Women have faced negative career consequences for many years as the result of their caregiving responsibilities. When women become parents, there is an assumption that they will make compromises at work due to family responsibilities, whether or not that is in fact the case. Women have often paid a price for becoming mothers: being viewed as less committed, less promotable and even less competent (Correll, Bernard and Paik, 2007).
But as much as women have struggled with these unfair suppositions, there has, at least, been an expectation that women need to make difficult trade-offs due to the dual-demands of work and family. There appears to be no such expectation when it comes to men. Due to gender stereotypes and the very short duration of men’s parental leave patterns (16% of men in our 2011 study took no time off following the birth of their most recent child and 96% took two weeks or less), our research shows that 99% of working fathers feel that their supervisor expects no change to occur to their working patterns as the result of their becoming parents.
In contrast to fathers who are viewed to be in more traditional roles and may receive a financial “fatherhood bonus,” those who take time off to be active caregivers can often suffer lower long-term earnings. In a 2013 study, Berdahl and Moon researched how workers of both genders were treated as the result of being “conspicuous caregivers.” They found that while both women and men faced stigma, men who were too conspicuous in their involvement in family were seen not just as lesser workers, but also “lesser men.” This is because they did not adhere to the breadwinning model of fatherhood, one where men are regarded as employees who have little to no responsibilities outside of work. In spite of the increased societal expectations around paternal involvement and the desire on the part of many men to participate more fully in family life, Berdahl and Moon’s research suggests that fathers who are heavily involved in caregiving, or take time off for to care for their families, can be subject to informal and formal professional sanctions.
The authors also found that fathers who were highly involved in childcare reported the greatest levels of harassment compared to other men in the sample, in particular fathers who provided minimal childcare. In a second study, fathers who were responsible for more domestic work at home experienced greater workplace mistreatment than non-fathers and fathers who participated less in housework.
Similarly, Coltrane, Miller, DeHann and Stewart (2013) found that men who took time off to care for family members had significantly lower long-term earnings than men who had not done so. The authors found that regardless of gender, leaving work for family reasons was associated with lower long-term earnings, indicating that both men and women who take time off to care for family members suffer financial consequences as a result.