GENDER ROLES AND INFANT/TODDLER CARE: MALE AND FEMALE PROFESSORS ON THE TENURE TRACK
This study seeks to determine the association between gender role attitudes about childcare, utilization of parental leave policies and parental/infant preferences, on the one hand, and the distribution of childcare in the families of assistant professors with children under two on the other. Both utilization of paid parental leave policies by men and men’s belief in non-traditional gender roles are associated with higher levels of participation in parenting tasks. However, even those male professors who take leave and believe in non- traditional gender roles do much less childcare relative to their spouses than female professors do. This result holds even when the male professor’s wife works full time. Our results suggest that one reason why female professors do more childcare may be that they like it more than men do. The association of enjoyment of childcare with gender role attitudes or leave-taking status is not statistically significant, which suggests that sex differences in the enjoyment of childcare will not be easily changed by changes in policies or gender role ideology. Accordingly, when exploring the stickiness of gender roles with respect to infant and toddler care, it would seem prudent to consider biological and evolutionary explanations as well as those focusing on institutions and gender ideology. Having more women in the workforce has not eradicated traditional gender roles because men have not contributed in the domestic realm to the extent that women have contributed to family income through paid labor. This study demonstrates that male tenure-track professors with a young child do significantly less childcare relative to their spouses than their female colleagues. It also suggests that neither changing the attitudes of men and women about appropriate gender roles nor offering paternal leave to male professors will bring about equality between the sexes in the division of childcare, at least when children are infants or toddlers. Six men in our study took paid leave, had an egalitarian ideology about the division of household labor, and were married to women with full time jobs. By their own reports, none of these men did as much as half of the childcare.
Our results suggest that one reason why female professors do more childcare may be that they like it more than men do. This conclusion is possible even though the vast majority of female respondents and a clear majority of male respondents believe that husbands and wives should share childcare equally. Gender ideology about care may be less important than feelings on these matters.
Of course, the validity of our study conclusions is limited by the fact that performance of childcare is measured by self-report. It would be useful if future studies validated the current results by measuring time on tasks by other commonly used measures such as outside observation or random sampling of tasks done in a day via the use of beepers.