Many women who become pregnant feel like their workplaces are trying to push them out, while expectant fathers often see career encouragement, new research has found.
For companies concerned with how to retain employees, the findings may provide a nudge to examine how a business treats employees when they become parents.
The study by Samantha Paustian-Underdahl, an assistant professor of management at Florida State University’s business college, looked at two theories on why mothers are more likely to leave the workforce than fathers: that pregnant women feel they’re being pushed out, and that mothers decide to leave on their own because their priorities change.
“We found that pregnant women experienced decreased career encouragement in the workplace only after they disclosed they were pregnant,” Paustian-Underdahl said in a statement announcing the publication of her findings. “Once they told managers and co-workers, we saw a decline in career encouragement for women but an increase in career encouragement for men.”
When couples have children, women’s salaries tend to go down, while men’s tend to go up, according to labor statistics, though not much research has been able to explain why that’s happening, according to the university.
As expectant mothers receive less encouragement at work, they become less motivated to stay in the company or in the workforce, the research found. Fathers, on the other hand, received more career encouragement and became more committed to working.
In her research, Paustian-Underdahl also could not find examples of pregnant women becoming less excited about working, though she did find that if the women felt pushed out, they would be less motivated to remain.
“We expected career motivation to decrease for mothers throughout pregnancy, but we found the opposite to be true,” said Paustian-Underdahl. “Organizations need to give their workers the encouragement they’re looking for because, in this study, pregnant women really wanted career support, and they did not get it.”
The study was published in January in the Journal of Applied Psychology.