Misperceptions of Family-Work Conflict Maintain the Glass Ceiling

Topic: Conflict, Gender
Publication: Academy of Management Journal (OCT 2009)
Article: Bosses’ perceptions of family-work conflict and women’s promotability: Glass ceiling effects.
Authors: J.M. Hoobler, S.J. Wayne, and G. Lemmon
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Although women have made headway in cracking through the glass ceiling, this barrier is still very much intact.  Women make up about half of the U.S. workforce, but they represent as little as 10% of  executive level managers.

Hoobler, Wayne, and Lemmon (2009) investigated whether bosses’ perceptions of family-work conflict (conflict arising from the family and leaking over into work) impact promotability ratings of female middle managers. That is, do bosses assume that women have more family-work conflict and if so, does this keep the glass ceiling in place.

Hoobler et al.’s results suggest that managers do in fact perceive that women experience more family-work conflict. But check this out: the male managers in their study actually reported more family-work conflict than the female managers. Even though men reported more conflict, bosses perceived that women experience more!

Additionally, female supervisors were just as guilty as male supervisors of perceiving that women experience more family-work conflict (Surprising, right?).

Finally, Hoobler et al.’s found that bosses’ perceptions of women’s increased family-work conflict were related to lower ratings of fit for their job and fit within the organization as a whole. And importantly, perceptions of fit related directly (and strongly) to promotability ratings.

Evidently, supervisors allow their misperceptions about work-family conflict to influence their assessment of how well the employee fits into their job and into the organization (“We don’t need your baggage from home here at work”). And ultimately, this process works to keep women out of upper management.

Hoobler, J.M., Wayne, S.J., & Lemmon, G. (2009). Bosses’ perceptions of family-work
conflict and women’s promotability: Glass ceiling effects. Academy of Management Journal, 52(5), 939-957.