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Childless women are most productive workers - 21-03-2008

An investigation reported by the British Psychological Society into the impact of having children on the productivity of male and female lawyers has found that childless women get the most work done - more than childless male lawyers and lawyers of either gender who have children.

Jean Wallace and Marisa Young studied how many hours 670 lawyers in Alberta, Canada, had billed their clients in the past year. As well as identifying the superior productivity of childless women, they also found that having children impacts the productivity of men and women in different ways.

Male lawyers with children were actually more productive than their childless male counterparts. This is consistent the dominant cultural view of men as breadwinners, such that those with greater family responsibilities put in more hours to earn more money. By contrast, female lawyers with children were less productive than their childless female colleagues.

Further analysis showed that female lawyers with children usually had to juggle professional and domestic responsibilities because they tended to be married to a partner who also worked. On the other hand, male lawyers with children were likely to have a partner who did not work, and who was therefore able to take responsibility for domestic duties.

Wallace and Young said another unexpected finding was that family-friendly organisational work practices had a negative effect on the productivity of male staff but not female staff. Moreover, the sexes used the benefit of flexible hours differently - professional fathers spent the time pursuing leisure activities, whereas for professional mothers this time was spent largely on domestic duties. It seems the old adage 'a woman's work is never done' still rings true in the twenty-first century.

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