Girls may listen to their dads wax poetic about gender equality. But what they remember is who did the dishes.
It was Gandhi who coined the phrase “Actions express priorities,” but the truism has been around as long as humanity. And a new study from the Association for Psychological Science underscores the importance of this truth in creating a sense of professional ambition in young girls.
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The study found that that a key predictor in how girls form their career goals is how much their father contributes around the house. Girls who grow up in homes where parents share the domestic chores, like doing the laundry and washing the dishes, are more likely to have broader career aspirations. In cases where dads talk about gender equality with their daughters, but then don't help out with the chores at home, daughters are more likely to see themselves as a nurse, teacher, stay-at-home mom, or another traditionally "female" profession, the report found.
"'Talking the talk' about equality is important, but our findings suggest that it is crucial that dads ‘walk the walk’ as well — because their daughters clearly are watching,” says psychology researcher and study author Alyssa Croft, in a statement about the research. “This study is important because it suggests that achieving gender equality at home may be one way to inspire young women to set their sights on careers from which they have traditionally been excluded.”
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The findings of the report are based on a study of 326 children from the ages of 7 to 13. For each child in the study, the researchers measured who did the chores and who was getting paid to go to work outside of the home.
“Despite our best efforts to create workplace equality, women remain severely under-represented in leadership and management positions,” says Croft. “How fathers treat their domestic duties appears to play a unique gatekeeper role.”
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Listen to Croft talk about her research in the video embedded below.
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