Women Absenteeism: Gender Bias?

by Dr. Sunil Shroff on Nov 17 2007 4:43 PM

Women are expected to be absent from the workplace more than men, a new study has found.

Researchers at the Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia say that workplaces witness more female absenteeism because it’s considered a more socially acceptable norm.

According to the authors, this belief could promote workplace discrimination in wages and advancement for women.

"The results suggest that a distinct absence culture exists for women that might legitimize their absenteeism, but it might also perpetuate gender stereotypes and lead to gender discrimination," Live Science quoted lead researcher Eric Patton, as saying.

For the study, Patton and Saint Joseph's colleague Gary Johns examined nearly 3,000 New York Times articles dealing with work absence from 1851 through 2004, focusing on the 167 news items that mentioned women.

On the whole, they found absence by women was less likely to be linked with punishment than men, and women's non-attendance was rarely noted as deviant.

Most of the articles (101 of the 167) cited domestic and family responsibilities to describe women's absence. Other reasons noted were spousal abuse and gender-specific health problems.

Articles repeatedly talked about the need for corporate childcare. In the 1980s and 1990s, articles also advocated alternative work arrangements for women, such as part-time schedules and flex-time, to help lessen absenteeism.

The research is published in the November issue of the journal Human Relations.