts of housework hours, this type of work can be time-consuming and mentally taxing. A similar dynamic exists at work, where women take on the majority of “office housework”—planning meetings, circulating birthday cards, organizing retirement parties, and so on (Kolb & Porter, 2015).


Figure 11.1 Hours Spent on Housework in the United States

Source: Sayer (2016).

Another trend suggests that over the course of heterosexual marriages, husbands’ contributions to housework tend to decline. A longitudinal study in Germany found that while many new couples began by sharing housework duties fairly evenly, husbands decreased their share over the next 14 years, even when wives made more money or worked longer hours than husbands outside the home (Grunow, Schulz, & Blossfeld, 2012). The fact that most women continue to do the majority of housework, combined with women’s increased levels of employment, results in women experiencing ever-increasing pressures on their time. Among heterosexual couples, women’s increased commitment to paid employment has not been matched by a parallel commitment among men to divide housework and childcare equally in the home. Thus, many women work what sociologist Arlie Hochschild (1989) labeled a “second shift” at home following their work outside the home. This can have implications for psychological and relational health because, as you read in Chapter 10, the perceived fairness of labor divisions inside the home contributes to individual well-being and marital satisfaction (Newkirk, Perry-Jenkins, & Sayer, 2017).

Some theorists propose that heterosexual men’s unequal contributions to labor at home led to a trend called the stalled gender revolution (England, 2010). Between the 1960s and the late 1980s, the United States saw steady gains in women’s participation in economic, educational, workplace, and political domains. More and more women sought employment outside the home, got college and advanced degrees, and entered previously male-dominated fields of work and study. As mentioned, however, shifts in women’s time from inside to outside the home were not matched by equal shifts in men’s time from outside to inside the home: Men did not pick up an hour of housework and childcare for every hour of paid employment that women added to their schedules. As a result, the gender revolution that characterized the decades of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s stalled at the beginning of the 1990s. Women’s increasing gains plateaued as their workplace advancement was limited by the housework and childcare that fell largely on their shoulders. For this reason, some scholars propose that unequal divisions of labor at home now represent one of the last and most stubborn barriers to true gender equality (J. C. Williams, 2010).

Stalled gender revolution A historical trend in the United States in which women made large gains in the workforce between the 1960s and 1980s, but their gains plateaued in the early 1990s before true gender parity was reached.


We noted here and elsewhere in this book that men’s social roles, attitudes, and behaviors have been slower to change than women’s social roles, attitudes, and behaviors. What psychological and structural reasons do you suspect might account for this, and what might be done to overcome these barriers? What might cultures like the United States do to increase men’s involvement with housework and childcare?

Who Does What?

Even when heterosexual women and men share household labor, they tend to divide it in gender-typical ways. Consider how typical “male” and “female” housework differs in heterosexual relationships. Women tend to do more cooking, laundry, cleaning, and childcare, all of which are ongoing, essential, and time-consuming tasks. These sorts of activities also tend to occur inside the home. In contrast, typical male tasks can be performed occasionally rather than every day, and they therefore allow for more choice and flexibility in terms of scheduling (Lachance-Grzela & Bouchard, 2010). For example, male-typical tasks include home repairs or taking out the garbage. Male-typed jobs also tend to be more dangerous, such as climbing on the roof, cutting wood, and doing electrical repairs, and they often occur outdoors (e.g., lawn maintenance, car washing).

Thus far, we have focused on the division of household labor within heterosexual couples. What about same-sex couples? Same-sex couples—in contrast to other-sex couples—generally share household responsibilities more equally (Goldberg, 2013). For example, one study found that 74% of same-sex couples—but only 38% of other-sex couples—share routine childcare responsibilities equally (Matos, 2015). Similarly, compared with other-sex couples, larger proportions of same-sex couples share laundry and household repair responsibilities equally. Why might this be the case? First, as you read in Chapter 10, same-sex couples tend to place great value on equality in their relationships (Peplau & Fingerhut, 2007). Second, members of same-sex couples often report dividing housework based on personal preferences and abilities rather than on gender roles.

Men tend to do more outdoor, flexible household chores, while women tend to do more indoor, daily chores.

Source: ©; ©


As with other domestic duties, women do the majority of childcare in heterosexual relationships, but the sex difference has narrowed over recent decades. Time use diary studies tracking childcare from the 1960s to the first decade of the 21st century show that despite women increasing their time in paid labor, they are not spending less time with their children. In fact, in the United States, women’s hours per week spent on childcare have increased by about 50% since the 1960s, and men’s have tripled (Sayer, 2016). These trends are similar in other countries as well. One analysis of 20 Western, industrialized nations from 1965 to 2003 found increases in time spent on childcare among married, employed fathers in all nations (Hook, 2006). In short, a norm of intensive parenting emerged in recent decades, with men and women today increasingly devoting substantial time to their children.

Of course, parents are not the only adults responsible for childcare. Particularly in non-Western, collectivistic cultures—and among racial and ethnic minority families and those lower in socioeconomic status in Western cultures—other relatives, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, and older siblings, actively contribute to raising children. Recall from Chapter 10 (“Interpersonal Relationships”) that maternal grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and older siblings often contribute substantially to child-rearing in Black families in the United States (Gonzalez, Jones, & Parent, 2014; Hirsch, Mickus, & Boerger, 2002). Moreover, cultural norms regarding the expected degree of parental involvement differ across countries. In some Asian cultures, such as China and Korea, the Confucian code of genpu jibo (or “strict father, affectionate mother”) describes a parenting norm in which fathers, relative to mothers, should be authoritarian, strict, and emotionally distant from children. Although guided by the genpu jibo code until World War II, Japan appears to be changing as attitudes become more gender egalitarian and the government implements social policies, such as subsidized paternity leave, to encourage greater father involvement (Nakazawa & Schwalb, 2013).


Since the late 1980s, the Japanese government has initiated several social programs to encourage more parental involvement among fathers. Today, the ikumen project (ikumen means “men who do child-rearing”) tracks information about childcare leave programs, offers advice and stories about parenting, and seeks to improve society by helping men become more active parents (Nakazawa & Schwalb, 2013). Is the ikumen project succeeding? To some degree, yes, but changes are slow to take root, due to an overly demanding work culture for men (Pinkser, 2020). The percentage of Japanese fathers who take paternity leave increased from 1.9% in 2012 to 7% in 2017, and the percentage of people who agreed that “men should work, women should stay at home” dropped from 60% to 45% between 1992 and 2018 (Robson, 2018). Perhaps most importantly, the ikumen movement is sparking national conversations about fathers’ roles in a country where fathers traditionally have not assumed primary child-rearing responsibilities.

In Japan, the ikumen movement encourages fathers to take a more active role in parenting and childcare.

Source: Getty Images / Jgalione


Why do you think parenting norms are changing around the world? What sorts of factors might explain these changes? What consequences—good or bad—might increases in parenting time have for child and family outcomes? Consider, in particular, the phenomenon of helicopter parenting, where parents excessively “hover over” their children, and monitor their lives, to protect children from negative outcomes. Do you think helicopter parenting is good for children? How about for parents? Why or why not?

Predictors of the Division of Domestic Labor

What determines how couples divide household labor? Why do some couples divide housework evenly, while one partner does the vast majority in others? And how do couples decide exactly which tasks each individual will do? Researchers offer several possible explanations for how household labor is divided.

Time Availability

One rather straightforward theory, called time availability theory, proposed that couples decide how much time to spend on housework based on how much free time they have (i.e., time not engaged in paid labor). In support of this theory, men and women who spend more time in paid employment spend less time on housework (Aassve, Fuochi, & Mencarini, 2014). However, this theory cannot explain why women in male—female relationships who work full-time outside the home still do more housework than their male partners. Moreover, for couples who work opposite (e.g., daytime/nighttime) shifts from one another, certain household chores—such as cooking and childcare—may be dictated more by when couple members have time than by how much time they have (Usdansky, 2011).

Time availability theory The theory that the partner who spends less time in paid work will do more housework.

Relative Income

According to the relative income hypothesis, couple members trade off income for housework such that whoever makes more money does less housework (Aassve et al., 2014). Because men typically earn more money than women, they do less housework. However, this model receives only mixed support. Some research shows that women’s relative income has no bearing on the proportion of housework they do (Artis & Pavalko, 2003). Other research shows that women in male—female couples decrease their relative contribution to household labor the more money they make, but only up to the point where they make as much as their husbands. Between the point where women’s paid employment contributes about half of the household income to the point where women are the sole earners, their housework also increases by about 5—6 hours per week. In other words, as men become more dependent on the incomes of their breadwinner wives, women do more—not less—housework (Bittman, England, Sayer, Folbre, & Matheson, 2003). Why might this happen? The answer may have to do with the gendered meaning of housework, as we discuss in the next section.

Relative income hypothesis The hypothesis that the partner who contributes proportionally less to the household income will do more housework.

Gender Role Ideology

The gender role ideology hypothesis holds that a couple’s beliefs about gender roles influence the division of housework. That is, people’s willingness to do specific housework tasks may reflect their beliefs about the gender-appropriateness of those tasks. In fact, several studies find that people with more gender-egalitarian attitudes tend to divide housework equally, whereas those with more traditional attitudes about gender tend to divide housework along gendered lines, with women doing more overall (Aassve et al., 2014). Similarly, looking across cultures, couples divide housework more evenly in countries with more egalitarian attitudes about gender (Treas & Drobnic, 2010).

