Article

Signaling Parenthood: Managing the Motherhood Penalty and Fatherhood Premium in the U.S. Service Sector

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Abstract

An extensive body of research documents that women experience a motherhood penalty at work whereas men experience a fatherhood premium. Yet much of this work presupposes that employers are aware of a worker’s parental status. Given the different consequences that parenthood has on outcomes such as pay and promotions, it is conceivable that men and women may deploy their status as parents differently when interacting with employers. Drawing on in-depth interviews with a racially diverse sample, this article examines how mothers and fathers working in the service sector use their parental status when negotiating work and child care responsibilities. Mothers, particularly black mothers, were less likely to openly discuss their children at work. In some cases, women purposefully concealed from their employers the fact that they were mothers or found other ways of signaling their commitment to their jobs. Fathers, on the other hand, were more likely to discuss their children with their employers and overwhelmingly characterized their managers as understanding of their parenting obligations. Together, these findings help us understand how mothers and fathers navigate the consequences of parenthood in the workplace and add nuance to previous studies of motherhood penalties and fatherhood premiums.

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... This difference is primarily justified by the different positioning of having a child by men and by women. At work, women prefer not to talk about the lives of their children, while men, on the contrary, mostly talk about the successes of their children and their own managerial participation in them (Luhr 2020). Another important point in the justification of the differences is the impact of penalties for motherhood and fatherhood on the human behavior: these are men, on average, who invest less time, put less efforts and priorities in raising a child that to their other affairs compared to women (Mu and Xie 2016). ...
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Past research that asserts a fatherhood wage premium often ignores the heterogeneity of fathering contexts. I expect fatherhood to produce wage gains for men if it prompts them to alter their behavior in ways that increase labor-market productivity. Identity theory predicts a larger productivity-based fatherhood premium when ties of biology, coresidence with the child, and marriage to the child's mother reinforce one another, making fatherhood, and the role of financial provider in particular, salient, high in commitment, and clear. Employer discrimination against fathers in less normative family structures may also contribute to variation in the fatherhood premium. Using fixed-effects models and data from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79), I find that married, residential, biological fatherhood is associated with wage gains of about 4 percent, but unmarried residential fathers, nonresidential fathers, and stepfathers do not receive a fatherhood premium. Married residential fathers also receive no statistically significant wage premium when their wives work full-time. About 15 percent of the wage premium for married residential fathers can be explained by changes in human capital and job traits.
Article
Research on women’s experiences with work schedules and flexibility tend to focus on professional women in high-paying careers, despite women's far greater prevalence in low-wage jobs. This paper seeks to contribute to our understanding of the work-hours problems faced by low-wage women relegated to part-time work. We address how work-on-demand scheduling and other features of part-time labor in the neoliberal economy limit women’s ability to make ends meet. Using data from17 in-depth interviews with women precariously employed in low-wage jobs, we identify four themes—unpredictable schedules, inadequate hours, time theft, and punishment-and-control via hours-reduction—and the problems they present. Results suggest that much-championed flexible work policies that seek to encourage women’s career advancement may have little bearing on the work-hours dilemmas faced by low-wage women workers. We conclude that social change efforts need to encompass work policies geared to low-wage workers, such as guaranteed minimum hours and increases in the minimum wage.
Article
Women face an earnings penalty associated with motherhood but researchers have paid scant attention to how fatherhood might influence men's long-term earnings. Using multiple waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and employing ordinary least squares regression and fixed effects models we investigate what happens to men who modify their employment for family reasons. Previous research shows that men work longer hours and earn more after becoming fathers, but if men are unemployed or reduce work hours for family reasons, they could experience a “flexibility stigma” depressing earnings and limiting future career opportunities. We find strong support for the flexibility stigma hypothesis. Controlling for the effects of age, race, education, intelligence, occupation, job tenure, work hours, health limitations, marital status, and number of children, we find that men who ever quit work or are unemployed for family reasons earn significantly less than others in the future. Theoretical reasons for observed findings are discussed.
Article
This article first provides a review of fatherhood in the gender and organization literature on work and family, and the body and (in)visibility. It observes how organizational assumptions which frame fathers as breadwinners, ignoring their paternal role, remain extraordinarily persistent because policies (no matter how long established) do not necessarily change social attitudes and behaviours. The article then draws upon original qualitative data to demonstrate how while male workers may feel valued as employees, they often feel invisible at work in their paternal role. Fathers perceive that, while family-friendly policies might in theory be available to ‘parents’ these are in practice targeted at working mothers. The article considers why working men's paternity is so often ignored, as though fathers are a ghost in the organizational machine. A recommendation for the establishment of a fatherhood and motherhood passport is made.
