Penalizing Men Who Request a Family Leave: Is Flexibility Stigma a Femininity Stigma?


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Laurie A. Rudman, Department of Psychology, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick, 53 Avenue, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8040 [e-mail:].


Men who request a family leave are viewed as poor organizational citizens and ineligible for rewards. In addition to a poor worker stigma, we found that male leave requesters suffer femininity stigma. Compared with control targets, male leave requesters were viewed as higher on weak, feminine traits (e.g., weak and uncertain), and lower on agentic masculine traits (e.g., competitive and ambitious). Perceptions of weakness uniquely predicted greater risk for penalties (e.g., being demoted or downsized) and fully accounted for the effect of poor worker stigma on male leave requesters’ penalties. By contrast, the poor worker stigma and both agency and weakness perceptions contributed to their reward recommendations. Results were comparable regardless of the reason given for requesting a family leave, target race (White or Black), and participant gender. The implications of these findings for work–life balance and gender equality are discussed.