Gender role ideology hypothesis The hypothesis that a couple’s beliefs about gender roles influence the manner in which they divide housework and childcare.

The gender role ideology hypothesis can also help to explain the paradox identified in the previous section: When a husband in a male—female couple depends more on his wife for economic support, he does less housework, whereas women tend to do more housework the more they outearn their husbands. These patterns cannot be explained easily by either the time availability theory or the relative income hypothesis. Instead, they fit better with the view that some men experience their economic dependence as a threat to their gender identity, and they attempt to restore their masculinity by avoiding “feminine” housework. Because being financially dependent on a woman violates traditional male role norms, men whose wives outearn them may feel inadequate. In fact, perceivers tend to view such men as lacking masculinity and as relatively powerless in their marriage (Hettinger, Hutchinson, & Bosson, 2013). Resisting housework may therefore offer men a means of displaying power and masculinity. Consistent with this idea, when men feel subordinated and powerless at work, they tend to do fewer female-typed household tasks at home (Arrighi & Maume, 2001). The gender ideology hypothesis also explains how, even though unemployed individuals tend to do more housework overall (consistent with time availability theory), unemployed women still perform mostly stereotypically female tasks while unemployed men still perform mostly stereotypically male tasks (Fauser, 2019).

Maternal Gatekeeping

It would be easy to look at the unequal division of household labor and chalk it up to men’s unwillingness to help. This interpretation implies that women would ideally like responsibilities to be shared equally and, in fact, many people do desire such egalitarian arrangements. But women in male-female couples sometimes express reluctance to give up household and childcare work to men, a phenomenon referred to as maternal gatekeeping (S. M. Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Schoppe-Sullivan, Altenburger, Lee, Bower, & Dush, 2015). This may be especially likely to occur among women who derive a strong sense of identity from their expertise in housework and childcare and who view home management as their domain.

Maternal gatekeeping Behaviors and attitudes by women that discourage men’s involvement in domestic labor and childcare.

You may recall from Chapter 10 that many heterosexual couples perceive the division of housework and childcare as fair and equitable even when women do the bulk of it (Greenstein, 2009). The phenomenon of maternal gatekeeping may contribute to this pattern. Women tend to report liking housework more than men, and people generally believe that women are more competent at housework (van Hooff, 2011). Therefore, women’s maternal gatekeeping behaviors may help them to rationalize domestic inequalities by fostering the belief that women have a greater aptitude than men for housework. Taking this a step further, some men—to demonstrate their unsuitability for housework—perform strategic incompetence with domestic chores (Biernat & Wortman, 1991). For example, men may burn the dinner, dress the children in mismatched socks, or do a sloppy job with the laundry to demonstrate that they are not suited for housework.

In sum, work life and home life are intimately connected. If we want to understand how heterosexual men and women think about and divide housework, we need to consider their time commitments to the workplace, their relative incomes, and their gender ideologies. Importantly, however, although unequal divisions of household labor persist and work for some couples, this does not mean that they are appropriate for all couples. More balance in housework divisions correlates with positive outcomes for women, including lower levels of depression and higher marital satisfaction (Coltrane, 2000).


Consider the explanations (and related evidence) presented in the previous section regarding how heterosexual couples divide household labor in their relationships (i.e., time availability, relative income, gender role ideology, and maternal gatekeeping). How might this information be useful to counselors when working with couples who are experiencing relationship dissatisfaction?


Just as housework allows individuals to demonstrate and perform gender, so too does paid employment. In many ways, certain workplace domains have been, and still are, reserved for men. The breadwinner role is central to men’s gender status in many cultures (Thebaud, 2010), and the workplace offers a context for men to demonstrate masculinity (Berdahl, Cooper, Glick, Livingston, & Williams, 2018). But what happens when more women enter these male workplace domains, as they have done over the past 60 years?

Gender and Leadership

Women make up 40% of the world’s workforce, but they hold only a small percentage of upper-management positions. Although women now outnumber men in mid-level management positions (J. C. Williams, 2010), relatively few women rise to the top of the corporate ladder. As we noted earlier, women around the world hold only 4.5% of CEO positions and 14% of top business executive positions (Noland et al., 2016). Why might this be? Some argue that women lack the specific abilities or traits that make for effective leaders, but research does not support this explanation (Carli & Eagly, 2011). Some personality traits (e.g., extraversion, conscientiousness) correlate modestly with leadership effectiveness, but women and men differ little in these traits, and when they do, which sex possesses more of the trait varies (Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002; Weisberg, DeYoung, & Hirsh, 2011).

Researchers have measured sex differences in leadership effectiveness fairly extensively. Two large meta-analyses show no sex difference in overall leader effectiveness (Eagly, Karau, & Makhijani, 1995; Paustian-Underdahl, Walker, & Woehr, 2014). However, men tend to be rated as more effective leaders in male-dominated settings, such as the military, and women tend to be rated as more effective leaders in female-dominated settings, such as schools and social service agencies. This may reflect actual sex differences in leadership competence in these different settings, but it might also result from stereotypes about these gendered environments.

How do organizations fare financially under leaders of different sexes? One massive global study of companies in 91 countries found that companies with more female executives and board members have higher profits (Noland et al., 2016). Other studies, however, paint a more complex picture. One study of publicly traded firms from 1996 to 2003 found that in weaker performing firms, having more women board members positively predicts the firms’ financial performance, but in stronger performing firms, having more women board members negatively predicts the firms’ financial performance (Adams & Ferreira, 2009). The authors attributed this to the finding that boards with more women tend to display stricter governance (e.g., more board meetings and fewer attendance problems), which may benefit otherwise weak firms and hurt strong ones. Similarly, a meta-analysis found a positive association between female board representation and market performance in more gender-egalitarian countries, whereas a negative association emerged in countries with lower gender equity (Post & Byron, 2015). Thus, the links between women’s representation in leadership roles and companies’ financial performance are not straightforward and may depend on other factors, such as firm performance and broader cultural values. Note also that, since these findings are correlational, we cannot conclude that the sex composition of leadership roles causes increases or decreases in firm financial performance.


A study of more than 21,900 firms in 91 countries found that in about one-third of all firms, women hold fewer than 5% of executive positions and board seats (Noland et al., 2016). In 77% of all firms, women hold fewer than 30% of executive positions and board seats. There are only 11 firms in the world (0.05% of all firms) in which women hold all executive positions and board seats. Outside of these 11 firms, the highest proportions of female corporate board members are in firms in Norway (40% female) and Iceland (51% female). This means that even in the most gender-egalitarian corporations in the world, it is relatively rare for women to make up even half of the top-level positions. Thus, studies showing the outcomes associated with more gender equality in leadership roles do not reveal the potential outcomes of true gender equality.

Beyond effectiveness, some evidence suggests that women and men may lead somewhat differently. Female leaders tend to adopt more interpersonally oriented, democratic, collaborative, and less directive leadership styles than male leaders (Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, & van Engen, 2003; van Engen & Willemsen, 2004). Women also tend to use a transformational leadership style somewhat more than men, which means that they lead through mentoring actively, inspiring trust, and encouraging others to develop their full potential. Transformational leadership correlates moderately with organizational performance and worker satisfaction (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Female leaders also more frequently reward workers for satisfactory performance, whereas male leaders more often use a laissez-faire (or “hands-off”) leadership style and wait until problems become severe before addressing them. However, effect sizes for these sex differences in leadership all fall in the close-to-zero and small ranges.

Transformational leadership style A style of leading that involves active mentorship, inspiring trust in subordinates, and encouraging others to develop to their full potential.

Laissez-faire leadership style A hands-off leadership style in which workers are allowed to complete responsibilities however they want, as long as the job gets done.

Given the lack of evidence of a leadership advantage for men, why do women tend to occupy fewer leadership positions than men, especially in upper management? The answer may lie in gender stereotypes and biases, which we address next. Although overt, intentional gender bias certainly exists in the workplace, not all employers or workers openly discriminate against women, and many employers strive for inclusive environments free from gender bias and sexism. Despite this, subtle, indirect, and unintentional forms of gender bias, known as microaggressions, occur frequently in the workplace and can be difficult to document and prove. You might recall reading about microaggressions in Chapter 6 (“Power, Sexism, and Discrimination”).

Glass Ceilings, Glass Cliffs, Glass Escalators, and Sticky Floors

Several structural features work in various ways to impede or facilitate the performance of women and men in the workplace. For example, the glass ceiling refers to the invisible barriers that keep women (and other underrepresented individuals) from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements (Hymowitz & Schellhardt, 1986). Through this metaphorical glass ceiling, women can see the elite positions but not reach them, and the barriers to progress are not obvious. Some argue that the glass ceiling reflects the persistent stereotype that leadership roles require masculine traits, and that men are therefore more qualified than women for upper-level management positions. You may recall our discussion of this stereotype, deemed the think manager—think male effect (Schein, 1973), in Chapter 5 (“The Contents and Origins of Gender Stereotypes”). Evidence of the think manager—think male effect emerges in cultures around the world, although it is stronger among men than women and within Eastern than Western cultures. Even though this stereotype has generally decreased in strength over time (Koenig et al., 2011), it still contributes to biased gender dynamics in the workplace, including the dismissal of women’s accomplishments, the exclusion of women from inner decision-making circles (or old boys’ networks), and sex-based harassment (for more on this, see Chapter 14, “Aggression and Violence”).

Women, relative to men, are slightly more likely to demonstrate a democratic, collaborative form of leadership.

