Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Do Female Colleagues and Supervisors Influence Family Role Attitudes? A Three-Level Test of Exposure Explanations among Employed Men and Women in 27 European Countries

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Do Female Colleagues and Supervisors Influence Family Role Attitudes? A Three-Level Test of Exposure Explanations among Employed Men and Women in 27 European Countries

Article excerpt

During the past decades, the composition of the labor market has changed dramatically, foremost as a result of an increase in female labor force participation. Not only do women currently hold more than 40% of jobs worldwide but they also run a third of all businesses (International Labour Office, 2015). Moreover, although women are still underrepresented in top positions, the proportion of female managers increased during the past 20 years in a majority of countries (International Labour Office, 2015). The question central to this study is to what extent exposure to today's female labor force participation is related to people's support for egalitarian family roles, which has been rising as well (e.g., Brooks & Bolzendahl, 2004; Thornton & Young-DeMarco, 2001). Attitudes on the division of work and care between men and women are not only relevant as an indicator of inequality between men and women but may also affect long-term concrete behaviors (Ajzen, 1991), especially with respect to the division of work and to a lesser extent to family obligations (e.g., Hochschild, 1989).

Previous studies have argued that contact and interaction with employed women at the workplace are positively related to egalitarian family role attitudes, mainly through people's exposure to women's capabilities to perform in the labor market (next to managing a family) and their capability to be self-reliant (Banaszak & Plutzer, 1993; Bolzendahl & Myers, 2004; Davis & Robinson, 1991; Gerson, 1987; Klein, 1984; Kroska & Elman, 2009). In addition, it is argued that employed women themselves hold on average more egalitarian views than nonemployed women and hence that exposure to females at the workplace implies that employees come into contact with relatively nontraditional women at work (e.g., Cassidy & Warren, 1996; Kraaykamp, 2012; Rhodebeck, 1996). Yet, the relation between family role attitudes and exposure to various forms of female labor participation, especially at the individual level (i.e., the workplace), has been understudied in empirical studies. This study advances on previous work with three main contributions.

First, this research is of one the first empirical studies to directly test exposure mechanisms underlying the relation between female colleagues at work and egalitarian family role attitudes and will do so among both men and women. Next to exposure to relatively successful women (female supervisors), we examine whether the mere amount of exposure to female colleagues at the workplace (regardless of their status) is related to egalitarian family roles. In doing so, we contribute to the development of exposure theory and provide a more elaborate test.

Second, exposure to female colleagues and supervisors may differ according to work sector. For instance, in education and health sectors, female employees are found most often (Charles & Bradley, 2009; Eurostat, 2014), and an overrepresentation of women in a sector may imply that people will be exposed to women's abilities and egalitarian attitudes regarding the division of work and care tasks more than in male-dominated sectors. We here build on previous research not only by testing the idea of exposure at occupational sector level next to the workplace level but also by theorizing to what extent more contact with women at one's workplace might mean something different than in one's sector, for instance, because contact with women in the workplace might be more frequent, more personal, and more visible than in one's occupational sector. In addition, we examine the exposure mechanism even further by studying whether the relation between exposure to female colleagues and supervisors at the workplace and egalitarian family roles is weaker or stronger in sectors with a higher percentage of female colleagues (cross-level interaction).

Third, people's norms and values are also influenced by societal norms and structures (e.g., André, Gesthuizen, & Scheepers, 2013; Banaszak & Plutzer, 1993; Geist, 2005; Glass, Bengston, & Dunham, 1986; Sjöberg, 2004; Voicu, Voicu, & Strapcova, 2009). …

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