British researchers say new moms are “damned” either way when it comes to maternity leave.

A team at the University of Exeter found women who take the time off work to raise a newborn are perceived as less dedicated to their job and less competent. On the other hand, women who don’t use their maternity leave are seen as less caring parents.

The Exeter researchers, led by Dr. Thekla Morgenroth, asked nearly 300 men and women to evaluate the work and home life of a fictional woman worker. The woman’s characteristics remained the same throughout the analysis, but her choice on maternity leave differed in three ways: For some participants, she took maternity leave, for others, she didn’t, and for another set of participants, her decision wasn’t mentioned.

It turned out to be a “no-win situation” for moms, Morgenroth said.

If the woman took maternity leave participants determined she prioritized her home life over work, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. If she chose to not take maternity leave, she was perceived as “a worse parent and less desirable partner.”

Read more:

At work, women who took maternity leave were seen as “significantly less competent” and “less worthy of rewards” than if she had not taken maternity leave. If she did not take maternity leave, she was “more worthy” of rewards.

The outcomes were the same across genders, ages, parental status or nationality.

Morgenroth said the results stem from our own gender stereotypes about women, further proof of our perception of women as “caring, nurturing, and good mothers, but also as bad at work-related things,” she said. With that, she said, women are more negatively viewed in the workplace.

On the other hand, Morgenroth said not taking leave “violates the expectations we as a society have that for women, family and children should come first.”

Follow Sean Rossman on Twitter: @SeanRossman

 

Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2rF3qyv