Source: ©

When women do rise to the top, it sometimes occurs under less-than-ideal circumstances. For instance, women get called upon more often than men to help save companies in decline, a phenomenon known as the glass cliff effect (Ryan et al., 2016). The term glass cliff refers to a leadership position fraught with risk, which occurs when a company needs to be saved from failure or from a high-profile scandal. Evidence for the glass cliff effect is widespread. Companies more often select female over male leaders under risky, unfavorable conditions; female lawyers get assigned more often than male lawyers to lead high-risk, controversial cases; and female politicians get recommended more often than their male counterparts for “unwinnable” seats. Not all men are immune to the glass cliff effect, however. Black men are more likely than White men to be promoted to CEO positions in companies experiencing performance declines (Cook & Glass, 2014), and racial/ethnic minority coaches are more likely than White coaches to be promoted to head coach positions in teams that have recently experienced losses (Cook & Glass, 2013). Of course, the predictable outcome of taking over a sinking ship is a greater chance of failure.

Glass ceiling Invisible barriers in the workplace that prevent women from rising to top corporate positions.

Old boys’ networks Informal, inner circles of men who exclude women from decision-making and use their influence to help other men.

Glass cliff effect The tendency to place women and individuals from other marginalized groups into leadership positions under risky, precarious circumstances in which the likelihood of failure is high.

Glass escalator The tendency for some men to be fast-tracked to promotions and leadership positions in female-typed professions.

Sticky floor Barriers that keep low-wage workers, who are disproportionately likely to be women and members of other marginalized groups, from being promoted.

What about men in female-typed professions? Do they experience the same biases as women in male-typed professions? Some research suggests just the opposite. Termed the glass escalator (Williams, 1992), men in typically female occupations such as nursing, social work, or elementary education tend to advance further and faster than women in these professions (Cognard-Black, 2012) due to assumptions about men’s greater competence and leadership ability. Not all men, however, have equal access to the glass escalator. Men of color, gay men, and transgender men may benefit less from the glass escalator than White, heterosexual, and cisgender men (Williams, 2013; Wingfield, 2009).

Next, the sticky floor refers to barriers that keep low-wage workers from ascending from the bottom (Booth, Francesconi, & Frank, 2003). Not only are women disproportionately concentrated in low-wage, low-mobility positions in clerical, service work, health care, and childcare occupations, but they also—in comparison with men—get paid less in the same jobs and have fewer opportunities to advance to better positions. Similarly, people of color disproportionately get “stuck” at the floor level of organizations (Yap & Konrad, 2009). This sticky-floor discrimination shows up widely in research across cultures (Chi & Li, 2008; Duraisamy & Duraisamy, 2016).

Workplace Bias Based on Sex

Bias Against Women

Joan Williams and Rachel Dempsey (2014) identified four pervasive biases against women in the workplace. The first, dubbed the prove-it-again bias, reflects doubts about women’s competence, especially when women occupy positions of leadership and power that are typically reserved for men. As a result, women in these positions often have to provide extra evidence of competence to seem as competent as men. For example, even when women’s work accomplishments are identical in quality to men’s, others perceive women’s work as inferior. Similarly, people tend to attribute a man’s success in the workplace to his natural ability (a presumably stable quality) while attributing a woman’s success to hard work or luck (relatively temporary factors). Consider how these attributions can differently impact the impressions that men and women make in the workplace. If a man makes an error or displays poor performance, others may give him the benefit of the doubt because his natural competence presumably remains intact. If a woman performs poorly, however, it may be easier to blame her for not working hard enough. Thus, women often have to prove themselves over and over to be taken as seriously as men.

Prove-it-again bias Gender bias in which stereotypes about women’s unsuitability for high-status positions result in women having to work harder than men to prove their competence.

Maternal wall Gender bias in which working mothers—but not working fathers—are perceived as less competent at their jobs and make lower wages.

Tightrope Gender bias in which employed women are viewed as less likable if they are assertive, and as less competent if they are warm.

Tug of war Gender bias in which women feel like they have to compete against one another for access to limited positions, promotions, and workplace rewards.

A second bias, called the maternal wall, reflects the challenges that employed women face as mothers. For example, people tend to view working women with children as less competent and hirable than child-free women, whereas working men are deemed similarly competent regardless of whether or not they have children (Cuddy, Fiske, & Glick, 2004). In addition, working mothers face substantial hits to their wages, while working fathers do not face comparable wage penalties. We will return to this phenomenon, called the motherhood penalty, in a later section.

J. C. Williams and Dempsey (2014) called the third type of bias the tightrope. Some types of jobs require masculine qualities of agency and assertiveness, but people stereotype women as lower in agency than men. As a result, women who occupy male-dominated jobs may find themselves caught in a bind. If they behave assertively, which is required for job performance, they violate gender role norms and are viewed as less likable. If they behave warmly, which is expected for their sex, they may undermine their own job performance and appear incompetent. This tightrope bias manifests as a backlash against agentic women. For instance, people view women who succeed in male-typed jobs as successful and competent, but they tend to like them less than equally successful men (Heilman, Wallen, Fuchs, & Tamkins, 2004).

Finally, women sometimes face a tug of war with other women in the workplace. Given the pressures and restrictions that we have discussed here, women sometimes feel like they have to compete with other women for access to limited jobs, promotions, and workplace rewards. This can lead women to distance themselves from each other, a phenomenon called the queen bee syndrome. As one example, consider a Dutch study of senior female police officers (Derks, Van Laar, Ellemers, & de Groot, 2011). When primed to think about gender bias during their careers, the officers who identified weakly with their gender demonstrated a queen bee response by describing themselves in more masculine terms and distancing themselves from other women. This suggests that gender biases in work environments can make it difficult for women to support other women, which may explain why women sometimes evaluate highly successful female employees more harshly than men do (Benard & Correll, 2010).

Heterosexual, cisgender women—along with LGBTQ individuals and some heterosexual, cisgender men—also experience workplace bias in the form of sex-based harassment (Brassel, Settles, & Buchanan, 2019). Sex-based harassment is any behavior that derogates or humiliates an individual on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Following Berdahl (2007), we prefer the term sex-based harassment over sexual harassment because it more clearly conveys that this treatment is based on a person’s sex and need not be sexual in tone. Because sex-based harassment is not exclusively a workplace phenomenon but rather a type of aggression that occurs across contexts—in workplaces, schools, and public arenas—we discuss it more fully in Chapter 14 (“Aggression and Violence”). Here, however, we note that sex-based harassment in workplaces creates significant costs for individuals in the form of missed work, stalled career advancement, and decreased psychological and physical well-being. It also hurts organizations by increasing absenteeism, job turnover, and legal fees and by decreasing employee morale and productivity (Roehling & Huang, 2018). On a positive note, corporate sex-based harassment training programs for managers and employees can be effective, particularly when they train people in how to effectively intervene and disrupt ongoing harassment (bystander intervention), and especially in workplaces that have more women managers. When managers lead by condemning sex-based harassment, they tend to be seen as allies, which can reduce the likelihood of backlash against employees who report or denounce this form of treatment (Dobbin & Kalev, 2019).

Queen bee syndrome A phenomenon in which women who hold authority positions in male-dominated professions distance themselves from other women and treat female employees more critically.

Bias Against Men

Though most research on gender bias in the workplace focuses on women, men face bias at work as well. Think for a moment about the type of man most likely to be a target of gender discrimination. Who comes to mind? Like women, men who conform less to typical gender role expectations are most frequently targeted (Berdahl, Magley, & Waldo, 1996). Consider the following examples: Men who succeed in traditionally female jobs tend to be perceived as “wimpy” (Heilman & Wallen, 2010). Men who behave modestly during a job interview encounter more prejudice than comparably modest women (Moss-Racusin et al., 2010). Men who advocate for others rather than themselves tend to be seen as less competent and therefore less worthy of promotions (Bosak, Kulich, Rudman, & Kinahan, 2018). Even working for a female boss can make men seem less masculine (Brescoll, Uhlmann, Moss-Racusin, & Sarnell, 2011), and men who signal their commitment to their families by requesting family leave may face penalties at work (Rudman & Mescher, 2013; Vandello, Hettinger, Bosson, & Siddiqi, 2013), as we will detail later in this chapter.

Men are also victims of sex-based harassment. While some might assume that sexual interest is the primary motivation behind sex-based harassment in the workplace, Berdahl (2007) instead views such harassment as a means by which people (usually men) assert their gender status and power over others. This perspective can help to explain why men who violate role norms in the workplace are more likely to be targeted with sex-based harassment. Their gender nonconformity threatens the legitimacy of men’s greater workplace power, and sex-based harassment punishes them. For example, men in male-dominated jobs who appear insufficiently masculine are especially likely to endure teasing, insults, and threats from coworkers (Berdahl & Moon, 2013). This behavior does not involve unwanted sexual contact, but it falls under the legal definition of sex-based harassment because it entails offensive treatment based on a person’s sex.

Workplace Bias Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Race, and Disability Status

Investigations of workplace bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity show consistently high levels of discrimination. One national U.S. survey found that 42% of LGB-identified individuals experienced employment discrimination, and 35% experienced harassment at work (Gates, 2010). Similarly, 57% of transgender respondents in a U.S. sample reported experiencing discrimination at work, including being fired, being denied employment or promotion, and being harassed (Badgett, Lau, Sears, & Ho, 2007). In particular, transgender people who transition to their felt gender identity can experience difficult workplace experiences. In one qualitative study of transgender employees, the majority described their transition process as awkward and uncomfortable for their coworkers (Brewster, Velez, Mennicke, & Tebbe, 2014). For a few, the process was easier than anticipated, but the majority experienced discrimination and biases, including job termination, sabotage by management, harassment and intimidation, stigmatization, and ostracism. Given these high rates of workplace discrimination, some scholars call for dramatic improvements in how organizations meet the needs of LGBTQ employees (Ozturk & Tatli, 2016).

