Desai, Chugh, & Brief (2014).The Implications of Marriage Structure for Men’s Workplace Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors toward Women

Sreedhari D. Desai – University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Dolly Chugh – New York University
Arthur P. Brief – University of Utah

Ashley Hardin – University of Michigan Ross School of Business
Beth Schinoff – Arizona State University

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Question 1. We find this open-systems perspective to investigating a “micro” phenomenon very insightful. As organizational scholars, what other potential is there for applying this lens?

Our paper is out of many that explore how nonwork experiences can affect workplace behaviors and in doing so shows that there is a context to both attitudes and behaviors of individuals. However, this is not a new idea, nor one that is unique to this paper; others have made a similar point about how structure affects social psychology and can also have an impact, therefore, on behavior. We can imagine all the factors that shape families and communities having potential implications for organizations.

Question 2. We found your study so intriguing that we keep asking ourselves how your findings might generalize to different populations. In particular, we were surprised that the marriage style of parents was not a significant predictor of marriage type in Study 5 or any of the outcome variables. Did you find evidence or would you hypothesize that parental marriage style would be a significant predictor among single individuals in the workforce? Additionally, would we expect to see similar results for women in traditional marriage structures who have re-entered the workforce as we see for men?

Yes, we were surprised as well that respondents’ mother’s past workforce participation had no bearing on their adult attitudes toward women in the workplace. We had conjectured that being raised by a working mom might make men more egalitarian in their workplace. However, it is possible that though being fully active in the labor force, these moms were also the primary parent at home—the ones in charge of domestic duties like fixing the dinner, doing laundry. As such, it is possible that the respondents saw their mothers in highly gendered roles at home and were influenced into thinking that a woman’s place is in her home.

Question 3. What was the biggest change to your paper in the review process? This paper is a great demonstration of constructive replication; was this a function of the review process or part of your original design?

Our paper benefited vastly from the review process. The reviewers were exceptionally patient with us, and our Action Editor, Martin Kilduff was helpful in guiding us along gently. Though we had multiple studies in the original submission, they were all correlational in nature. The reviewers wanted us to establish causality, and luckily for us, we were able to access a longitudinal data set that helped us do so. Without the reviewers pushing us to establish causality, our final article would have been significantly weaker.

Question 4. As a field, we are becoming more aware of the importance of organizational applications of our work. In your discussion section, you raise the important and provocative managerial implication of treating marriage structure as a dimension of diversity as well as having empathy towards the views of others. We wonder if you have any additional thoughts on how the gravity of this finding can be used to mitigate the effects you establish?

This open-systems perspective helped us realize the code-switching challenge that some married men might face in the workplace. Moving between two contexts with very different norms is not easy and empathy towards the challenge also opens up the solutions that go beyond “try harder”. Simply wishing we and others were more egalitarian in the workplace does not seem like a psychologically realistic approach. Perhaps there are “nudge” based approaches to evoking the egalitarian behaviors we suggest. Perhaps there are structures we can experiment with to help each of us overcome biases we may bring with us to work.

Question 5. What question did we miss? You know your work the best! Please raise a question that you wish we had asked you and then answer it

New Question: Do you think diversity training might help de-bias men in traditional marriage structures?

While diversity training wouldn’t hurt, we suspect that the kind of diversity training most companies do (if they do any at all) is not guaranteed to succeed. If you try to have a discussion about how people’s unconscious beliefs shape their decisions, it’s very difficult to get anywhere, because no one is going to believe it because of its very non-conscious nature. People generally tend to think, ‘I’m sure some people do have unconscious attitudes [that favor men over women who are equally qualified]. But not me.’” One suggestion is to encourage people to take a quiz called the Implicit Association Test, which is designed to bring buried beliefs out into the open. The goal isn’t to embarrass anyone or put anyone on the defensive, but rather to hold up a mirror so that people become aware of what may be hidden in their own psyches.

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