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Bias in Employment Decisions about Mothers and Fathers: The (Dis)Advantages of Sharing Care Responsibilities


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Faculty of Economics & Business Administration, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands [e-mail:].


Bias against mothers in employment decisions has often been explained by the assumption that mothers are less committed and competent than fathers and nonparents. In a simulated employment context, we studied whether this “motherhood bias” can be attenuated by different ways of dividing care responsibilities between partners. We contrasted a main provider model to a shared model in which both partners equally share work and care responsibilities. In the Netherlands, where part-time work is encouraged and available, sharing work and care is increasingly considered “normal.” As predicted, we found less favorable perceptions of full-time working mothers who are main providers than of mothers who share responsibilities with their partner. In contrast, we found least favorable perceptions of fathers who share responsibilities. Our findings show how normative beliefs about parenting dictate that we applaud mothers—and punish fathers—who combine career and care by working reduced hours.