By: Sarah Thébaud, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara
Despite the massive influx of women into the labor market since the 1960s, men are still vastly overrepresented in the highest and most influential positions in business, government, and higher education. One central explanation for persistent gender disparities at the top of organizational hierarchies is that organizational practices are premised on an “ideal worker” whose primary commitment is to work. In recent years, employers have responded to this concern by implementing supportive work-family policies, such as parental leave and flexible scheduling options. But uptake of these policies is often low, and varies significantly across workplace contexts and by the gender of the worker. The goal of this study is to examine the extent to which norms and practices within organizations may explain this variability. We employ an original, population-based survey experiment that examines how likely men and women would be to use work-family policies at their workplace while exogenously manipulating the extent to which informal organizational practices and norms support policy use. Our findings provide new evidence about the mechanisms that drive men’s and women’s intentions to use work-family policies, and specify the strength of the causal relationship between intentions to use a given policy and the type of informal workplace support for policy use. By doing so, we uncover key dimensions of work-family policies that are likely to both increase and equalize men’s and women’s policy use, which has important implications for reducing gender inequality at work.
This event is hosted by the UMD Business School