The 'Motherhood Penalty' Is Real & It Robs Moms of Career Advancement & Wages

A new report has found clear evidence that mothers in the U.S. continue to pay the price for starting a family, including lower pay and less advancement.
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The fight for equal pay has been pretty big news in Hollywood lately, with stars like Emma Stone, Robyn Wright, and Jennifer Lawrence taking a stand to fight back against salary inequity between men and women. And while it's easy to roll your eyes at the difference between, say, $5.5 million and $6.5 million (the reported disparity between what Wright and her co-star Kevin Spacey made last year, respectively, for their roles on "House of Cards"), the reality is that all across America, women continue to pay the price, in both career advancement and wages, for starting a family.

The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on women in the workforce reveals that full-time salaried women earn on average 82.5 percent of the wages of their male colleagues. Which means that in the last 20 years, despite considerable attention, this number has only improved by 8 percent.

Why is change so slow-going? According to a just-released Gender Equity report from Visier based on an analysis of data on 165,000 employees from dozens of U.S. companies, an under-representation of women in manager positions—known as The Manager Divide—is a big part of the problem, since it significantly contributes to the gender wage gap.

The Visier findings show a pronounced dip in the percentage of women in the workforce between the ages of 25 and 40, which is (you guessed it) the same age range in which women commonly have children. The report also reveals that women are underrepresented in manager positions from age 32 onward—the same age at which the wage gap between men and women gets bigger. And since manager wages are, on average, double that of non-manager wages, The Manager Divide has a direct impact on gender pay disparity.

So how do we work towards closing this chasm? According to Dave Weisbeck, Chief Strategy Officer from Visier, there are a number of important steps employers can take to make meaningful progress. These include things like:

  • Implementing the Rooney Rule: For every manager position you have open to fill, consider at least one woman and one underrepresented minority in your slate of candidates
  • Implementing blind screening by removing names and other gender identifiers from resumes when selecting candidates for interviews
  • Increasing measurement and awareness of gender equity in the rollout or implementation of HR policies, including manager promotions and hires, and compensation policies

Additionally, Wiesbeck said all of us—regardless of our role in our companies or communities—can work to eradicate the gender wage gap by ensuring that it's socially acceptable for both men and women to take time off to care for their children, supporting programs that increase the availability of good quality affordable childcare for all parents, and by developing long-term programs—beginning in grade school, throughout high school and college, and into the work years—aimed at removing the gender bias and social taboos associated with career choices.

"While it might take 10 or 20 years for these particular efforts to pay off," he explained. "They are a key part of the solution for eradicating the gender wage gap."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

2 Comments

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