Recall the concepts of intersectionality and double jeopardy discussed in Chapter 6 (“Power, Sexism, and Discrimination”). According to the double jeopardy hypothesis, people who occupy two or more disadvantaged social groups face more discrimination than those who occupy one disadvantaged group. In line with this hypothesis, women of color face more overall harassment in the workplace than do White women or men of color because they experience both sex-based and race-based harassment (Berdahl & Moore, 2006). One qualitative study of Black women’s workplace experiences documented some of the unique race-based struggles that they face, including subtle racism, a lack of mentorship, feelings of isolation and exclusion, and pressure to code-switch, or change how they express themselves in front of White people (J. C. Hall, Everett, & Hamilton-Mason, 2012). While not all of these experiences meet the legal definition of race-based harassment, they can still reinforce stereotypes, make people feel singled out, and cause workplace stress (Sue, 2010).

Evidence of the double jeopardy hypothesis can also be found in the workplace experiences of women with physical disabilities. One U.S. study followed a community sample of Black, White, and Latinx working adults over time and compared their workplace stressors and outcomes as a function of their sex and physical disability severity (Brown & Moloney, 2019). (Note that due to sample size limitations, the researchers could not break workplace stressors and outcomes down by race/ethnicity.) Looking only at physical disability severity, the findings showed that people with more severe disabilities reported lower income, less work autonomy, and more workplace stressors. But when sex was examined as well, the picture became more complex. Women with more severe physical disabilities had the lowest incomes, least workplace autonomy, and most stressful work conditions compared to women with less severe disabilities and to men (regardless of their disability severity). In turn, lower incomes, lower workplace autonomy, and higher workplace stress all predicted increases in depressive symptoms over time. Thus, undesirable workplace conditions undermine the well-being of individuals differently based on where they sit at the intersection of sex and physical disability.

Taking an intersectional approach also reveals an additional source of workplace bias involving perceptions of job fit for people of different sex and race groups. For example, gender stereotypes vary by race, with Asian people stereotyped as more feminine than White people, and Black people stereotyped as more masculine than White people. Thus, when considering the intersections of race and sex, a complex pattern of gender stereotypes emerges. As shown in Figure 11.2, Asian and White women are both stereotyped as highly feminine, while Black and White men are both stereotyped as highly masculine. In contrast, people do not strongly associate Black women and Asian men with either femininity or masculinity. This pattern of stereotyping has consequences for perceived job fit: Asian women tend to be perceived as unsuited for male-type jobs, such as security officers, while Black men tend to be viewed as unsuited for female-type jobs, such as librarians (E. V. Hall, Galinsky, & Phillips, 2015). These gender stereotypes may thus create unfair barriers that affect hiring decisions for some people with marginalized identities. Moreover, when people hold jobs that do not seem to match the gender stereotypes about their race and ethnicity groups, they may encounter heightened levels of harassment.


Why do you think so many workplaces struggle with issues of gender bias? Do you view all of the various types of gender bias—against women, LGBTQ individuals, women with physical disabilities, people of color, and gender nonconforming men—as reflecting a common, underlying purpose? Or do these different types of gender bias serve distinct purposes? What strategies might people use to combat these gender biases in the workplace? And how might these strategies differ based on the specific type of gender bias they seek to combat?


Figure 11.2 Gender Stereotypes of Sex and Race Categories

Source: Adapted from E. V. Hall, Galinsky, and Phillips (2015).


In the United States, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 made sex-based wage discrimination illegal. And yet, every year the U.S. government reports an annual wage gap between women and men (see Figure 11.3 for a comparison of women’s and men’s relative earnings over the years). Almost every industrialized country now has laws mandating equal pay regardless of sex, and still, women earn less than men in every country (United Nations Population Fund, 2017). How can a wage gap persist if it is illegal? In part, this may occur because the gender discrimination that contributes to the gap is subtle and difficult to detect and prosecute. Alternatively, perhaps factors other than (or in addition to) discrimination account for this gap. Finally, some label the wage gap a myth and assert that it no longer exists (see “Debate: Is the Gender Wage Gap a Myth?”). We explore each of these possibilities throughout this section. Note that although we use the phrase gender wage gap to be consistent with the research literature, it would be more precise—and more consistent with the terminology we outlined in Chapter 1 (“Introducing Sex and Gender)—to label it a sex-based wage gap, because it is a gap in wages between women and men as groups.


Figure 11.3 The Changing Gender Wage Gap

Source: Adapted from Institute for Women’s Policy Research (2019a).

What Is the Gender Wage Gap?

Stated simply, the gender wage gap is the difference in earnings between men and women. It is usually expressed as a ratio of women’s earnings to men’s earnings—specifically, women’s median yearly earnings for full-time, year-round work as a percentage of men’s earnings. So, a ratio of $0.50 would mean that women earn 50% of what men earn, while a ratio of $1.00 would indicate perfect pay equality. In 2018, the gender earnings ratio in the United States was $0.816, meaning that women earned, on average, 18.4% less than men (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2020). On International Women’s Day in 2019, the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) called attention to this issue by suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination. Their suit argues that, despite outperforming the men’s national team (with four World Cup wins) and generating more revenue than the men’s team since 2015, the women’s team is paid less for equal work and receives less training, travel, and promotional support for their games (Close & Sterling, 2019). A federal judge ruled in favor of the U.S. Soccer Federation in May of 2020, but the USWNT subsequently filed a motion to appeal this decision (ESPN, 2020). The outcome of this appeal is currently pending.

Gender wage gap The difference in earnings between men and women, usually expressed as a ratio (or percentage) of women’s to men’s median yearly earnings for full-time, year-round work. A gap of 1.00 would reflect gender parity.

The United States is not alone: Women earn less than men in every country around the world. As you can see in Figure 11.4, South Korea has the largest gender wage gap ($0.63), and Italy has the lowest ($0.94), but in no country do women earn as much as men (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2016). In 2018, Iceland passed new legislation to close their persisting gender wage gap ($0.86). This legislation levies fines against all companies with at least 25 employees who do not formally document that they pay women and men equally in the same jobs (or in jobs of equal value). In this unprecedented approach, companies must prove that they are not discriminating, which differs from common practice where the burden to prove discrimination typically falls to employees (Domonoske, 2018).

The U.S. Women’s National Team celebrates their World Cup win in 2019. The same year, the team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination.

Source: Getty Images / Richard Heathcote / Staff

The gender wage gap holds across race and ethnicity as well. Black, Latina, Asian American, Native American, and White women all earn less than men of their race and ethnicity. A different picture emerges, however, when comparing the pay of women of color to that of White men in the United States, with Latina women earning 54%, Native American women earning 58%, and Black women earning 63% of what White men earn. In contrast, White women’s earnings are 75% of White men’s, and Asian women have the smallest wage gap, earning 85% of what White men earn (American Association of University Women, 2017). Sexual orientation also relates to the size of the wage gap. Lesbian women earn on average about 9% more than heterosexual women (although they still earn less than men do), while gay men earn about 11% less than heterosexual men do (Klawitter, 2014).


Figure 11.4 The Gender Wage Gap Around the World

Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2016).


Have you heard of Equal Pay Day? This is the day of each year on which women’s earnings in the United States “catch up” to men’s earnings from the prior year. In other words, Equal Pay Day represents how far women would have to work into the following year to earn what men earned in the previous year. The closer Equal Pay Day is to January, the more wage parity there is. Equal Pay Day was March 31 in 2020, whereas it was April 2 in 2019 and April 10 in 2018. Just as the gender wage gap varies by race and ethnicity, so does Equal Pay Day. In 2020, Equal Pay Day came earlier for Asian women (February 11) than for White women (March 31), but it arrived much later for Black women (August 13), Native American women (October 1), and Latina women (November 2).


According to a frequently cited statistic, women engaged in full-time employment in the United States earn, on average, about 81 cents for every dollar men earn (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2019a). Similar gaps exist in virtually every country around the world. Yet some people express skepticism that the gender wage gap exists. Consider these headlines: “The ’Wage Gap’ Myth That Won’t Die” (Ketterer, 2015), “’Pay Gap’ Myth Ignores Women’s Intentional Job Choices” (Greszler, 2018), and “Lying to Women about the ’Pay Gap’ Undermines Our Freedom and Creativity” (Russell, 2019). Which is it? Is there a persistent gap between the earnings of women and men, or are the statistics that purport to show a wage gap misleading? In this debate, we outline the basic arguments of the two competing sides so you can consider which side makes more sense. We then use the remainder of this section to examine in finer detail the evidence that both sides use to build their cases.


Critics describe the 81 cents statistic as crude and meaningless because it does not consider factors that may account for the gap, such as the types of occupations in which men and women work, job experience, and hours worked. In fact, even among full-time workers (that is, anyone working over 35 hours a week), men tend to work longer hours than women. Also, women choose low-paying jobs more frequently than men. For instance, women tend to gravitate toward college majors that lead to relatively low-paying careers (social work and early childhood education), whereas men tend to gravitate toward more lucrative majors (engineering and computer science; Carnevale & Cheah, 2013).

