Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Academic workplace bias against parents hurts nonparents too

Date:
March 31, 2014
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
A new study shows that university workplace bias against scientists and engineers who use flexible work arrangements may increase employee dissatisfaction and turnover even for people who don't have children. The work-devotion schema -- the idea that one's career requires intense time commitments and strong loyalty -- is a mandate that is unconsciously part of most professional workplaces and underlies the flexibility stigma.

Trying to balance work and family obligations can come with career costs.
Credit: Monkey Business / Fotolia

Parents have reported before that trying to balance work and family obligations comes with career costs. But a new study from Rice University and the University of California, San Diego, shows that university workplace bias against scientists and engineers who use flexible work arrangements may increase employee dissatisfaction and turnover even for people who don't have children.

"As researchers, we're interested in understanding the gap between the traditional 9-to-5 work setting and what workers actually need," said Erin Cech, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice and the study's lead author. "The majority of parents are in the workforce today, yet the expectations and arrangements of work have stayed more or less the same as they were post-World War II. We're trying to understand this mismatch and its consequences."

The study, "Consequences of Flexibility Stigma Among Academic Scientists and Engineers," examined "flexibility stigma" -- employers' and co-workers' negative attitudes toward employees who seek or are presumed to need flexible work arrangements to deal with child care responsibilities -- at one university. The study found that people who reported an awareness of the flexibility stigma in their departments -- regardless of whether they are parents themselves -- were less interested in staying at their jobs, more likely to want to leave academia for industry and less satisfied with their jobs than those who did not report a flexibility stigma in their department. They also felt as though they had worse work-life balance.

"Flexibility stigma is not just a workers' problem," said study co-author Mary Blair-Loy, an associate professor of sociology at UC San Diego and founding director of the Center for Research on Gender in the Professions. "Workplaces where this bias exists are more likely to have a toxic culture that hurts the entire department, not only in terms of work-life balance but also retention and job satisfaction, which may affect department productivity."

The researchers suggest that the study sheds light on workplace issues across a wide spectrum of professional fields.

"Because this is an academic setting, faculty tend to have a great deal of freedom to re-arrange their busy schedules to accommodate family responsibilities," Cech said. "We imagine that the effects of flexibility stigma on job satisfaction and employee turnover might be even more counterproductive in professional workplaces that have less schedule control. Dealing with work-life balance issues is not just about instituting the right polices, but it is also about undermining the stigma that comes along with using those policies."

Cech also noted that one consequence of flexibility stigma -- employee turnover -- can be expensive.

"It can be extremely costly -- on average, between $90,000 and $400,000 when accounting for lab space and student assistants -- for startup packages for new science and engineering faculty," she said. "This suggests that reducing flexibility stigma would not only be good for workers, but good for the bottom line as well."

Blair-Loy said that the work-devotion schema -- the idea that one's career requires intense time commitments and strong loyalty -- is a mandate that is unconsciously part of most professional workplaces and underlies the flexibility stigma.

"Work devotion is useful for employers because it helps motivate senior management, but is destructive to people trying to care for family members," Blair-Loy said. "It underlies this stigma that is damaging to all members of the department, not just the ones that are parents."

Blair-Loy noted that the silver lining of their research suggests that many faculty who are not currently parents are aware of the flexibility stigma.

"These individuals can be real allies in making a more inclusive, welcoming environment for everyone," Blair-Loy said. "It provides the opportunity to broaden awareness of problematic work environments and educate others about this bias."

The study included 266 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) faculty members at a top-ranked university with pre-eminent science and engineering programs. The respondents answered online survey questions about whether mothers and fathers with young or school-aged children are perceived as less committed to their careers than women or men who are not parents, and whether individuals choosing to use formal or informal arrangements for work-life balance experience negative career consequences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. A. Cech, M. Blair-Loy. Consequences of Flexibility Stigma Among Academic Scientists and Engineers. Work and Occupations, 2014; 41 (1): 86 DOI: 10.1177/0730888413515497

Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Academic workplace bias against parents hurts nonparents too." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331100129.htm>.
Rice University. (2014, March 31). Academic workplace bias against parents hurts nonparents too. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331100129.htm
Rice University. "Academic workplace bias against parents hurts nonparents too." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331100129.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new protocols for healthcare workers interacting with Ebola patients. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins