Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2016

Mums the Word! Cross-national Relationship between Maternal Employment and Gender Inequalities at Work and at Home

by Kathleen L. McGinn, Mayra Ruiz Castro and Elizabeth Long Lingo

Abstract

Our research considers how childhood exposure to non-traditional gender role models at home, specifically being raised by an employed mother, relates to men's and women's employment and domestic outcomes. Our analyses rely on national level archival data and individual level survey data collected as part of the International Social Survey Programme in 2002 and 2012 from nationally representative samples of men and women in 24 countries. Adult daughters, but not sons, of employed mothers are more likely to be employed and, if employed, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility, work more hours, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home fulltime. At home, sons raised by an employed mother spend more time caring for family members than men whose mothers stayed home fulltime, and daughters raised by an employed mother spend less time on housework than women whose mothers stayed home fulltime. The pattern of results in both fixed effects models and mixed models is consistent with the proposition that employed mothers provide non-traditional gender role models to their children, liberalizing gender attitudes and transmitting life skills for managing competing responsibilities, increasing the likelihood of their daughters' active engagement in the workplace and their sons' active engagement in family care.

Keywords: maternal employment; work-family; gender; Equality and Inequality; Employment; Gender;

Citation:

McGinn, Kathleen L., Mayra Ruiz Castro, and Elizabeth Long Lingo. "Mums the Word! Cross-national Relationship between Maternal Employment and Gender Inequalities at Work and at Home." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-094, June 2015. (Revised January 2016.)