Should Women Shun Work-Life Balance Benefits?

Glass-ceiling research shows women continue to be harmed by gender stereotypes.  Managers continue to discriminate against female subordinates because they incorrectly perceive women as having greater conflicts between their family responsibilities and their work responsibilities than men, reports The Academy of Management Journal. Somewhat surprisingly, both male and female managers harbor this misperception.

The study, entitled “Bosses’ Perceptions of Family-Work Conflict and Women’s Promotability: Glass Ceiling Affects,” was conducted by members of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Managerial Studies. Lead author Jenny Hoobler commented that she expected that “[w]hat we’re talking about … is one of the subtle, entrenched forms of discrimination that make up the glass ceiling.”


The study cautions women about using company-sponsored programs such as on-site child care, flex time or paid parental leave, which are designed to assist employees with work-life balance. The problem is that managers may view use of such benefits as confirmation of women’s greater susceptibility to work-family conflicts, and then view such women as less committed to the company and less promotable than their male counterparts who do not make use of such benefits.

The authors recommend that to reduce the potential that gender stereotyping will affect workplace decisions, companies should educate managers about their own possible biases and should be aware of and guard against allowing “biased perceptions of caregiving roles” to affect promotion decisions.

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