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How we start paying working moms what they’re really worth

Across industries, women are paid less and and passed over for promotions when they become moms, while dads are rewarded. On this episode of The New Way We Work, we explore why this keeps happening and how to fix it.

How we start paying working moms what they’re really worth
[Photo: rawpixel]
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Often when the subject of gender pay gap comes up, so does the notion that it’s due in part because women are much more likely than men to take time off after the birth of a child.

However, the missing part of that equation is the way mothers—both those who take time off and those who don’t—are paid differently than men after they become parents. It’s a common phenomenon called the Motherhood Tax or Motherhood Penalty and the Fatherhood Bonus.

Women experience a penalty, when they are expecting or become mothers. Presumably this is because the assumption of their employers that the bulk of childcare will fall on them and they will therefore be less committed to their work. The flip side of this is the fatherhood bonus, that men, on average, enjoy a sizable income boost for being parents. The reasons why are just as rooted in gender stereotypes: The idea is that men who are fathers are more responsible and will be more dedicated to their jobs and will also need more money, because they have a family to support.

This discrepancy in pay for mothers and fathers is consistent across all groups, including different ethnicities, education levels, occupations and ages.

Claudia Reuter, author and CEO joined me on the latest episode of The New Way We Work podcast to explain how this plays out in women’s careers, and solutions both big and small that companies can implement to start to treat working parents, and all employees, equally.

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According to Reuter it starts with how we view a career gap on a mother’s résumé. She says, there is a “sense that people need to explain their gap year, instead of articulating the value that they provided during those years. Just like a college kid explains why they traveled overseas and that was a great experience for them. Somehow we’ve devalued the caregiving experience so much that people feel like they need to hide it and they can’t even talk about it.”

She goes on to explain the valuable transferable management skills that parents learn taking care of children and managing the complexities of family life.

As for plans like the Marshall Plan for Moms that propose direct monthly payments to primary caregivers, Reuter thinks it’s a good start, but doesn’t go far enough. She says, “It’s $2,400 a month, which at 40 hours a week, is $15 an hour. If it’s a 24/7 job, which it is, that’s $5.71 an hour. So here we are in 2021 finally saying there’s a dollar amount associated with caregiving, but we’re still saying that, that dollar amount equates to a minimum wage or less.”

She suggests the best solution is one that fully invests in early childhood care and education and that it’s the role of both the public and private sectors.

For more tangible solutions that leaders can implement immediately (including rethinking your company’s meeting schedule), listen to the full episode here.

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About the author

Kathleen Davis is Deputy Editor at FastCompany.com. Previously, she has worked as an editor at Entrepreneur.com, WomansDay.com and Popular Photography magazine.

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