Once you control for relevant lifestyle factors, the gap diminishes significantly. Therefore, the wage gap does not reflect sex-based discrimination; rather, it reflects men’s occupational choices and greater time spent in paid employment. And it is only fair that these factors should lead to greater pay for men.


Gender wage gaps are pervasive. They exist widely in nations across the globe, and they exist regardless of race or marital status. While it is true that men and women tend to pursue different occupations, the gap persists even when examining pay within the same occupations and when controlling statistically for variables such as education and time spent at work (American Association of University Women, 2017).

Moreover, even if the wage gap is partially explained by men working in more lucrative careers or putting in longer work hours, it is still possible that gender bias contributes to it. Although many employers try to be fair and unbiased, subtle institutional barriers and cultural biases can reinforce different expectations for men and women. For instance, the lack of extended paid maternity leave forces some women (those who can afford to do so) to interrupt their careers when children arrive, which contributes to sex differences in pay. Bringing these biases to light may help matters. Some research suggests that just requiring companies to report their gender wage gaps publicly can make people aware of biases and motivate efforts to reduce them (Lipman, 2015).

Having been introduced to both sides of the debate, what is your position about the validity of the wage gap? As you read further, you will encounter more detailed evidence in support of each position. Consider which evidence you find most persuasive, and evaluate whether you think the gender wage gap reflects gender discrimination, individual lifestyle choices and priorities, or some combination of these factors.

Although workplace gender discrimination is illegal in most countries, many subtle, structural biases can keep women from attaining high-paying jobs or advancing in their careers. As you read earlier, glass ceilings, glass cliffs, glass escalators, and sticky floors can impact the way employers view women and how women view themselves. Women are also often expected to do homemaking and secretarial tasks at work that are not expected of men. Known as office housework, these tasks include things like arranging office parties, buying cards for sick coworkers, baking cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday, or taking notes during office meetings (Kolb & Porter, 2015). While not illegal, expecting women instead of men to perform these tasks does constitute differential treatment that can slow women’s advancement.


Lilly Ledbetter, a Goodyear plant supervisor for almost two decades, filed a sex discrimination suit against Goodyear in 1998 for paying her substantially less than her male counterparts. Although a jury initially awarded her $3.8 million in 2004, Goodyear successfully appealed this ruling based on an expired statute of limitations, a judgment upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007. Despite losing her case, Ledbetter was honored in 2009 when President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law, making it easier for workers to sue employers for pay discrimination.

Possible Explanations for the Gender Wage Gap

Education and Occupational Segregation

Some argue that the wage gap exists because men are more educated than women. However, the pay gap exists at all levels of education (American Association of University Women, 2017). Men with a high school education receive higher pay than women with a high school education, and men with college and advanced degrees receive higher pay than women with these degrees. Furthermore, while men in the United States had more education than women in the past, this sex difference no longer exists, and yet, the pay gap persists.

If different education levels cannot explain the wage gap, perhaps men earn more than women because men work in high-paying occupations more frequently than women. If a surgeon makes more than a nurse, should this be surprising? In fact, sex differences in vocational interests are quite large (Lippa, 2010a). Table 11.1 shows the top 20 most commonly held jobs for men and women in the United States in 2018. As you can see, very little overlap exists between the lists, showing that occupations are indeed highly sex segregated. However, although this occupational segregation likely contributes to the gender wage gap (Hegewisch & Hartmann, 2014), it cannot fully explain it, a point we will revisit shortly.

Lilly Ledbetter, photographed on January 22, 2009.

Source: Getty Images / Bill Clark / Contributor

Occupational segregation The segregation of occupations by sex, with certain occupations dominated primarily by men and others dominated primarily by women.

The preferences that drive occupational segregation may develop early. One study of the career aspirations of U.S. high school valedictorians found that female valedictorians planned to pursue careers whose median salary was $74,608, while male valedictorians planned to pursue careers whose median salary was $97,734 (York, 2008). These sex differences then carry over into choice of college majors. Table 11.2 shows the college majors in the United States associated with the highest- and lowest-paying jobs, along with the percentages of women and men in these majors (Carnevale, Strohl, & Melton, 2014). Notice that men dominate the top-paying majors, whereas women dominate the lowest-paying majors. Women concentrate in the lowest-paying professions as well. In the United States, more than five times as many women as men work in jobs that pay poverty-level wages (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2019b) and, as noted earlier, this pattern emerges across cultures as well.

Table 11.1

This table shows the 2018 gender wage gap for women’s and men’s 20 most common occupations in the United States. The wage gap numbers are calculated as women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings. Values lower than 100 indicate that women earn less than men, and values above 100 indicate that women earn more than men. Missing values reflect occupations in which there are too few female workers to calculate a gap.

Source: Adapted from Institute for Women’s Policy Research (2019b).

Table 11.2

As you can see, with some exceptions, men tend to dominate the 10 highest-paying U.S. college majors, while women tend to dominate the 10 lowest-paying U.S. college majors.

Source: Adapted from Carnevale, Strohl, and Melton (2014).

Women’s tendency to occupy low-paying jobs cannot fully explain the gender wage gap, however. Even within the same low-paying occupations, men make more than women (see Table 11.1). An analysis of wages in 125 occupations in the United States found only five jobs in which women earn more than men, compared to 108 jobs in which women earn less than men (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2019b). Thus, female truck drivers and janitors (male-typed occupations) earn less their male counterparts but so do female nurses, secretaries, and elementary school teachers (female-typed occupations).

Occupational Feminization

Perhaps women do not choose low-paying jobs so much as jobs become low paying when (or because) women choose them. When women enter previously male-dominated fields in large numbers—a phenomenon termed occupational feminization—the pay for these jobs tends to decline (Levanon, England, & Allison, 2009). One study of the links between occupational feminization and pay found that male-typed occupations that experienced the largest feminization between 1970 and 2007 also experienced the largest decreases in men’s wages, and these declines were larger in higher-paying occupations (Mandel, 2013). Another cross-national study found that moving into or remaining in a feminizing occupation correlates with losses in individual earnings ranging from 3% in Germany to 12% in Britain (Murphy & Oesch, 2015). In other words, women’s entrance into jobs corresponds with a societal tendency to devalue those jobs and accordingly compensate them less.

Occupational feminization The entrance of women in large numbers into a previously male-dominated occupation.

Comparable worth The practice of paying people of different sexes equally for doing work of equal value (in terms of training, skills, and responsibilities), even if the work differs in kind.

Given the realities of occupational segregation and occupational feminization, some propose that the path to wage parity lies in the concept of comparable worth. In contrast to the policy of equal pay for equal work, comparable worth refers to giving equal compensation for work of equal value (Lewis, 2019). The gender wage gap cannot be addressed simply by paying men and women the same wages for the same work. It is also important to compensate different jobs equally when they require comparable levels of training, skills, and responsibility. Consider the fact that, even though being an elementary school teacher (a female-typed occupation) and a computer programmer (a male-typed occupation) require similarly high levels of training, skill, and responsibility, teachers are paid substantially less than programmers. If employers followed policies of comparable worth, however, these occupations would be compensated equally.

What happens when men enter occupations in higher numbers (a phenomenon termed occupational masculinization)? Do these occupations pay more? As we mentioned earlier, men generally have not entered female-dominated occupations and domains as readily as women have entered male-dominated ones. Thus, examples of occupational masculinization are relatively hard to find. Software programming, however, offers an interesting example. When the first digital computers were developed in the United States during World War II, women held most software programming jobs because so many men were fighting abroad (Abbate, 2012). Until the mid-1960s, programming remained a popular career choice among women. However, as the computing industry ballooned and the demand for programmers exploded over the next decades, the field of programming began to masculinize. Today, women constitute only 21% of computer programmers and 19% of software developers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018).

Occupational masculinization The (relatively rare) entrance of men in large numbers into a previously female-dominated occupation.

Did wages increase as the field masculinized? Indeed, they did. Today, software programming is a highly lucrative career. In 2018, the average annual salary for software developers and programmers was $104,480 (compared with the national average salary of $51,960 across all occupations; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018). While it is difficult to know whether the high salaries in this field reflect masculinization or other factors (such as a high demand for workers driven by a fast-growing industry), some scholars propose that the masculinization of programming was directly tied to the increasing valuation and prestige of this occupation (Ensmenger, 2010).

Thus, the occupational choices that men and women make cannot fully explain the gender wage gap. Even if occupational choices account for some of the wage gap, “choice” may be a loaded term because people’s choices are often constrained by gender expectations. Why do men choose riskier but higher-paying occupations? Why do men choose to work more hours, while women who can afford it more often choose to work part-time? These life choices may be shaped by factors that do not reflect personal desires.

Programmers Betty Jean Jennings (left) and Fran Bilas (right) operate the main control panel of the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) in 1945.

Source: By United States Army, Public Domain

Salary Negotiation

Although the pay gap increases as workers get older, it is evident among young people just beginning their careers. One year out of college, women working full-time tend to earn less than their male peers, even those majoring in the same fields (Corbett & Hill, 2012). This suggests that some wage gaps begin at the bargaining table, the moment one accepts a job. In fact, women tend to negotiate less often than men for higher salaries. Linda Babcock and her colleagues asked recent MBA graduates if they initiated a job negotiation and found that 51.9% of men versus 12.5% of women negotiated their job offer (Babcock, Gelfand, Small, & Stayn, 2006). Women also received average annual starting salaries that were 8.5% lower than those of men. An experimental study shed further light on this sex difference. In this experiment, volunteers learned that they would receive anywhere from $3 to $10 for playing a word game (Small, Gelfand, Babcock, & Gettman, 2007). When offered only $3 and told it was “negotiable,” men requested additional money more frequently than women did. However, this sex difference went away when researchers told participants that they could “ask for more” money. In other words, framing the situation as a “negotiation” may be intimidating for women because it runs counter to female gender role norms of politeness. However, framing the situation as simply “requesting more” does not violate gender role norms.

