Misconceptions stymie women's careers: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Women’s careers are being stymied by more than a glass ceiling. Bosses believe women have more family-work conflict, which is a misconception that is holding them back, according to new research.

And it’s not just male managers who have the wrong idea.

“These perceptual biases held for both male and female managers,” Jenny Hoobler, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and her co-authors said.

“Even though female employees actually reported slightly less family-work conflict than their male counterparts, their managers still perceived them as having greater family-work conflict, a perception that had significant implications for women’s organizational advancement.”

Hoobler and her co-authors, Sandy Wayne and Grace Lemmon, ironically found than problems often emerged as a result of company-sponsored programs meant to assist workers in managing family-work conflict.

Their findings, published in the The Academy of Management Journal, showed that employees participating in such programs may send the wrong signal to their managers, particularly that they have family demands and need assistance in balancing home and work domains.

“Participation in these company-sponsored programs may reduce the likelihood that their managers view them as fitting with the job and organization, consequently reducing their promotion opportunities,” the co-authors said in a statement.

The findings are based on surveys of 178 employees -- 52 managers and 126 subordinates -- of a transportation company who were questioned about family and work responsibilities and stress.

The researchers also found that the more children a woman has, the more family-work conflict bosses perceived.

“The women’s movement of the 60s and 70s in the United States brought revolutionary change in terms of women’s upward progress in organizations, but the biases supporting the glass ceiling today are much more subtle, multifaceted and deeply embedded than they were then,” the researchers said.

“Today women encounter biases so rooted in systems that they may not even be noticed until they are eradicated. In this study, we believe we have identified one such bias,” they added.

Reporting by Burton Frierson; Editing by Patricia Reaney