Workplace Mistreatment of Middle Class Workers Based on Sex, Parenthood, and Caregiving


  • This research was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The authors thank Shelley Correll, Sheri Levy, and an anonymous reviewer for their suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript, and H. Colleen Stuart for her assistance with Study 2.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jennifer L. Berdahl, Associate Professor, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5R 1P2, Canada. Tel: (416) 978-4273 [e-mail:].


Research suggests that women, but not men suffer negative professional consequences if they have children. These unequal consequences can be attributed to stereotypes about women's and men's roles as caregivers and breadwinners for their families, respectively. Two field studies of workplace mistreatment among middle-class employees examined whether fathers who violate these gender stereotypes by actively caregiving for their families suffer negative consequences at work. Study 1 (N = 232) examined not man enough harassment (being derogated as insufficiently masculine) and Study 2 (N = 451) examined general forms of mistreatment. Results showed that caregiving fathers experience more harassment and mistreatment than traditional fathers and than men without children. Women without children experience more harassment and mistreatment than mothers, and mothers who spend less time on caregiving experience more harassment and mistreatment than mothers who spend more time on caregiving. We discuss implications for theory and practice.