Not only do women negotiate less often, but people evaluate women who negotiate—in comparison with men who negotiate—more negatively (Bowles, Babcock, & Lai, 2007). This may remind you of the tightrope bias that we discussed earlier, in which assertive women are penalized for appearing too aggressive. The possibility of negative evaluations can inhibit women from initiating salary negotiations. In addition, men, on average, achieve better negotiation outcomes than women (Mazei, Huffmeier, Freund, & Stuhlmacher, 2015). Experimental evidence shows that negotiators offer less money to women than to men because they expect women to be satisfied with smaller salary offers (Solnick, 2001). Unfortunately, real costs result from not negotiating a first job offer. What might seem like a small disadvantage can accumulate over time and become a large loss over a career. Babcock and Laschever (2009) provide an example comparing two 30-year-old business graduates, a man and a woman, both offered jobs with a starting salary of $100,000 a year. The woman accepts the offer, but the man negotiates his offer to $111,000. Suppose they both receive 3% annual raises across their careers. Upon retiring at age 65, their annual salary gap will have grown to $30,953. Over the course of 35 years, that initial $11,000 difference amounts to about $1.6 million at retirement.

Relocations and Career Interruptions

Employers may pay women less than men because they believe women are less likely to leave their current position for a higher salary elsewhere. In fact, women do express more reluctance than men to relocate (Baldridge, Eddleston, & Veiga, 2006). In one study that asked employees if they would be willing to take a much better job in a city 100 miles away, 57% of men and 89% of women reported reluctance to move, with particular reluctance in heterosexual women whose husbands made more money than they did (Bielby & Bielby, 1992). This suggests that husbands’ potential salary loss may deter women from pursuing higher-paying jobs elsewhere, but wives’ potential salary loss does not similarly deter men from pursuing such opportunities.

Regardless of sex, income grows with job experience. But since society expects women to take on the lion’s share of domestic and childcare responsibilities, it becomes harder for them to build this job experience without career adjustments and interruptions. This might help explain why the gender wage gap becomes larger with age. In the United States, for people 35 and under, women earn about 90% of men’s pay, but for people 35 and older, women earn between 74% and 82% of men’s pay (American Association of University Women, 2017). A study that tracked graduates from a prestigious law school examined the role of career interruptions in the widening gender wage gap. During the first year after graduation, women earned 93% of men’s wages. Fifteen years later, this small wage gap was a big gap—with women earning only 62% of men’s wages—and having children explained nearly half of this larger gap (R. G. Wood, Corcoran, & Courant, 1993). This reflects a phenomenon called the motherhood penalty, in which working mothers pay a significant wage penalty for having children, and the more children they have, the greater the penalty (Budig & England, 2001; Florian, 2018). This can be explained, in part, by mothers in heterosexual relationships being more likely than fathers to work part-time and thus lose out on job experience. As shown in Figure 11.5, employed mothers interrupt their careers more often than employed fathers to care for a child or another family member (Pew Research Center, 2013b). However, even accounting for part-time work, a gender wage gap still remains. Note that this is not a parenthood penalty because men experience no wage penalty when they become fathers. If anything, fatherhood enhances wages for many men (Killewald, 2012).

Motherhood penalty The wage penalty that some working women—but not working men—experience following the birth of a child.


Figure 11.5 Parenthood and Career Interruptions

Source: Pew Research Center (2013b).

Note: Fathers and mothers include those who have ever worked and who have children of any age (N = 1,254).

The size of the motherhood penalty varies based on race and ethnicity. Among White women, having one child is associated with a loss of 2.3 years in full-time employment; having two children is associated with a loss of 4.8 years of employment; and having three or more children is associated with a loss of 7.3 years of employment (Florian, 2018). In contrast, Latina women experience no employment penalty associated with one child, and penalties of 2.4 years and 5.5 years of work associated with having two and three children, respectively. Black women with one or two children experience no motherhood penalty, whereas those with three or more children experience a loss of 5 years of full-time employment. Why do you think women of color suffer less of a motherhood penalty than White women? While we lack a definitive answer to this question, one possibility is that women of color typically have less wealth than White women and are therefore less able to stall their careers and take time off with the arrival of a child. And, as mentioned earlier, Black mothers often receive more informal childcare from extended family members (Gonzalez et al., 2014; Hirsch et al., 2002), which may allow them to avoid taking extensive maternity breaks from work.


In contrast to the expectation that women with sufficient financial resources should curtail their career ambitions for family, the traditional breadwinner role for men carries with it expectations that they should work a lot—particularly when they have a family to support. This norm can have powerful consequences for how men think about and approach their work (J. C. Williams, 2010). Consider the Silicon Valley engineers studied by Marianne Cooper (2000), who turned long hours into a demonstration of masculinity. Said one father, “There’s a kind of machismo culture among the young male engineers where you just don’t sleep. He’s a real man; he works 90-hour weeks. He’s a slacker; he works 50 hours a week” (p. 382).

Overwork Working 50 or more hours per week in paid employment.

Defined as working 50 or more hours per week, overwork is on the rise. The percentage of employed Americans who overwork rose from 13% of men and 3% of women in the early 1980s to 19% of men and 7% of women by 2000 (Cha & Weeden, 2014). By 2018, 21.4% of men and 10.6% of women worked 50 or more hours per week (Hegewisch & Lacarte, 2019). Overwork occurs more often in professional and managerial occupations, and it perpetuates the gender wage gap in these occupations. In fact, some estimate that overwork—and its financial rewards—account for about 10% of the total gender wage gap (Cha & Weeden, 2014). Moreover, parenthood exacerbates the gender gap in overwork: Men who have children work 50-plus hours a week more frequently than men without children, but women who have children are less likely to work 50-plus hours per week (J. C. Williams & Dempsey, 2014). While the male role norm of devotion to work and overwork may seem relatively harmless, some evidence suggests that it can be dangerous. Consider the problem in Japan of karoshi, which means “death by overwork.” Karoshi describes sudden deaths, typically due to heart attack or stroke, among people (usually men) who work long hours in stressful jobs. A related phenomenon, karojisatsu, refers more specifically to “suicide from overwork” (Harden, 2008). And even when overwork does not kill people, it can undermine their happiness and well-being. J. C. Williams (2010) notes that the vast majority of men who overwork report a strong preference to work fewer hours per week and spend more time with their children and families.

Conclusions About the Gender Wage Gap

Given all of the complicated factors that go into determining people’s wages, what can we conclude? A gender wage gap exists in all nations, but explaining why it occurs poses a challenge. No single cause has been identified, and the wage gap likely results from many different factors. The choices that people make—about occupations, negotiations, and parenting—contribute to the gap, but bear in mind that what might seem like personal choices may, in fact, be constrained by gender norms and expectations. Certain college majors and occupations might be seen as more “appropriate” for women than men. Taking time off from work after the birth of a child might be acceptable or even expected for women but frowned upon for men. Finally, the wage gap persists even when we take into account different career choices and time investments in work. Thus, at least part of this gap is likely explained by the various gender biases we discussed earlier in the chapter.


Why do you think that women typically choose occupations that pay less money than the occupations that men typically choose? Why do female-dominated occupations have lower pay than male-dominated occupations? Why do wages start to decrease when large numbers of women enter occupations? What factors might drive these patterns?


From the information presented in this chapter so far, one thing is clear: We cannot understand how sex and gender influence labor divisions in the home without also considering how sex and gender influence workplace dynamics and vice versa. Researchers who study the work—family interface examine how work, family, and home life interact and how their interaction relates to health, well-being, job satisfaction, employee productivity, and organizational outcomes (J. C. Williams, Berdahl, & Vandello, 2016). For an overview of the history of work and family, see “Journey of Research: From Work—Family Conflict to Work—Life Enrichment.”


In the first half of the 20th century, many households in industrialized societies comprised a single-earner husband and a homemaker wife (although, as you may recall from Chapter 10, this pattern did not apply to all families and varied based on race and socioeconomic status). Then, as women who had traditionally stayed home began to enter the workforce in increasing numbers in the second half of the century, the normative family model shifted to that of a dual-earner family. Today, in over 60% of two-parent families with children, both parents work outside the home, and men have generally increased their involvement in domestic labor and childcare. As a result of these shifts, researchers began to study how work life and family life impact each other. As documented in the book Two Careers, One Family (Gilbert, 1993), research on the work—family interface blossomed in the 1980s. Today, scholars from many disciplines—including industrial-organizational (I-O) and social psychology, sociology, and business—study the work—family interface (J. C. Williams et al., 2016). As a main focus, they ask whether having multiple roles (employed worker and family member) comes with more benefits or drawbacks.

The earliest research on work and family began in the 1960s, and work—family conflict was the dominant theme. One of the earliest theories of work and family, William Goode’s (1960) scarcity hypothesis, proposed that having multiple roles will necessarily create tension, conflict, and a sense of overload. From the 1960s through the 1990s, a great deal of research documented the negative consequences of work—family conflict for personal well-being and interpersonal relationships (Byron, 2005).

