Working mothers have more successful daughters and more caring sons

It has been a worry for many mothers across the years, to return to work or not after having a baby.

The question stems from many thoughts that all come down to the key concern, will I be helping or hindering my child by becoming a working mum?

But now mothers are being informed that this fret may not be warranted.

According to a Harvard Business School study, daughters of working mothers are more likely to be employed, hold executive positions, and earn more money than the daughters of women who don’t work outside the home. The research also found statistically significant results of sons of working women, who are likely to spend more time caring for family and doing household chores than are the sons of stay-at-home mothers.

After the researchers analysed data from 24 countries, they were able to conclude that the daughters of employed mothers are “4.5% more likely to be employed themselves than are the daughters of stay-at-home mothers.”

Initially this number appears to be small but as Kathleen McGinn, lead author of the study at Harvard Business School, “is the effect that working mothers have on their daughters’ chances of being a manager at work. We did expect that it would effect employment but we didn’t expect that it would effect supervisory responsibility.”

The study also considered and applied the factor of measuring gender attitudes – to take beliefs regarding gender roles out of the equation – the researchers found that 33% of daughters of working mothers held supervisory roles, compared to only 25% of daughters of stay-at-home moms.

“What I take away is that employed mothers create an environment in which their children’s attitudes on what is appropriate for girls to do and what is appropriate for boys to do is affected,” McGinn says.

The study was executed via the International Social Survey Programme in 2002 and 2012, taking both national level data and individual level date collected across 24 countries. The researchers specifically examined results from a survey question that asked whether: “during your childhood, did your mother ever spend a year or more working full or part-time?” then the Harvard team took the responses against a host of variables to test the outcomes.

McGinn says that the effects of working mothers were most striking in countries labeled in the study as “stagnating moderates,” a category that included both the US and the UK. These are countries where respondents generally held moderate views about gender issues and egalitarianism in 2002, and where the attitudes remained roughly the same 10 years later.

The study also discovered that the income of daughters of working mothers in the US was $5,200 higher than that of daughters of women who stayed at home, when controlling for gender attitudes.

McGinn has a message for working mothers, “being employed has long-lasting, positive effects on children. When you go to work, you are helping your children understand that there are lots of opportunities for them.”

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