In yet another example of the myriad ways that society is unfair to women, new research says that moms are judged negatively in the workplace whether or not they take maternity leave. So, ladies, no matter what you do, you’re going to be judged for it.
The research was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and examined the attitudes of 137 women and 157 men from the United States and the United Kingdom with regards to maternity leave. The study participants were split into three groups and had to evaluate a fictional woman working for a fictional company.
In one scenario, the woman says she’ll be taking maternity leave soon. In the second, she is pregnant but won’t take time off. In the final scenario, neither pregnancy nor maternity leave are mentioned. The results? The woman who took maternity leave was seen as less competent and less committed. The woman who didn’t take time off was perceived to be uncaring and a bad parent.
“Our results show that perceptions of competence, whether in the work or family domain, were never boosted—but only impaired—by the maternity leave decision,” said lead author Dr Thekla Morgenroth, of the University of Exeter.
So, in a nutshell, women are not viewed favorably if a there’s a baby in the picture, regardless of their maternity-leave plans.
“I do a lot of research on gender stereotyping, and I wish I had better solutions,” said study co-author Madeline Heilman, professor of psychology at New York University. “But the sad truth is, women are really between a rock and a hard place when making this decision.”
And more bad news: Stereotypes such as the ones perceived about working women are extremely difficult to change in the public’s opinion. So, the authors wrote in their paper, “It seems unlikely that working mothers will escape this dilemma any time soon.”