4 Reasons The Gender Pay Gap Is Worse For Mothers

Ad failed to load

Tuesday marked Equal Pay Day, arguably one of the most depressing holidays on the calendar. This is the day when women have finally earned as much as their male counterparts did in 2015. We've all heard that 79 cents on the dollar figure, but looking at it from a days-worked point of view might make the contrast a bit more obvious. And, of course, April 12 is only a best-case scenario; the pay gap is far worse for mothers and women of color. In fact, Lisa Maatz of the American Association of University Women told USA Today that, to be accurate, moms' Equal Pay Day is really on June 4. This is not what mothers signed up for.

So why do mothers make so much less than fathers, or childless people of either gender? Well, there are a few reasons, and they're all B.S., of course. Surprisingly little research has been done on the subject, and, as such, we're a long way from fixing the problem. And like so many other economic issues, it varies greatly depending on where these moms live. In 2015, drawing on data from the United States Census Bureau, the National Women’s Law Center created a map that illustrates the pay gap between mothers and fathers state by state, and found that, while moms in Louisiana are only making 58.2 cents for every dollar that a dad earns, that jumps up to 90 cents in Washington, D.C. (which, to be clear, is still unacceptable).

This could be explained by the types of jobs available in each area. As Slate reported, an uneducated mom in Louisiana is more likely to be waiting tables for $2.13 per hour, while an uneducated dad can still earn a decent living working on an oil rig. In D.C., more workers are employed by the federal government, whose wages are more fixed and transparent. So why are moms getting screwed over in the other 48 states? A few possibilities:

Ad failed to load

Moms Are More Likely To Have Employment Gaps


Sure, plenty of moms pop out a kid and get right back to the cubicle, factory floor, or what have you. And yes, there are some dads who leave the workforce, either permanently, or temporarily, to stay home with the kids (high five to all seven of you!). But, on average, it's moms who put their careers on hold to deal with diapers for a few years. When they try to come back to work, they're often no longer as qualified as someone who's fresh out of college and familiar with all the latest whatever, and candidates with big gaps on their resume look less attractive to hiring managers.

Moms Need Mom-Friendly Jobs


I mean, have you ever even heard of a dad-friendly job? Hop your favorite job search website and try running searches for both "mothers' hours" and "fathers' hours." Or don't; I already tried, and I can tell you that searching for "mothers' hours" leads to "opportunities" such as Avon and other direct-sales multilevel marketing schemes, and "fathers' hours" leads to... nothing. No results. Zero.

Yes, there are fathers who take time off to deal with a sick kid or a soccer game, but they're not expected to the way mothers are (thanks to gender roles and gender inequality, generally). While CBS News reported that a 2015 Payscale survey found that more fathers than mothers claimed to prioritize family over work, the fact is that when a father says he prioritizes his kids over his job, people think, "What a good daddy!" while the same attitude from a mother can get her labeled as unproductive or less committed to her job.

So more moms take part-time jobs where their role as a parent doesn't interfere with their work. Fathers, whose stereotypical parenting role is a breadwinner rather than a caregiver, are expected to bring home the bacon, and if they can knock off early once a year to attend a school play, they're seen as heroes.

Moms Are Working Two Jobs


Yes, in a perfect world, both parents in any couple split the childcare equally, and in fact, many do – feminist dads are on the rise! But, in far too many heterosexual families, moms are the default parent, meaning that their workday doesn't end when they clock out; they've got to do the shopping, cleaning, cooking, carpooling, homework... I'm getting exhausted just typing it all. While some dads might feel that their home responsibilities begin and end with a weekly game of catch in the backyard, their wives are essentially working another full-time job once they get home (plus some serious overtime).

So once she does go back to the office, mom might not have as much energy as dad, like the sleepy bunny above who was clearly up all night with a teething baby bunny. And she might have to engage in a bit of non-work-related business, like making dentist appointments or checking in with the babysitter. Yes, sometimes a mom actually might not be as productive a worker as a dad or someone without kids. Right or wrong, workers who put in less billable hours are sure to get paid less.

Ad failed to load

Good, Old-Fashioned Discrimination


A 2001 study published in the American Sociological Review found that moms pay a "penalty" of 7 percent of their wages for every child they have. While the study was able to attribute about one-third of the cases to breaks in unemployment and taking on part-time work, the remaining two-thirds are up in the air. While some of it is likely due to lost productivity from momming so damn hard all the time, some is also undoubtedly due to discrimination, although that's difficult to substantiate.

Anecdotally, we may all be able to point to a mom we've worked with who always gave her job 100 percent of her focus while on the clock, but was still regarded as a subpar worker because it was assumed that the company wasn't her top priority. But the reason we don't all sue every crappy boss we've ever had is that cases like that are hard to prove (even when the woman isn't a mother).

Additionally, 2016 analysis by Cornell University found that a woman's field of work doesn't even matter that much. As a field becomes more female-dominated, the pay in that field goes down simply because people just value the world of women less than they do men, according to the New York Times.

So What Can We Do About It?


How do we fix the problem? First and foremost, let's change the way we look at moms and dads. Other than pregnancy and breastfeeding, there's nothing that moms do for their kids that dads can't – or shouldn't – be doing in equal measure. If you know a dad who's splitting child care 50-50, pat him on the back, and if you know one who isn't, call him out on it. If moms aren't required to do all (or most) of the parenting, they won't have to be relegated to selling essential oils or fingernail stickers to make ends meet, and they won't be falling asleep during conference calls.

If we can do that (give it 1,000 years), maybe, in time, employers won't see moms as synonymous with "workers who do a half-a*sed job." Maybe then we won't think of Twitter and Coca-Cola as being generous for offering paid leave, because it's not actually a luxury — it's a necessity. Mothers are essential for continuing the human race; it's time we were treated them like members of it.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills