Different attitudes in how men and women prepare for their futures might be a factor contributing to the gender gap, a new study published in Gender & Society finds.
In imagining their work paths, women were disproportionately more likely to think and worry about parenthood than men. And in anticipation of the responsibilities and challenges that parenthood brings, women were more likely than men to downscale or alter their career goals.
Brooke Conroy Bass, who wrote the article, conducted in-depth interviews with 30 heterosexual couples between 25 and 34 who have not (yet) had children.
Preparing for the future has emotional and behavioral consequences for women that men don’t suffer as much from, she found. Because of these “gendered anticipations of parenthood,” the inequality in the market starts much earlier than we tend to think.
Bass told Futurity that career trajectories among men and women shift as parenthood approaches, with men investing more effort in their jobs and women dialing back.
The study suggests that part of the problem contributing to the gender wage gap, penalization for maternity leave and the difficulty of making it to the top is anticipating the future.
But should women be penalized for displaying foresight, a characteristic that employers usually value?