Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Jane Halpert, PhD
Alice Stuhlmacher, PhD
The role of motherhood is culturally associated with reduced performance expectations and lower performance evaluations. This is referred to as the motherhood penalty. Social role theory (Eagly, 1984), the stereotype content model (Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu, 2002) and the lack of fit model (Heilman, 1984, 2001) suggest that stereotypes regarding how women are and how they should be drive these perceptions. When mothers express strong devotion to work over family (i.e., devotion orientation) the motherhood penalty appears to be minimized. However, having to claim that work is central to their lives (i.e., work-‐devotion) to avoid being penalized can impede important progress women have made in the workplace. This study explored the effects of motherhood status and devotion orientation on the evaluation of female employees in male-‐typed roles by utilizing a 2 (motherhood status: children, no children) x 3 (devotion orientation: work-‐devoted, family-‐ devoted, work-‐and-‐family devoted) between subjects factorial design, which resulted in six hypothetical female employee profiles. 700 participants were recruited via Amazon Mechanical Turk. Each participant read information about one of the hypothetical employees and then evaluated her on several work-‐ and family-‐ related dimensions (e.g., warmth, competence, likeability, promotability, commitment to family). Although the motherhood penalty was not replicated, devotion orientation had significant effects on others perceptions of female employees. In particular (and as predicted), work-‐devoted women were viewed most favorably on work-‐related dimensions (i.e., commitment, dependability, likelihood to be promoted and trained) and least favorably on family-‐related dimensions (i.e., parental effectiveness, commitment to family) compared to their family-‐devoted counterparts. This is consistent with prior research suggesting that women make a trade-‐off when holding dual work and family roles. Work-‐and-‐family devoted women, on the other hand, did not appear to make this trade-‐off. Rather, they were perceived as relatively effective (i.e., less than work-‐devoted women, but more than family-‐devoted women) in both work and family contexts. This suggests that when women can positively impact others’ perceptions of their work-‐ and family-‐related abilities by making their desires clear rather than leaving it up to others to make assumptions based on limited information.
Mockler, Stefanie, "Perceived Choices: Perceptions of Mothers’ Devotion to “Family or Work” or "Family and Work"" (2015). College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations. 103.