Article
According to the May Work Schedules and Work at Home Supplement of the Current Population Survey in 1997, 2001, and 2004, the proportion of employees in the United States with variable starting and/or stopping times who do not control their schedules has increased rapidly since the late 1990s. This category included one out of nine civilian employees ages 18–65 in 2004. These jobs have increased rapidly within industries and occupations. The incumbents of these jobs are more likely to be men, black, and immigrant; white, US-born women' chances of holding such jobs are greatly reduced by their responsibility for children. These findings identify a growing tendency to structure jobs so as to exacerbate the conflict between family work and paid employment, and to reinforce the gender division of labor between home and wage labor, especially in the most disadvantaged communities within the US.
Article
Joan Williams' Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict And What To Do About It (Oxford, 1999) is a "theoretically sophisticated and thoroughly accessible treatise" that offers a new vision of work, family, and gender. (Publisher's Weekly, Nov. 1, 1999) It examines our system of providing for children's care by placing their caregivers at the margins of economic life. This system that stems from the way we define our work ideals, notably from our definition of the ideal worker as one who takes no time off for childbearing or childrearing and who works full-time and is available for overtime. The ideal-worker norm clashes with our sense that children should be cared for by parents. The result is a system that is bad for men, worse for women, and disastrous for children. Williams documents that mothers remain economically marginalized, and points out that when mothers first marginalize and then divorce, their children often accompany them into poverty. Williams argues that designing workplaces around the bodies of men (who need no time off for childbearing) and men's life patterns (for women still do 80% of the child care) often constitutes discrimination against women. She also engages the work/family literature to show that "flexible" workplaces are often better than existing practices for employers' bottom line. On the family side, she argues that the ideal worker's wage -- after as well as before divorce -- reflects the joint work of the ideal worker and the primary caregiver of his children, and should be jointly owned. In a comprehensive examination of the theoretical issues surrounding work/family issues, she uses the work of Judith Butler and Pierre Bourdieu to explain why gender has proved so unchanging and unbending, reframing the special treatment/equal treatment debate, the debate over "women's voice," and offering new perspective on how to avoid the persistent race and class conflicts that emerge in debates over work and family issues.
Article
Many men who work in women's professions experience a glass escalator effect that facilitates their advancement and upward mobility within these fields. Research finds that subtle aspects of the interactions, norms, and expectations in women's professions push men upward and outward into the higher-status, higher-paying, more “masculine” positions within these fields. Although most research includes minority men, little has explicitly considered how racial dynamics color these men's encounters with the mechanisms of the glass escalator. In this article, the author examines how intersections of race and gender combine to shape experiences for minority men in the culturally feminized field of nursing and finds that the upward mobility implied by the glass escalator is not uniformly available to all men who do “women's work.” The author concludes that the glass escalator is a racialized concept and a gendered one and considers the implications of this for future studies of men in feminized occupations.
Article
In spite of feminist recognition that hierarchical organizations are an important location of male dominance, most feminists writing about organizations assume that organizational structure is gender neutral. This article argues that organizational structure is not gender neutral; on the contrary, assumptions about gender underlie the documents and contracts used to construct organizations and to provide the commonsense ground for theorizing about them. Their gendered nature is partly masked through obscuring the embodied nature of work. Abstract jobs and hierarchies, common concepts in organizational thinking, assume a disembodies and universal worker. This worker is actually a man; men's bodies, sexuality, and relationships to procreation and paid work are subsumed in the image of the worker. Images of men's bodies and masculinity pervade organizational processes, marginalizing women and contributing to the maintenance of gender segregation in organizations. The positing of gender-neutral and disembodied organizational structures and work relations is part of the larger strategy of control in industrial capitalist societies, which, at least partly, are built upon a deeply embedded substructure of gender difference.
Article
Many employers assess their workforces with gendered and racialized imagery that can put groups of workers and applicants at a disadvantage in the labor market. Based on 78 interviews with white employers in Atlanta, the author reveals that some employers use a complex but widely shared stereo-type of Black working-class women as single mothers to typify members of this group. These employers use this single-mother image to explain why they think Black women are poor workers, why they think Black women are reliable workers, and why they think Blacks are poorly prepared for the labor market. In focusing on these white employers' claims, the author concentrates not on the well-documented out-comes of labor market discrimination, such as differential rates of pay and promotion, but on how employers construct and use the images that may from the basis of it. This is especially relevant amid current attacks on affirmative action programs.