By the turn of the 21st century, work—family researchers began studying the alternate possibility that work roles and family roles can enhance one another. The expansion hypothesis, reflecting this work—family enrichment perspective, proposes that the self-esteem and fulfillment provided by one role can spill over and have positive consequences for other roles (Barnett & Hyde, 2001). Note that the conflict and enrichment perspectives are not mutually exclusive, and both are supported by research. In fact, when studies measure both feelings of work—family conflict and enrichment, the two constructs often do not correlate strongly (Greenhaus & Powell, 2006), meaning that they can both exist independently of each other.

What lies ahead for work—family research? First, researchers have been studying more diverse populations, considering how race, culture, and social class influence the work—family interface (Shockley et al., 2017; J. C. Williams et al., 2016). In addition, researchers have begun to consider how flexible work arrangements (such as flexible work hours, telecommuting, or paid family leave) can affect people’s sense of balance between their work and home lives. As more and more people incorporate both work and family roles into their identities, this field of research will likely gain importance.

Balance, Conflict, and Enrichment

Researchers who study the work—family interface primarily focus on how people’s work—life balance—the manner in which people prioritize these two domains of life—predicts various personal and organizational outcomes. As you read in the “Journey of Research,” early work on this topic was largely influenced by the scarcity hypothesis, which views time and energy as finite resources, such that time spent in one domain (work vs. home) will necessarily detract from contributions to the other domain (Goode, 1960). In fact, to the extent that people perceive more work—family conflict, they do experience more negative mental and physical health outcomes, and this holds true regardless of people’s sex (Byron, 2005). Moreover, although people of all sexes experience work—family conflict, men’s feelings of conflict have been increasing faster than women’s, at least in the United States (Aumann, Galisnky, & Matos, 2011). This may be due, in part, to men’s increasing overwork, as discussed earlier. Another factor may be the expanding role of communication technologies (e.g., computers, e-mail, smartphones) that blur the boundaries between work and home and make it harder for some people to disconnect from work when they are at home.

Work—life balance The manner in which people prioritize work and home life.

Work—family conflict Tension between work and home life, in which time spent in each domain detracts from contributions to the other domain.

In terms of parenting, women may be more likely than men to feel that their work identity conflicts with their identity as parents. Women report that the pressure to be taken seriously at work and also to be perfect mothers can lead to work—family conflict and parental burnout (Meeussen & Van Laar, 2018). As a result, mothers tend to experience greater work—family guilt than fathers (Borelli, Nelson, River, Birken, & Moss-Racusin, 2017). This may help explain why parenthood predicts greater well-being for fathers but not for mothers (Nelson-Coffey, Killingsworth, Layous, Cole & Lyubomirsky, 2019).

Given the wide variability across cultures in factors that shape work—family life—such as family values, economic conditions, and governmental policies—researchers have called for more systematic cross-cultural research in this area (Annor, 2016). In a review of work—family research conducted in over 70 countries, Shockley et al. (2017) reported that work—family dynamics (e.g., work demands, family resources, work—family conflict) differed in nuanced ways across cultures. In a different study of 31 countries, Ruppanner and Huffman (2014) found important differences between countries in the direction of work—family conflict. That is, findings differed across gender and culture in the extent to which family interfered with work versus work interfering with family. Fathers in gender-egalitarian countries tended to be more vulnerable than mothers and nonparents to family interfering with work, whereas women and men experienced equal levels of work interfering with family. This research demonstrates the complexities of work—family conflict.

Note that the work—life conflict perspective frames work and family as incompatible. This perspective has been criticized because it reinforces the belief that parents—and especially mothers—who work outside the home will necessarily show declines in their parenting abilities (Ruderman, Ohlott, Panzer, & King, 2002). In fact, focusing on the incompatibility of work and home overlooks the possibility that work and home roles can be mutually beneficial. Having a fulfilling, rewarding job can produce positive spillover into the home, and having a satisfying, happy home life can produce positive spillover into work (McNall, Nicklin, & Masuda, 2010). This effect, referred to as work—life enrichment, correlates with positive outcomes such as marital satisfaction, sleep quality, and job satisfaction (T. D. Allen, 2012). Interestingly, women tend to experience higher levels of work—family enrichment than men do (van Steenbergen, Ellemers, & Mooijaart, 2007).

Work—life enrichment Feelings of enrichment between work and home life, in which a fulfilling job positively spills over into the home, and a satisfying home life positively spills over into work.


Why do you think that the positive spillover effects between work and home life are stronger for women than they are for men? What factors have you encountered so far in this book that might help to explain this sex difference in work—life enrichment?


Early work—family conflict research suggested that the outside employment of mothers might have detrimental effects on their children. In fact, this does not seem to be the case. A meta-analysis of 69 studies of working mothers found that children whose mothers worked when they were young did not suffer cognitively or behaviorally (Lucas-Thompson, Goldberg, & Prasue, 2010). And a cross-cultural study of adults from 25 nations found that women whose mothers worked outside the home when they were young earned more money and had more advanced positions than women who grew up with stay-at-home mothers. Moreover, men raised by working mothers spent nearly twice as many hours on household and childcare (McGinn, Ruiz Castro, & Long Lingo, 2015).

Flexible Work and Family Leave Policies

As diverse family arrangements become common—and the number of dual-earner families continues to increase—researchers are asking whether flexible work arrangements hold a key to achieving ideal work—life balance. Understanding the psychological implications of flexible work arrangements became more urgent during the coronavirus pandemic that swept the globe in 2020. In flexible work arrangements, employees control the location or timing of their work. Some examples include the following: flexibility in the scheduling of hours worked (flex time), such as compressed workweeks or alternative work schedules; flexibility in the numbers of hours worked, such as part-time work, job shares, or parental leave; and flexibility in the physical location of work, such as teleworking. While some research finds positive work outcomes associated with flexible work arrangements, such as increased job satisfaction and reduced turnover intentions (Peretz, Fried, & Levi, 2018), one review concluded that the findings are too mixed to draw firm conclusions (de Menezes & Kelliher, 2011). Flexible work arrangements may also reduce work—life conflict, but the effects are modest (T. A. Allen, Johnson, Kiburz, & Shockley, 2013). Note also that flexible work arrangements sometimes benefit women more than men, likely because women bear responsibility for the majority of family management activities, such as scheduling doctor appointments and meeting with teachers (T. D. Allen, 2012). In other cases, however, flexible work arrangements may have a more negative impact on women than on men. Consider the novel coronavirus pandemic, which—at the time of this writing—is forcing many adults to work from home at the same time that it is closing down schools across the United States. This means that many parents are doing full-time telework while their young children are at home with them. What are the gender-relevant consequences of these arrangements? One study found that women’s rate of publishing in academic occupations has declined during the pandemic relative to men’s rate (Viglione, 2020). This is likely partially due to women’s increased childcare responsibilities as they must supervise children who do “virtual” school from home. In the years ahead, it will be interesting to see if the changes in telework brought about by the pandemic continue to have gender-relevant impacts on people’s career trajectories.

Flexible work arrangements Arrangements in which employees control the location or timing of their work (e.g., flexible schedules and teleworking).

Some studies find that flexible work arrangements, such as working from home, correlate with increased work satisfaction.

Source: ©

Prior to the pandemic of 2020, most employees reported a desire for flexible work arrangements but relatively few people took advantage of them (Weeden, 2005). Why might workers avoid flexible arrangements? One explanation lies in the hidden costs to pursuing flexible work, such as negative evaluations from others, or work flexibility stigma. For example, women on flexible work schedules were perceived as having lower career dedication and potential for advancement, compared with women on traditional schedules (Rogier & Padgett, 2004). Similarly, regardless of sex, accountants with flexible work arrangements were deemed lower in advancement potential and less likely to stay in their job (J. R. Cohen & Single, 2001).

Work flexibility stigma Negative evaluations that workers receive for pursuing flexible work arrangements.

Men, in particular, may be vulnerable to work flexibility stigma. While both men and women who pursue flexible work are evaluated relatively negatively and recommended for smaller raises, men who use such arrangements face the added penalty of being seen as less masculine (Rudman & Mescher, 2013; Vandello et al., 2013). When Vandello and colleagues (2013) asked college students about their intentions to use flexible work arrangements in their future careers, men reported valuing workplace flexibility and work—life balance just as strongly as women did. However, men anticipated a relatively low likelihood of actually using work flex arrangements, and they reported believing that others would view them as less masculine for doing so. Think back to the story about parental leave in Sweden that opened this chapter. Even in Sweden, one of the most gender-egalitarian nations in the world, men resisted taking parental leave until the government instituted “daddy quotas.”

Some organizations have taken steps to reduce the stigma of flexible work arrangements. At Best Buy, Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson developed a beneficial workplace intervention—the results-only work environment (ROWE)—which Gap subsequently implemented as well. Under the strategy, employees get paid for their results rather than the number of hours they work. Employees can work from home when they want, without having to use sick days or vacation time, as long as they perform their tasks. Meetings are optional. Work flexibility is the norm. Research shows that the ROWE model decreases work—family conflict, negative spillover, and job turnover (Kelly, Moen, & Tranby, 2011; Moen, Kelly, & Hill, 2011).

