Women Who Are Primary Earners May Be Discriminated Against


Breaking stereotypical gender norms is one source of gender discrimination in the workplace. In light of the increasing number of women who are becoming the primary earners for their families, a question arises: Does this change from the traditional expectation that males should be the breadwinners lead to discrimination at work against the men and women who defy these norms?


Research (Triana, 2011) investigated “home-related spillover discrimination,” or how the stereotype incongruent roles of women being primary earners and men being secondary earners in a household may spillover into work, leading to the creation of barriers. The researcher found that participants were more surprised when women were the breadwinners compared to men who were primary earners. Men who were secondary earners were more likely to be evaluated as overqualified for their current positions compared to women who were the secondary earner. However, females who were the primary earners were not seen as more overqualified compared to male peers. In addition, men who were secondary earners were more likely to receive pay-for-performance reward recommendations compared to female primary earners.


This study shows that gender discrimination against women may result from the lack of adherence to expected gender roles at home. The author suggests that because men have a higher social status than women and tend to dominate higher-level positions, male secondary earners may be seen as capable of doing more. In contrast, female employees may actually be hampered by being the higher wage earner in their households because they are seen already achieving enough reward and acknowledgement. Such information obtained through chatting at the water cooler or elicited through illegal interview questions has the potential to create biases that impact how employers react to their employees. Enlightening organizational decision makers is vital to preventing the persistence of workplace discrimination.


Triana, M. C. (2011). A Woman’s Place and a Man’s Duty: How Gender Role Incongruence in One’s Family Life Can Result in Home-Related Spillover Discrimination at Work. Journal of Business and Psychology, 26, 71-86.