An Insult to Hardworking Career MothersJune 22, 2009
To me the most striking finding from a recent work-family research report that’s getting a lot of online buzz was that the wage gap between mothers and non-mothers is even more pronounced than the wage gap between women and men. Even though I decided early on that I didn’t want to have kids, that doesn’t stop me from recognizing that there is something wrong with that picture. In all my 30 childless years, I have met many amazing, hardworking women who have successfully balanced careers and children. I have also, however, seen how hard it can be to do both. Growing up, I was a witness to my mother’s own fight to juggle children and a career. Unfortunately, the dismal findings from the study don’t make motherhood seem like an attractive option to this young career woman.
In order to collect data, researchers sent out fake resumes from mothers, non-mothers, fathers, and non-fathers with equal credentials to see who would get called back for interviews and who would get hired. Researchers found that mothers were consistently rated as less competent and less committed than non-mothers. If that’s not disturbing enough, mothers were offered an average of $11,000 less per year and were 100 percent less likely to be recommended over an equally qualified candidate without children.
To further incense hardworking mothers everywhere, Robert Franklin, writing for Men’s News Daily, explained the discrepancies found by researchers as employers choosing the more productive employee. “Employers are more likely to hire non-mothers because they know they’ll work more than mothers will. It doesn’t make sense for an employee to pay a lower-producing employee the same as a higher-producing one.”
Gloria Blackwell, director of the AAUW Fellowship and Grants Department and mother of three, asked, “Why must we continue to use motherhood to justify ongoing discrimination against women?” She challenges those who are dubious about the productivity of mothers to imagine a world in which employers avoid hiring single or childless women on the basis that they will shirk work duties for singles’ vacations and endless happy hours. When put that way, it seems a little ridiculous, doesn’t it?
AAUW provides grants and fellowships to financially bolster both mothers and non-mothers pursuing higher education, so they will be able to dedicate themselves more fully to their studies. In a more general sense AAUW works for equity for all women, so they have a fair chance, regardless of their family situations. Although I might choose not to have kids, I want to be sure that that choice is based on a personal decision rather than an economic one.