What about the effects of family leave policies on work—life balance? Just as with flexible work policies, the findings with family leave policies are mixed. One study of national paid leave policies across 12 industrialized nations found that, while having paid sick leave correlates with somewhat less work—family conflict, having paid parental or annual leave does not (T. D. Allen et al., 2014). On the positive side, parental leave can have important benefits for children. Longitudinal data indicate that more generous paid parental leave programs in Europe correlate with lower high school dropout rates and higher earnings by age 30 among children of working parents (Carneiro, Loken, & Salvanes, 2015). Even more striking, paid parental leave predicts lower infant and child mortality rates: Across nations, a 10-week increase in parental leave correlates with a 2%—3% reduction in the likelihood of infant death and a 4.5%—6.6% decrease in rates of child death between the ages of 1 and 5 (Ruhm, 2000), perhaps in part due to increased rates of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding helps ensure infants’ nutritional health during the first 6 months of life and correlates with reduced infant mortality (M. S. Kramer et al., 2001). But mothers who work full-time without paid leave or flexible work arrangements have more difficulty breastfeeding.

Overall, the results suggest that flexible work arrangements and national paid leave policies are helpful but will not solve all the problems of working parents. It will be important in the years ahead to re-examine the effects of flexible work arrangements and work-life balance more generally, as the coronavirus pandemic has upended social norms in profound ways. For instance, one nationally representative study found that about 35% of all U.S. workers switched from commuting to teleworking between early April and early May of 2020, as rates of coronavirus cases swelled (Brynjolfsson et al., 2020). Combined with the 15% of workers who were already working from home, this means that approximately 50% of the U.S. workforce was working from home at the time of the study. In light of the findings discussed throughout this chapter, continued research on parental leave, flexible work policies, and work—life balance issues is more essential than ever.


· 11.1 Evaluate factors that influence the gendered division of labor in the home.

In heterosexual relationships, women, on average, do more housework than men, even among dual-earner couples. Some point to working women’s greater time investment in housework and childcare as the cause of the “stalled gender revolution.” The types of domestic work that heterosexual men and women do often falls along gendered lines, with women doing more daily work (e.g., cooking and laundry) and childcare and men doing more outdoor and nondaily work (e.g., lawn care). Same-sex couples tend to share household responsibilities more equally than heterosexual couples. Explanations for gendered divisions of labor include the time availability hypothesis, which asserts that more time spent in employment should equal less time on housework, and the relative income hypothesis, which asserts that whoever makes more money will do less housework. These explanations receive only mixed support. Gender role ideology tends to be a relatively good predictor of labor divisions in the home. Because people may invest their identities in gendered labor divisions, some women resist men’s contributions to household labor (e.g., maternal gatekeeping).

· 11.2 Describe subtle workplace gender biases that create and reinforce status differences between dominant and subordinate groups.

Women and men do not differ in their natural leadership abilities or success as leaders, although they display slightly different leadership styles. A host of workplace biases exist that may keep women from reaching workplace equality with men. The glass ceiling refers to invisible barriers that keep women from being promoted to high-level positions, while the glass escalator refers to the tendency for men to advance further and faster than women in female-typed occupations. The glass cliff refers to a phenomenon in which women get promoted to top positions under precarious circumstances, and the sticky floor keeps women concentrated in low-paying, low-mobility positions. Due to these and other biases, working women must prove themselves repeatedly, pay penalties for having children, choose between being liked and being respected, and face tension from other women due to competition for limited positions. Men who violate gender role norms also experience gender bias at work, including insults and threats, and LGBTQ individuals face even higher rates of gender bias in the workplace. Women and men of color experience unique types of workplace bias, including microaggressions, subtle stigmatization, and perceived unsuitability for certain jobs.

· 11.3 Explain the gender wage gap and the various theories that account for it.

Gender wage gaps persist across all countries. Identifying the reasons for these gaps is challenging because there is no single cause. Gender biases and discrimination likely play roles in the wage gap, but probably the largest factor contributing to sex differences in workplace status is the expectation that women should be responsible for the majority of home and family care. This expectation can influence the types of occupations that men and women enter, the number of hours they work, whether or not they negotiate for higher salaries, their willingness to relocate for better jobs, whether they interrupt their careers to care for family, and the amount of time they devote to nonwork activities. The occupations most popular with women tend to pay less than the occupations most popular with men, but evidence also suggests that as women enter previously male-dominated fields, the salaries in these fields decline. Conversely, when men enter occupations at higher rates, salaries tend to increase.

· 11.4 Analyze the challenges and benefits of work—life balance and relevant factors, such as parental leave and flexible work arrangements.

Having an ideal work—life balance correlates with health, well-being, job satisfaction, and employee productivity, as well as with positive organizational outcomes. Work—life conflict continues to rise in the United States, particularly among men, as the number of hours worked increases and communication technologies make it harder to disconnect from work. However, having a fulfilling, rewarding job can produce positive spillover into the home, and having a satisfying, happy home life can produce positive spillover into work. Women tend to experience more of this work—life enrichment than men do. Workplaces have begun to address work—life balance issues by offering more paid parental leave and flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting or compressed workweeks. Despite the desirability of flexible work arrangements, many workers resist them, in part due to the anticipated and actual stigmatization that people face when they pursue these arrangements. Men, in particular, may be viewed as less masculine when pursuing flexible work arrangements, and this predicts their decreased intentions to pursue flexible work. Generous national paid leave policies only weakly predict reduced work—family conflict, but such policies may have important long-term benefits for children of working parents.

Test Your Knowledge: True or False?

· 11.1. In the United States, since the 1960s, mothers and fathers have both increased the average amount of time per week they spend on childcare. (True: The past half-century has seen large increases in the amount of time that parents spend on childcare, and this is true both in the United States and around the world.) [p. 380]

· 11.2. In heterosexual households in which women make more money than their husbands, wives tend to do less housework than husbands. (False: Some research finds that women do less housework the more they earn but only up until the point where they earn as much as their husbands. From that point on, men do less housework the more their wives outearn them.) [p. 393]

· 11.3. Women with severe physical disabilities experience more workplace stress than men with similarly severe physical disabilities. (True: Women with more severe physically disabilities report more work stress than both women with less severe disabilities and men regardless of their disability severity.) [p. 405]

· 11.4. Once you account for differences in the occupations that women and men choose, the gender wage gap disappears. (False: Men do tend to select higher-paying jobs, but men earn more than women in both high- and low-paying occupations.) [p. 408]

· 11.5. Flexible work policies, such as telecommuting and flexible hours, correlate with lower job satisfaction and generally negative outcomes for organizations. (False: Flexible work arrangements correlate with more job satisfaction and do not predict overall negative outcomes for organizations.) [p. 422]

Descriptions of Images and Figures

Back to Figure

The graph is described as follows:

The horizontal axis shows the timeline from 1965 to 2012 in staggered intervals.

The vertical axis shows the hours spent per week on housework from 0 to 35 in increments of 5.

The approximate number of hours for men:

1. 1965: 4

2. 1975: 6

3. 1985: 9

4. 1998: 12

5. 2004: 10

6. 2012: 10

The approximate number of hours for women:

1. 1965: 28

2. 1975: 21

3. 1985: 19

4. 1998: 17

5. 2004: 13

6. 2012: 12

Back to Figure

The graph is described as follows:

The horizontal axis shows Asian, White and Black men and women.

The vertical axis shows the perceptions of Target Masculinity-Feminity from minus 0.5 to 0.5 in increments of 0.1.

The given scores:

1. Asian Woman: 0.43

2. White Woman: 0.49

3. Black Woman: minus 0.11

4. Asian Man: 0.06

5. White Man: minus 0.22

6. Black Man: minus 0.28

Back to Figure

The graph is described as follows:

The horizontal axis shows the timeline from 1960 to 2018, in intervals of 10 up to 2015.

The vertical axis shows women’s median annual earnings as a percentage of men’s median annual earnings from 50 to 100 in increments of 5.

The given trend is:

1. 1960: 60.7

2. 1965: 59.9

3. 1970: 59.4

4. 1975: 58.8

5. 1980: 60.2

6. 1985: 64.6

7. 1990: 71.6

8. 1995: 71.4

9. 2000: 73.7

10. 2005: 77.0

11. 2010: 76.9

12. 2015: 79.6

13. 2018: 81.6

Back to Figure

The graph is described as follows:

The horizontal axis shows various countries around the world.

The vertical axis shows the gender wage gap from 60 to 100 in increments of 5.

The approximate scores:

1. Italy: 94.5%

2. New Zealand: 94 %

3. Norway: 94.5%

4. Denmark: 94.5%

5. Turkey: 94%

6. Greece: 93%

7. Colombia: 93%

8. Poland: 90%

9. Lithuania: 88%

10. Iceland: 87%

11. Netherlands: 87%

12. Slovakia: 87%

13. Ireland: 86%

14. Australia: 86%

15. Czech Republic: 85%

16. Switzerland: 84.5%

17. Germany: 84.5%

18. Great Britain: 84.5%

19. United States: 84.5% (highlighted)

20. Austria: 84.5%

21. Mexico: 84%

22. Portugal: 83%

23. Canada: 82.5%

24. Finland: 82%

25. Latvia: 80%

26. Japan: 75%

27. Estonia: 72%

28. South Korea: 63%

Back to Figure

The graph is described as follows:

The horizontal axis shows the percentage of fathers and mothers from 0 to 50 in increments of 10.

The vertical axis shows the various situations affecting career.

The given percentage is:

1. Reduced work hours:

1. Fathers: 28%

2. Mothers: 42%

2. Taken a significant amount of time off:

1. Fathers: 24%

2. Mothers: 39%

3. Quit job:

1. Fathers: 10%

2. Mothers: 27%

4. Turned down a promotion:

1. Fathers: 10%

2. Mothers: 13%