Parents, as much as it seems sometimes that your kids are ignoring you, a multitude of studies show that you are influencing them quite a lot. It doesn't even take that much. Dads who simply partake in household chores, it turns out, tend to raise daughters with greater career aspirations than those who just sit on the couch and leave the cleaning to the women.
The authors of a new study showing as much sent questionnaires to more than 300 Canadian children aged 7 to 13 and of both genders, the National Post reports. The researchers also sent questionnaires to the children's parents. They asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. They answers were coded according to stereotypically feminine careers, like a stay-at-home mom or nurse, stereotypically male careers, like an astronaut or CEO, or neutral careers. They asked the parents, on the other hand, who does most of the housework, or whether it's evenly divided.
Girls raised in families in which the father did equal or more chores than the mother, the National Post writes, tended to report more aspirational career goals, including those considered stereotypically male, than girls raised in families with more traditional gender roles. The same effect held true if the girl's mother was career-oriented.
As the National Post puts it, "All dads have to do is a little more housework — and they’ll give their daughters’ career prospects a boost."
The Guardian's Jessica Valenti, however, points out that we really shouldn't need studies like this one as a means to jolt men into household-cleaning action. As she argues:
Instead of trying to get men to do their fair share of work in the home by reminding them that it will bode well for their daughters (or that it might get them laid at the end of the day), how about they do just do it already? I know it's super-radical, but perhaps men should do the dishes not because of a potential sociological impact on their female offspring, but because the dishes are dirty and women aren't the only ones who eat dinner off of them.
While setting a positive example for the next generation of women is important, she concludes, so is basic fairness. That holds true regardless of whether there's a little girl in the house or not.