FGCU researcher flipping the script on parents working remotely

4 – minute read

Since the beginning of time, parents have seemingly been pulled in two directions – home life and work life. The pressure to perform as a top-rate caregiver and employee can be overwhelming for any parent.


But for moms, there’s another hurdle.


According to Meagan Baskin, Florida Gulf Coast University management professor and director of the Southwest Florida Leadership Institute, working moms face an inherent bias called the “motherhood penalty.” That penalty has been traditionally heaped upon moms who, despite rising to the occasion, are still not viewed as committed or valuable as working dads. In fact, as soon as men become fathers, their work performance evaluations go up in what is known as the “fatherhood premium.” 


So, if you’re a researcher like Baskin, and a mom like Baskin, working at home during a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, what do you do? Get to work while the kids are interrupting Zoom calls, of course. 

“This really stemmed out of the idea that remote work is supposed to, maybe, provide some equalization across genders,” she hypothesized. 


According to Baskin, previous research suggests that home-based remote work should increase work-life balance due to increased levels of autonomy and flexibility it affords workers. Furthermore, because gender roles are still deeply engrained in society, mothers might benefit from opportunities to merge their roles, Baskin added.

FGCU professor
Like a lot of parents working remotely during the pandemic, Meagan Baskin balanced child care with career.
Baskin with her kids, Macallan, 6, and Brock, 7.

“Thus, we wondered if we would continue to see the motherhood penalty perpetuate in remote environments,” she said.


Baskin set up an experiment for supervisors to give performance and commitment ratings to remote employees, a female and a male, while escalating the presence of children in the background of those employees. Each supervisor was shown the two employees with nothing in the Zoom background. Then toys were added. Finally, each supervisor rated the employees with toys and children in the background. The results were surprising.


“In contrast to what we expected,” Baskin said, “the more we escalated the salience or increased the presence of kids, we actually saw that the motherhood penalty dissipated.” 


When just toys were in the background, Baskin said the motherhood penalty could still be seen. Female employees received lower performance and commitment scores than males. But when the toys and kids were on screen, Baskin said the difference in ratings became non-significant.  


“There were no significant differences across groups. So, it was really kind of interesting because we would assume that it would.” 

Her findings flew in the face of years of research, Baskin said. In fact, her results suggest that when differences between workers are apparent instead of implied, the implicit bias people hold subconsciously disappears. 


“The moral of the story was, if you have kids, create your own narrative,” Baskin said. “Talk about having kids; put them out there. Show that you’re capable of doing your job — even with your kids — rather than letting your supervisor create a narrative about whether kids are there or not or whether you can do your job.” 


To make her message simple and straightforward, Baskin came up with the “Don’t hide your kids” hashtag. 


“The ‘Don’t hide your kids’ hashtag lets parents champion the fact that we can still be great workers even if we’re serving dual roles, have kids at home, or are managing multiple responsibilities.” 


So, the next time your kids bust into the background of your Zoom call demanding a snack, or you have to leave the office a few minutes early to make it to soccer practice, take a page out of Baskin’s playbook and #Don’tHideYourKids. 


“I actively talk about my life with my children and how I schedule work around it,” Baskin said. “I mean, I’ve had conference calls when [the kids] happened to be home. It’s life.” 

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