To all you daddies out there, if you’re hoping your daughter will aspire to be a scientist, doctor or engineer, you may want to take up sweeping the floors, washing the dishes and doing the laundry.
A new Canadian study suggests that your little girl is watching how her parents share household chores. And what she observes plays a crucial role in shaping her attitude towards gender and work.
University of British Columbia researchers say that dads who help out around the house are more likely to raise daughters who head into less traditional, higher-paying careers.
“Girls might be developing ideas of what is possible for themselves based on what their fathers seem to expect from women in general and their own mothers more specifically,” lead researcher Alyssa Croft told Global News.
“Achieving gender equality at home may be one way to inspire young women to set their sights on careers from which they have traditionally been excluded,” Croft said.
She’s a researcher at UBC, where she focuses on studying motivation, specifically how it relates to stigma, stereotypes and prejudice.
Croft says that stereotypes are often studied in the workplace, so she decided to look into the domestic sphere and how parents – kids’ primary caregivers – influenced gender. Even if both parents work full-time, women end up shouldering more of the chores around the house. Croft said she wondered if this influenced kids’ developing identities.
The study’s based on 326 kids between seven and 13 years old. Croft and her team looked at how chores were divvied up in each household – if moms did more at-home work, their daughters tended to envision themselves as nurses, teachers or stay-at-home moms.
Moms’ beliefs in equality were important, but the strongest predictor of daughters’ professional goals was what their dads thought of household chores. It was even more important than how long dad spent in the office or what they verbally told their daughters about gender equality.
“We still don’t know exactly what is going on, psychologically speaking, in the homes of egalitarian fathers that is translating into their daughters having non-traditional career ambitions,” Croft said.
So why weren’t boys affected? Croft says that’s a question to pursue later on, but she guesses that boys’ gender roles are less flexible. That could change, though — there’s been plenty of effort to encourage girls to enter traditionally male careers so she suggests boys may be the next frontier.
WATCH: Alyssa Croft explains the importance of her findings.
Croft is telling parents to “be mindful” in the way they portray stereotypes to their kids – especially between father and daughter.
“If daughters are getting discrepant messages from fathers, it’s dads’ actions that are likely to carry more weight,” Croft warned.
Her full findings were released Wednesday and are slated to appear in the journal Psychological Science.