Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Productivity, Sex, Kids

OK, time to get accusations of sexism and anti-family bias. Yesterday's headline from the British Psychology Digest had the simple headline:

Childless Women Are The Most Productive

While you pause on that headline, also take into account that there were broadly four groups being compared:
- Women with school-age children
- Women without school-age children
- Men with school-age children
- Men without school-age children

The article was peer-reviewed research in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour. Abstract here.

The study seems quite explicit that women without school-age children are more productive than those with them. The BPS summary suggests this is due to "domestic responsibilities" though of course it presents this as explanation not as endorsement.

The study also seems explicit that men without school-age children are less productive than those with them. It suggests that this result is explained by the stereotype of "breadwinners", where increased family responsibilities required the men to work longer hours to earn more.

But that last line hints at the misleading nature of the headline. By productivity, the study measured it simply by counting billable hours. More hours worked equals more productivity. Perhaps true for lawyers in Canada, but is that generally true in the workplace?

And another implicit message in the headline. Free of childcare responsibility, women are more "productive" than men?

4 comments:

Ann said...

By that measure, billable hours, I am the least productive person in the department.

I'm not sure I have the time to be bothered.

Janie Hobbs said...

And I bet it was written by a bloke.. What CRAP !

I'm not getting into this as it makes my blood boil.

R N B said...

I don't see what here would make you angry?

This was mainly a laugh at how even "scientific" articles can have sensationalist (even misleading) headlines. Firstly, they measured productivity in billable hours - whereas most places measure it in goals achieved within a "normal" week. So a woman with childcare responsibilities would work less hours than one without, but that doesn't mean she gets less done.

I also found it interesting that they claimed men with kids worked more than men without. And don't forget the last finding - without kids, women work more than men?

Lawyers are weird anyway ;)

Faisal said...

When you reproduce within working hours, are you being productive or unproductive or counterproductive or merely reproductive? Late shift, anyone?