The paper’s findings are a social Molotov cocktail wrapped in academic brown paper. Most notably, the three researchers (who hold positions at Harvard, NYU, and the University of Utah) found after a series of four studies that “husbands embedded in traditional and neo-traditional marriages (relative to husbands embedded in modern ones) exhibit attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that undermine the role of women in the workplace.”
(I myself wondered about those definitions. For the record, the researchers label “modern marriages” those where wives are employed full time and “traditional marriages” those in which wives are not employed.)
The authors arrived at these startling findings by examining the issue of “stalled progress toward gender equality” – or the fact that while women account for a growing number of advanced degrees and share of the labor force, they remain an endangered species at the ladder’s highest levels: Among other notable numbers, women are fewer than five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, occupy barely 15 percent of board seats of the Fortune 500, and make up not even 20 percent of Congress.
The researchers asked whether this lack of progress might in part be caused by “a pocket of resistance to the revolution,” namely “husbands embedded in marriages that structurally mirror the 1950s ideal American family portrayed in the ‘Adventures of Ozzzie and Harriet’ sitcom.'” They write that a 2008 paper spurred them to wonder “‘whether a domestic traditionalist can also be an organizational egalitarian?’ The answer we posit is ‘no.'”
In other words, the paper’s three authors say, when it comes to shaping views on women and work, there’s no place like home:
“We found that employed husbands in traditional marriages, compared to those in modern marriages, tend to (a) view the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably, (b) perceive that organizations with higher numbers of female employees are operating less smoothly, (c) find organizations with female leaders as relatively unattractive, and (d) deny, more frequently, qualified female employees opportunities for promotion.”
The studies showed that personal views and the domestic architecture of male leaders’ private lives helped shape women’s professional opportunities. This held true in both surveys and lab experiments, including one that tested whether candidates with identical backgrounds, but different names — Drew versus Diane — should receive a spot in a sought-after, company-sponsored MBA program. According to the research, men in traditional marriages gave Diane “significantly poor evaluations” compared to Drew. It seems that husbands with wives working at home imprinted that ideal onto women in the office.
Is every man with a stay-at-home wife sexist? Of course not. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that traditional marriage structures often reflect traditional views on gender roles, and traditional views on gender roles mean that women are considered inferior. And men don’t leave those views behind when they leave home and come into the office.