Article
Changes in both social policy and business conditions make this a critical as well as an opportune time to extend a work family perspective to lower-wage workers and to organizations in the community that, in addition to the workplace, affect the well-being of low-income families. Drawing on literature from the fields of work and family, public policy, and organizational sociology, the author reviews what current research tells us about the special challenges that confront lower-wage workers as they combine work and family responsibilities. Integrating knowledge from these fields leads to concerns about current welfare-to-work efforts and opens up new avenues for improving the prospects of lower-wage workers and their families.
Article
R E C E N T SCHO L A R S H I P on African American, Latina, Asian American, and Native American women reveals the complex interaction of race and gender oppression in their lives. These studies expose the inadequacy of additive models that treat gender and race as separate and discrete systems of hierarchy (Collins 1986; King 1988; Brown 1989). In an additive model, white women are viewed solely in terms of gender, while women of color are thought to be "doubly" subordinated by the cumulative effects of gender plus race. Yet achieving a more adequate framework, one that captures the interlocking, interactive nature of these systems, has been extraordinarily difficult. Historically, race and gender have developed as separate topics of inquiry, each with its own literature and concepts. Thus features of social life considered central in understanding one system have been overlooked in analyses of the other. One domain that has been explored extensively in analyses of gender but ignored in studies of race is social reproduction. The term social reproduction is used by feminist scholars to refer to the array of activities and relationships involved in maintaining people both on a daily basis and intergenerationally. Reproductive labor includes activities such as purchasing household goods, preparing and serving food, laundering and repairing clothing, maintaining furnishings and appliances, socializing children, providing care and emotional support for adults, and maintaining kin and community ties. Work on this project was made possible by a Title F leave from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a visiting scholar appointment at the Murray Research Center at Radcliffe College. Discussions with Elsa Barkley Brown, Gary Glenn, Carole Turbin, and Barrie Thorne contributed immeasurably to the ideas developed here. My thanks to Joyce Chinen for directing me to archival materials in Hawaii. I am also grateful to members of the Women and Work Group and to Norma Alarcon, Gary Dymski, Antonia Glenn, Margaret Guilette, Terence Hopkins, Eileen McDonagh, JoAnne Preston, Mary Ryan, and four anonymous Signs reviewers for their suggestions.
Article
Research has confirmed a motherhood penalty and fatherhood bonus at work. Employers, it appears, regard mothers and fathers differently from one another and differently from non-parents. We have yet to systematically explore whether mothers exhibit fewer pro-work behaviors than fathers and non-parents or whether fathers engage in more of them than mothers and non-parents. This article draws on nationally representative data from full-time employed adults to investigate mother, father, and non-parent differences in work effort, work intensity, job engagement, and four measures of work enhancement from home. Mothers and fathers are similar on five out of seven outcomes tapping pro-work dimensions. When they differ, mothers report greater job engagement and work intensity than fathers. Mothers are no different from non-parents on all outcomes. All findings hold net of individual, job, and family controls. I conclude that reducing workplace gender inequality will require organizational changes that pay explicit attention to workers’ care-giving responsibilities.
Article
Low-income working mothers face significant child care challenges. These challenges are particularly salient in an era of welfare reform, when welfare recipients are under increased pressure to find a job. The current study examines how child care demands are negotiated for an urban sample of low-income mothers. The sample includes a racially and ethnically diverse group of 57 respondents with and without welfare experience who are mothering children under 13 years of age and working in entry-level jobs. Findings suggest that respondents seek arrangements that are affordable, convenient, and safe, and informal arrangements may be most compatible with convenience and cost considerations. Informal care is not universally available, however, andmay be less reliable. Implications for child care policy are discussed.
Article
Working moms risk being reduced to one of two subtypes: homemakers—viewed as warm but incompetent, or female professionals—characterized as competent but cold. The current study ( N= 122 college students) presents four important findings. First, when working women become mothers, they trade perceived competence for perceived warmth. Second, working men don't make this trade; when they become fathers, they gain perceived warmth and maintain perceived competence. Third, people report less interest in hiring, promoting, and educating working moms relative to working dads and childless employees. Finally, competence ratings predict interest in hiring, promoting, and educating workers. Thus, working moms' gain in perceived warmth does not help them, but their loss in perceived competence does hurt them.
