Between two-earner families and single moms, the trend of working mothers has become fully entrenched in our world. This is largely an attempt to keep up with the fact that real wages continue to decline even as executive salaries soar, but there are many other factors as well. There has been a fair amount of hand-wringing through the years, in the so-called “Mommy Wars,” over whether this phenomenon of women no longer staying home to focus primarily on raising children has been detrimental to society at large.
A Pew Research Institute survey, which questioned women themselves on this point, had some interesting results.
Back in 1997, when the survey was first administered, only 19 percent of working mothers thought it was a good thing for society, while 39 percent thought it was a bad thing. Ten years later, those results shifted to where 34 percent thought it was a good thing, which was the same percentage that thought it was a bad thing.
The subject will continue to be debated, though, in many cases, there is really not a lot of choice in the matter. One trend that has emerged recently is the growing popularity of part-time work for mothers with children. Back in 1997, 48 percent of working mothers considered part-time work ideal. By 2007, that number had grown to 60 percent. Stay-at-home mothers in the survey, it should be noted, showed an opposite trend, growing more committed over the same period, where 48 percent said staying home was ideal, up from 39 percent 10 years earlier.
It’s an important question, to be sure -- especially considering the fact that today 75 percent of women with small children do work outside the home.
A recently published Harvard Business School survey throws a surprising new wrinkle into the equation that will likely lift the spirits of working moms. The survey, which was part of a Gender Initiative, questioned some 50,000 adults, aged 18 to 60, from 24 different countries over a 10-year period ending in 2012.
The study found that not only were daughters of working women more likely to be employed themselves, but they were also more likely to earn more. How much more? Here in the U.S., daughters of working women earn 23 percent more than their counterparts whose mothers stayed home. The effect was less pronounced across the 24 nations in the study, where the overall difference was only 6 percent. But over a lifetime of work, even 6 percent can make a difference.
Sons of working mothers actually tended to become more attentive fathers, spending 7.5 hours a week more with their children and 25 minutes more on chores.
Study author Kathleen McGinn told Pew: “What we find is a pattern of results that is very hard to explain if it’s not about gender roles. And by gender roles I mean the way that women and men think about what is appropriate, when you’re male or when you’re female.”
That seems to impact women more in their careers, while it impacts men more in their home lives.
Image credit: U.N. Women: Flickr Creative Commons
RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org