Researchers study if gender and marital status affect career-enhancing actions

February 10, 20172 minute read

A recent study by researchers at Harvard, University of Chicago and Princeton found that single women tend to downplay their ambition when publicly stating their career goals. The results were published in a study titled “Acting Wife: Marriage Market Incentives and Labor Market Investments.”

An article about the study on by Lydia Belanger explains that first year MBA students were asked about their career experiences two years before they entered business school. Among single female respondents, 64 percent said they had avoided requesting a raise or promotion based on concerns about seeming too ambitious or aggressive, compared with only 39 percent of women who were married or in a serious relationship. Only 27 percent of men, regardless of relationship status, said the same.

The study also found that “public evidence of single women’s ambition or success was the key. For instance, they learned that unmarried women participate less in class than married women, even though they do just as well in exams, where their peers can’t observe their performance.”

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Another write-up about the study in the Wall Street Journal, observed, “Two decades into the 21st century, young, professional women feel compelled to minimize their accomplishments and ambitions—but only if they are single…”

Read the entire report that starts with the premise that single women avoid activities that could help their careers to avoid signaling traits that may be penalized in the marriage market.