DEI Toolkit: Parental Status

Illustration of parent hand/child hand

Definition of parent

1a : one that begets or brings forth offspring

b : a person who brings up and cares for another

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In very basic terms, parental status is whether or not a person has a child or children. This includes being a biological parent, step-parent, adoptive parent, guardian, foster parent or custodian of a minor.

Parental status is important for any discussion on family. When you think of a family, what you do envision? Is your picture of the typical nuclear family: mom, dad and two kids? Maybe you think about your own family if it was something different. As with marital status, our understanding of “family” is evolving. The traditional family structure known as the nuclear family in the U.S. has changed. Consequently, so should our thoughts and our words so that we don’t behave in ways that are exclusionary.

Our hope with these resources is to get us to think about our preconceived notions and question our assumptions. We need to consider how our assumptions affect the way we treat or behave toward someone who doesn’t conform to our assumptions

For example, parental status can make the workforce diverse but not necessarily inclusive. Unfortunately, not all parents are treated equally; research has found that while all parents in the workplace were evaluated more leniently than non-parents, male parents were held to the least stringent standards. These findings are troubling considering mothers in the workforce are at record levels and provide an illustration of the concept intersectionality.

The same holds true for how parental status can interact with other dimensions of diversity like race, education, and ethnicity resulting in differential treatment and outcomes for individuals.

As our world becomes more diverse along many dimensions, and we redefine what families look like, we have to think about ways in which we can incorporate these diverse perspectives into our work. And of course, as with the other dimensions of diversity, welcoming members regardless of parental status ensures that different perspectives are integrated into the work of your branches and AAUW.