All around the world, millions of working mothers get dressed, eat breakfast, kiss their children on the forehead, and sprint to work every morning, sometimes against the countervailing social messages signaling their inadequacy as breadwinners.
My mum is one of those super-committed women to both their children and profession. She always had a pressure-driven job but she never felt conflicted about being a working mother-of-three. Rightly so, a new paper by the Harvard Business School unveiled.
After analyzing data on 50,000 people in 24 countries, in North and South America, Australia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, researchers found that children benefit from exposure to the positive role model of a mother with career.
“The children of working mothers observe the decisions and behaviors of their parents, learning skills and capacities that they can draw upon as resources as they navigate gendered situations and decisions later in life,” the study argues.
This is not to discriminate against non-working mothers. In South Asia for instance I’ve seen housewives or mothers involved in the informal economy who work three times more than some managers out there.
Yet, what do do children of working mothers get out of it?
1. Adult daughters of working mothers are more likely to be employed
According to the study, daughters of working mothers are likely to be more successful in their workplace. They earn more and hold a higher percentage of supervisory roles than daughters of stay-at-home mums. Data shows that one in three daughters of working mothers are in managerial posts versus only one in four of those with non-working mothers. Furthermore, working mothers directly teach daughters useful job skills, the study reports.
2. Maternal Employment has positive effects of sons
The research also explored the correlation between maternal employment and adult outcomes at home. Sons raised by an employed mother spend 7.5 more hours on childcare and doing household chores per week, than men whose mothers stayed home full time.
3. Working mothers break down gender stereotypes
In many countries the picture titled “mum stays home while dad works all day” is still very popular. Working mothers are the living example that traditional gender roles are not the only opportunity for their sons or daughters. Having a job doesn’t mean that children are being neglected. It’s quite the opposite, the study suggests.
“Our findings reveal the power of non-traditional gender role models to gradually erode gender inequality in labor market outcomes,” researchers explained, adding that egalitarian attitudes are associated with “better employment outcomes for women and more gender-equitable division of household labor.”
Working mothers, literally…good job!