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Research Highlights

Married Men’s Attitudes toward Female Colleagues Are Shaped at Home

dolly chugh

Organizations can acknowledge the psychological realities that all employees – including men in traditional marriages – face in toggling between conflicting norms between one's home and one's office.

Women in the workplace who find themselves bumping up against a glass ceiling may be facing a surprising obstacle. New research in the realm of social psychology and the influence of structure, by Stern Assistant Management and Organizations Professor Dolly Chugh, shows that men who are married to women who aren’t employed tend to view female colleagues with disfavor and are more likely than the average married man to block their advancement.

In “The Implication of Marriage Structure for Men’s Workplace Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors Toward Women,” Professor Chugh and her co-authors, Sreedhari Desai of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Arthur Brief of the University of Utah, presented their studies of 993 married, heterosexual male participants. They found that married men in traditional marriages viewed the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably; perceived that organizations with higher numbers of female employees ran less smoothly; considered organizations run by women less attractive; and denied opportunities for promotion to qualified female employees more frequently than did other married men.

And it gets worse: single men who then marry non-working women tend to change their attitudes toward women in the workplace, and not for the better.

Although more marriages are becoming dual-earner, the situation is unlikely to change on a broad level anytime soon, the authors say. Currently, they point out, 75 percent of male executives are married to women who don’t work.

So what’s a business to do? Professor Chugh says companies could respond by establishing responsibility for diversity. Also, she adds, “Organizations can acknowledge the psychological realities that all employees – including men in traditional marriages – face in toggling between conflicting norms between one's home and one's office. By creating cultures and structures that make egalitarian norms very explicit, the organization helps 'nudge' all employees towards the desired behaviors and away from unintentionally biased treatment of women."