Women whose moms worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home.
According to a new report from Harvard Business School, having a mom who works carries major lifelong advantages for children — especially girls. Researchers found that women whose mothers worked — Whether for just a few months when they were in middle school, or full-time from when maternity leave ended until retirement — were more likely to have jobs themselves, to have supervisory positions and to earn more.
“It didn’t matter to us if she worked for a few months one year, or worked 60 hours per week during your whole childhood,” researcher Kathleen L. McGinn said. “We weren’t interested in whether your mom was an intense professional, but rather whether you had a role model who showed you that women work both inside and outside the home. We wanted to see how that played out.”
McGinn and her colleagues found that women weren’t the only beneficiaries, though: Men whose mothers worked outside the home also showed positive differences, and were found to contribute more to their family members and household chores. Essentially, by seeing the example of mothers who took care of business in the world and at home, sons learned to do the same. According to McGinn, having a working mother has one of the clearest effects on increasing gender equality — and the findings held up for both men and women across cultures:
The data showed that while being raised by a working mother had no apparent effect on men’s relative wages, women raised by working moms had higher incomes than women whose moms stayed at home full time. The one exception: women who reported conservative attitudes toward gender equality. “It’s only for earnings that having conservative gender attitudes reduces the effect of a working mom,” McGinn says. “For all of the rest of them, having had a non-traditional role model at home has a direct effect on the outcomes, regardless of attitudes.”