Children of working mums do better, says study

Women whose mothers worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time, according to a new study.

The study of 24 countries, including the UK, by Harvard Business School, also showed men raised by working mothers were more likely to contribute to household chores and spend more time caring for family members.

The study was conducted by Kathleen L. McGinn, the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, with Mayra Ruiz Castro, a researcher at HBS, and Elizabeth Long Lingo, an embedded practitioner at Mt. Holyoke College.

The researchers asked did your mother ever work for pay, after you were born and before you were 14? They wanted to find out whether growing up with a working mum influenced several factors, including employment, supervisory responsibility, earnings, allocation of household work and care for family members.

Survey respondents included 13,326 women and 18,152 men from 24 developed nations. The researchers based their analyses on responses collected from the 2002 and 2012 surveys. They categorised the countries by their attitudes toward gender equality, both at home and in the workplace.

The data showed that, while being raised by a working mother had no apparent effect on men’s relative wages, women raised by working mums had higher incomes than women whose mums stayed at home full time. The one exception was women who reported conservative attitudes toward gender equality who earned lower.

The data also showed that men were just as likely to hold supervisory jobs whether or not their mums had worked outside the home. But women raised by working mothers were more likely to supervise others at work. Men whose mums had worked outside the home were more likely to contribute to household chores and spent more time caring for family members.

Women spent about the same amount of time caring for family members, regardless of whether their mums worked outside the home, but women who were raised by a working mum spent more time with their children – even those who themselves were working mums.

“There’s a lot of parental guilt about having both parents working outside the home,” says Professor McGinn. “But what this research says to us is that not only are you helping your family economically – and helping yourself professionally and emotionally if you have a job you love – but you’re also helping your kids. So I think for both mothers and for fathers, working both inside and outside the home gives your kids a signal that contributions at home and at work are equally valuable, for both men and women. In short, it’s good for your kids.”

 



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