Monday, May 14, 2012

The "Motherhood Penalty"

Shelley Correll, an associate professor at Cornell University, is researching something she's calling the "motherhood penalty," that is, the professional disadvantage that women experience because of their status as mothers. Not only is there (still) a large gap between what men and women earn, but Correll's research is showing that women who are mothers earn substantially less than women who do not have children.

Something that I immediately thought about was how differently mothers and fathers are perceived. I was pleased to see that Correll addresses this in her article regarding the "motherhood penalty." writing that "Being a good father and a good employee are part of the 'package deal' defining what it means to be a man. Therefore, since the 'good father' and 'ideal worker' are not perceived to be in tension, being a good parent is not predicated to lead to lower workplace evaluations for fathers."

Not so for women. Though Correll is careful to note in her conclusions that while there is a definite wage disadvantage women experience for every child they have, her research does not show (at this time) that discrimination against mothers causes a decrease in this wage disadvantage.

From The Clayman Institute for Gender Research's article: 

"In one test, Correll and her colleagues found that evaluators consistently ranked mothers as less competent and less committed workers than childless women but ranked fathers as more competent and committed than non-fathers. In a follow-up study, the researchers responded to more than 600 newspaper ads for high-level business positions by sending out fake resumes for two equally qualified candidates that varied only in very subtle references to parenting activities. They found that the childless female candidate was twice as likely to be called in for an interview as the mother. Fathers experienced no call-back penalty."

In fact, according to Correll's article, fathers were offered higher salaries over childless men as they were seen as "more committed to paid work."

Questions: Has anyone experienced any discrimination in your job because of pregnancy or your status as a mother? If you don't have children, is this something that you worry about if you plan to start a family? And for those mommas currently at home, do you have concerns about what getting back into the workplace will be like for you?

[Thanks to Adventures in Boogieville, who also linked to this video]