The dual impact of gender and the influence of timing of parenthood on men’s and women’s career development: Longitudinal findings

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This study investigated the impact of gender, the gender-related self-concept (agency and communion), and the timing of parenthood on objective career success of 1,015 highly educated professionals. Hypotheses derived from a dual-impact model of gender and career-related processes were tested in a 5-wave longitudinal study over a time span of 10 years starting with participants’ career entry. In line with our hypotheses we found that the communal component of the gender self-concept had an impact on parenthood, and the agentic component influenced work hours and objective career success (salary, status) of both women and men. Parenthood had a negative direct influence on women’s work hours and a negative indirect influence on women’s objective career success. Women who had their first child around career entry were relatively least successful over the observation period. Men’s career success was independent of parenthood. Sixty-five percent of variance in women’s career success and 33% of variance in men’s career success was explained by the factors analyzed here. Mothers with partners working full time reduced their work hours more than mothers with partners not working full time. A test for a possible reverse influence of career success on the decision to become a parent revealed no effect for men and equivocal effects for women. We conclude that the transition to parenthood still is a crucial factor for women’s career development both from an external gender perspective (expectations, gender roles) and from an internal perspective (gender-related self-concept).

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