Opting Out, Not Leaning In

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Mothers who work more than 50 hours a week in male-dominated professions are about 50 percent more likely to quit their jobs than mothers who work 40 hours, according to a sociology paper published in Gender and Society journal this month.

Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, wrote a book called ‘Lean In,’ telling women they shouldn’t start backing away from leadership roles at the office before they have children, and that they should marry men who be fully equal child-rearing partners.

This paper, from Youngjoo Cha, an Indiana University professor, argues that women are less likely to become engineers, investment bankers, construction workers, police officers or lawyers in large law firms because they anticipate they will be expected to work 50 hours a week or more. And even if they do join those fields, if they are working long hours, they are more likely to  leave. Long hours were more likely in those fields, she found.

Interestingly, Cha finds that mothers who work equally long hours in fields that are not male-dominated are far less likely to quit. She said mothers in male-dominated fields are three times more likely to quit than overworked mothers in other fields.

Her explanation is that male-dominated fields are the most likely to equate overwork with dedication and commitment.

The total number of quits is still small — just 6.8 percent of mothers who worked more than 50 hours a week in male-dominated fields quit their fields at some point during the four-year data collection.

When mothers quit, some moved to other professions  and some decided to stay home with their children.

According to the book The long work hours culture: causes, consequences and choices, 36 percent of men work more than 50 hours a week, and 19 percent of women do.

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