Culture

When Dads Do Dishes, Daughters Dream Bigger

UBC research just proved it. So raise a glass to all the pops with mops.

By Estefania Duran, 14 Jun 2014, TheTyee.ca

Dad doing the dishes

A recent UBC study found 'the first evidence that fathers' behaviours and implicit associations about domestic tasks play a unique role in predicting their daughter's emerging aspirations.' Dad photo via Shutterstock.

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Whether he knew it or not, Bojan Petrovic taught his two daughters, Ljudmila and Devana, that gender is no barrier for dreams.

Now in her early twenties, Ljudmila remembers always seeing her dad help around the house, making the same sacrifices as her mom. "I grew up in a happy little bubble with my family where there were no gender stereotypes," she says. "It was only until I left home that people would tell me gender differences existed."

The Petrovics came to Canada from Serbia 20 years ago with four suitcases. Coming from a fairly traditional background, Bojan and his wife were seen as fairly radical by fellow Serbian immigrants and some of their new neighbours; both parents always worked and divided the house chores equally.

In Ljudmila and Devana's eyes, fathers were just as invested in and responsible for the nurturing of children and home as mothers were. And that seemingly small point may have had a big impact on the young women's ambition.

A recent University of British Columbia study demonstrates that the division of house chores and gender roles between parents has a direct impact on their children's vision for their future -- especially for girls.

It "examined how parents' behaviours and implicit associations concerning domestic roles, over and above their explicit beliefs, predict their children's future aspirations."

Sweeping away inequality

The study found that when fathers in particular practiced a more egalitarian distribution of chores at home, their daughters expressed a higher interest in working outside of the home and wanting a less "stereotypical" occupation, meaning one overwhelmingly held by women such as nurse, teacher, or stay-at-home parent.

Even in families where both parents worked full-time, wives reported doing twice the housework and childcare than their husbands. So despite a mother's professional success, the study revealed that a daughter's aspirations were unlikely to change if inequality continued to be witnessed in the home.

"These findings present the first evidence that fathers' behaviours and implicit associations about domestic tasks play a unique role in predicting their daughter's emerging aspirations," researchers wrote.

The study's conclusion? "Findings suggest that a more balanced division of household labour among parents might promote greater workforce equality in future generations."

Perhaps without realizing it, Bojan's actions at home helped his daughters challenge gender inequality. Ljudmila is completing her BA with a minor in Gender Studies and working as a transition house support worker, and her dad has been there every step of the way.

"I was raised to not question myself based on gender," she reflects. "I think having that sort of model and behaviour would be great for both boys and girls."  [Tyee]

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