Across their studies, Sreedhari Desai, Dolly Chugh and Arthur Brief defined traditional marriages as those where the wife was not employed, contrasted with couples that were dual-earning. Firstly they employed data from US national surveys. In the first data set - 282 married men in 1996 - those in more traditional marriages showed some discomfort with a gender-mixed workplace, being more likely to disagree with statements such as 'if a mother chooses to work, it doesn't hurt the child.' Does this abstract opinion dissolve when it meets the reality of the workplace? The second dataset from a 2002 survey suggests it does not, as of the 89 men analysed, traditionalists were less likely to see their workplace as running smoothly when it had a higher composition of women.
Turning to experimental work, Desai's team showed that compared to those in a dual-earning marriage, traditionally married undergraduate students rated recruitment literature intended to attract job applicants as less effective when it contained cues of high female involvement in the company, such as all-female (vs all-male) recruiter names and an equal opportunity reference that included the note 'For example, representation of women on our board of directors far exceeds the average representation of women in Fortune 500 companies.'
The next experiment found managers just as susceptible; when traditionally married, managers were less likely to recommend a fictional candidate for an MBA program if they were a woman. This is noteworthy because managers wield substantial influence, Interestingly, dual earners as a group gave higher ratings to the female than the male applicant.
Returning to survey data, the researchers were able to gather data across two data points of the British Household Panel Survey. 304 men were surveyed in 1991 prior to marriage, and 1993 following marriage, using the same scale as study one used on attitude to women in the workplace. Desai's team didn't find these attitudes to predict the marriage structure men ended up in - other factors appear to have more real influence, with older and more educated men more likely to end up in one-income marriages (this may reflect opportunity rather than preference). But the type of marriage did affect subsequent attitudes to women at work, with a traditional set-up leading to less sympathy for women being represented in the workplace.
This last study gives the strongest evidence of causality in this relationship. So why might marriage be shaping these attitudes? Status construction theory suggests that we tend to use our own social conditions to extrapolate how the world works more generally. If every day you engage in work duties while your wife focuses on home life, not only are you incentivised to believe that this is a sensible division of labour, but increasingly it will seem true to you, as your differential experiences give you more work-related resources such as contacts, influence, knowledge and competence. This can lead to the false conclusion that 'men are just more suited to work.'
Desai emphasises that the bulk of their studies don't speak to this causality argument and that more research is needed. Also, we should bear in mind that some of the survey data is now fairly odl, and attitudes may have shifted somewhat. However, the repeated finding is clear: men in traditional marriages have a smaller appetite for women-heavy workforces. The researchers conclude that as well as seeking a diverse workforce, where traditional views do not crowd out other perspectives, attention could be given to "the challenging psychological position that men in traditional marriages face when alternating between their two daily realities", and find ways to illustrate to these people that their personal life decisions may be driving their workplace attitudes, possibly in an unconscious fashion.
Bolzendahl, C. I., and Myers, D. J (2004). Feminist attitudes and support for gender equality: Opinion change in women and men, 1974–1998. Social Forces, 83: 759–789.