Fathers with daughters, listen up. Yes, I’m talking to you—workaholic lawyer-dads who are on the partnership track. You, with the lovely, patient wife and two adorable daughters.
You probably work like a madman while your wife minds the home front. You undoubtedly think that’s an efficient division of labor.
But that’s not doing your daughters any favors. Certainly not if you want them to grow up to be independent and career-oriented women. According to a study by University of British Columbia, how parents divvied up domestic chores influenced their children’s ambitions:
Even when fathers publicly endorsed gender equality, if they retained a traditional division of labour at home, their daughters were more likely to envision themselves in traditionally female-dominant jobs, such as nurse, teacher, librarian or stay-at-home-mom.
The study examined data from 326 kids ages seven to 13 and at least one of their parents. Here are some of its key findings:
- Women tend to self-stereotype more than men. That is, they automatically identified themselves with “home” more so than men did with “work.”
- Girls identified with stereotypical gender roles more than boys, “meaning they were more likely than boys to believe that women do more domestic work.”
- Both moms and dads influenced their daughters’ views about career. But the father’s view carried extra weight.
- Fathers had more influence over daughters’ career aspirations than those of sons. Girls aspired to traditional roles if their fathers “explicitly endorsed a traditional division of household tasks”; implicitly associated women with home and men with work; and did less housework or childcare.
- Girls were more likely to be career-oriented if their fathers promoted idea of gender equality and if their moms reported doing less housework.
The study looks at how parents affect their children’s current attitude about ambition and gender roles. Outside the scope of the study is whether those attitudes will carry over to adulthood. The suggestion, of course, is that parents’ words and actions will have a long term impact. Alyssa Croft, the study’s main author, said to the University of British Columbia News: “‘Talking the talk’ about equality is important, but our findings suggest that it is crucial that dads ‘walk the walk’ as well – because their daughters clearly are watching.”