Article
There is an irony—perhaps a paradox—here: that a methodology that is based on “interpretation” should itself prove so hard to interpret. (Dey, 1999, p. 23) Among the different qualitative approaches that may be relied upon in family theorizing, grounded theory methods (GTM), developed by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss, are the most popular. Despite their centrality to family studies and to other fields, however, GTM can be opaque and confusing. Believing that simplifying GTM would allow them to be used to greater effect, I rely on 5 principles to interpret 3 major phases in GTM coding: open, axial, and selective. The history of GTM establishes a foundation for the interpretation, whereas recognition of the dialectic between induction and deduction underscores the importance of incorporating constructivism in GTM thinking. My goal is to propose a methodologically condensed but still comprehensive interpretation of GTM, an interpretation that researchers hopefully will find easy to understand and employ.
Book
America's leaders say the economy is strong and getting stronger. But the safety net that once protected us is fast unraveling. With retirement plans in growing jeopardy while health coverage erodes, more and more economic risk is shifting from government and business onto the fragile shoulders of the American family. In The Great Risk Shift , Jacob S. Hacker lays bare this unsettling new economic climate, showing how it has come about, what it is doing to our families, and how we can fight back. Behind this shift, he contends, is the Personal Responsibility Crusade, eagerly embraced by corporate leaders and Republican politicians who speak of a nirvana of economic empowerment, an "ownership society" in which Americans are free to choose. But as Hacker reveals, the result has been quite different: a harsh new world of economic insecurity, in which far too many Americans are free to lose. The book documents how two great pillars of economic security--the family and the workplace--guarantee far less financial stability than they once did. The final leg of economic support--the public and private benefits that workers and families get when economic disaster strikes--has dangerously eroded as political leaders and corporations increasingly cut back protections of our health care, our income security, and our retirement pensions. Blending powerful human stories, big-picture analysis, and compelling ideas for reform, this remarkable volume will hit a nerve, serving as a rallying point in the vital struggle for economic security in an increasingly uncertain world.
Article
"Nicholas Townsend has produced an elegant, insightful, occasionally heartwrenching portrait of what it means to be a man in late twentieth-century America. His interviews reveal, as no mere statistics could, the tensions and contradictions that fathers face as they try to conform to a predominant cultural script. Neither villains nor victims, these men earn our sympathy as we witness their struggle to conform to The Package Deal." —Stanley Brandes, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley In this important new work, Nicholas Townsend explores what men say about being fathers, and about what fatherhood means to them. He shows how men negotiate the prevailing cultural values about fatherhood, marriage, employment, and home ownership that he conceptualizes as a "package deal." Townsend identifies the conflicts and contradictions within the gendered expectations of men and fathers, and analyzes the social and economic contexts that make emotionally involved fathering an elusive ideal. Drawing on the lives and life stories of a group of men in their late forties who graduated from high school together in the early 1970s, The Package Deal demystifies culture's image of fatherhood in the United States. These men are depicted as neither villains nor victims, but as making their best efforts to achieve successful adult masculinity. This book shows what fathers really think about fatherhood, the division of labor between fathers and mothers, the gendered difference in expectations, and the privileging of the relationship between fathers and sons. These revealing accounts of how fatherhood fits into the rest of men's lives help us better understand what men can and cannot do as fathers. And they clearly illustrate that women are not alone in trying to "have it all" as they strive to combine work and family. "What do men want? In this provocative and thoughtful book about a group of men who graduated from high school in the early l970s, the gifted anthropologist Nicholas Townsend gives us an answer. Despite powerful pressures on them to spend more time with their children, to share more chores with their working wives, to cut their commutes, to give up their part in suburban sprawl, the men Townsend came to know were keeping their eye on another ball—the package deal. Stubborn? Retrograde? Yes. But with a deep appreciation for the contradictions they face, the system of pride and dignity with which they live, Townsend explains why. This is a highly important book for men, and for those who are trying to change them." —Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of The Second Shift and The Time Bind "By listening so carefully to men and women, by so carefully assessing the complex inter-connection of their lives and our cultural ideals, Townsend adds welcome nuance to the ongoing social and political discussion about fatherhood in America." —James A. Levine, Ed.D., Director, The Fatherhood Project, Families and Work Institute