That working women get punished for being mothers is not new. However, when researchers of the Universities of Gent and Leuven, Belgium, sent out 960 job applications with different profiles, they found that children are bad news for working fathers too. Male candidates with children were invited 18% less often for job interviews. According to Professor Stijn Baert (UGent): ”a possible explanation is that men who volunteer that they have children, are perceived as less assertive, less competitive, less independent and less dominant.” Some of us prefer men like this, but some clearly not. The biggest disadvantage the fictitious candidates had, occurred in the private sector, in ”typically masculine professions”.
Women with one child had 22% less chance of being invited than those with no children. Mothers of two, surprisingly, had a little more chance. Most likely, this is because not many women are expected to have another one after two.
Obviously it is a costly business to have someone on the pay role who is not working. This is an issue that cannot be solved just by penalising the employers, as a new law decreed last year in the Netherlands. A radical change of mind is needed, that stops regarding children as a burden, which is mainly their mother’s responsibility. As far as I know men want children just as much as women, and we need them if we want our species to continue existing.
Secondly, children are a source of joy. Happy children that is. Numerous research shows that adverse childhood experiences make for unhealthy, and often criminal grown-ups, as this graphic shows. And just for the record: a frustrated mother at home, feeling deprived and left-out because she can’t work, and a stressed-out father because he works too much, is not good for a child.
Sustainable leadership is all about making it work for everyone involved. So let’s start looking at this issue as investing in a fair future.