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Attitudes toward professional women with children: Development and validation of the career mothers inventory (CMI)



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Research to date suggests that career mothers comprise a uniquely derogated social group; however, the nature and content of negativity toward this group remains unknown. The purpose of the present program of study was to construct and validate an attitudinal scale measuring negativity toward career mothers, the Career Mothers Inventory (CMI). Three theoretical tenets were posited to underlie negativity toward career mothers: 1) career mothers cannot keep up with the work expected of them in a competitive and/or productivity-based environment; 2) career mothers do not work as hard and are not as devoted to their jobs as others (i.e., their co-workers) who do not have children; and, 3) career mothers expect that concessions or special accommodations will be made for their childcare needs. In accordance with best practices scale development literature, a pilot project and a series of three independent studies were carried out. The purpose of the pilot project was to generate potential scale items. In studies 1 (N = 290) and 2 (N = 468), the CMI was found to be unidimensional and possess “excellent” (α = .90) and “good” (α = .82) internal consistency. Support for the CMI’s convergent validity was found via its positive association with other measures of sexism. The CMI was inversely related to liberal and egalitarian attitudes, providing additional convergent validity evidence. The purpose of Study 3 (N = 123) was to triangulate evidence of negativity toward career mothers by linking the CMI to stereotypic ratings of, and behavioural intentions toward, career mothers (via an experimental study utilizing hypothetical research applicants). The results of Study 3 revealed a trend in the expected direction such that negativity toward career mothers as measured by the CMI was associated with lower ratings of competence and commitment for the hypothetical applicant. The expected relationship between the CMI and hiring intentions was not found. Limitations associated with the current series of studies and recommendations for the CMI’s use in workplace settings are outlined.



sexism, career mothers, attitudes, scale development



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Graduate Studies and Research




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