Can domestic traditionalists be organizational egalitarians? The answer is no.

Social exclusion, Discrimination
Social exclusion, Discrimination (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By: Andrea Alarcon

Expecting women co-workers to take care of office parties? Bake the cake for the monthly birthday celebration?

Subconscious discrimination is still discrimination. We have all seen and experienced this, and it tends to be of such good nature that it’s hard to fight. A new study called “Marriage Structure and Resistance to the Gender Revolution in the Workplace”  highlights a hidden form of sexism displayed by men who are part of traditional marriages vs modern marriages.

The study’s abstract says:

In this article, we examine a heretofore neglected pocket of resistance to the gender revolution in the workplace: married male employees who have stay-at-home wives. We develop and empirically test the theoretical argument suggesting that such organizational members, compared to male employees in modern marriages, are more likely to exhibit attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that are harmful to women in the workplace.

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.'” 

People ask me why I should care about other women’s personal lives. Why am I so disappointed with women choose to not have a career nor contribute to her household’s income?  Isn’t the ability to have a choice the true advance that we have made? Does it affect you? Well, it DOES!

“One of the reasons why there aren’t as many women at the top is perhaps men at the top tend to be benevolent sexists who tend to see women as people who should be shielded from danger and risks,” said  Harvard research fellow and UNC Assistant Professor Sreedhari Desai, one of the paper’s authors to The Atlantic. “They are probably thinking of women as fragile beings who need to be taken care of, that want to stay at home and raise kids and don’t want to take risks and move to the top.”

We see it all the time, specially when keeping women in the office as support staff. Desai explains how the fact that the attitudes are of  “unconscious nature”  makes beating them back particularly difficult. Male leaders may think they are elevating women, putting them on a pedestal, not stifling them. The fact that two of the authors are Indian, one of the most traditional countries when it comes to gender roles, is probably not a coincidence.

The Atlantic also makes the correlation to our politicians. There is not much to interpret when comparing Michelle Obama to Ann Romney, and whether their husbands are viewing the “women” constituency through the narrow lens of their marriage.

In April Mitt Romney told a gathering of newspaper reporters that his wife Ann “reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy,” leading the Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus to remind the candidate that “women aren’t a foreign country. You don’t need an interpreter to talk to them.” (The cable cyclone surrounding whether Mrs. Romney had ever “worked a day in her life” also resulted from the cloud pressure of those comments.)

Yes, people generalize women in a way they would never do to men.  That is because men have always ranged between criminals to the Pope to businessmen. Women have always been homemakers. So what the study proves is that getting out of that role, specially after we are equally educated and have the same rights, is either a movement of all or of none.

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