Most people seem to understand that the way our world treats women in the workforce needs to undergo a major shift. Even President-elect Donald Trump has acknowledged that mothers might need a few weeks off after giving birth before heading back out to work. But a new study shows that working moms are still being treated very differently from working dads. Moms with high income lose a percentage of that income per child, while their male counterparts end up getting a bonus.
According to a report by Bloomberg, high earning mothers lose 4 percent of their income per child as a "motherhood penalty." This number is based on a new study published in the American Sociological Review, which found that motherhood in general not only reduced women's wages but also resulted in lost experience. Paula England, the lead researcher of the study and a professor of sociology at New York University, explained to Bloomberg that "A lot of women are getting pushed into dropping out entirely for a few years because they can't get a little leave at the beginning or because they can't get enough flexibility."
Meanwhile, the same study found that working fathers in the same position earned an average bonus of 6 percent per child because they were seen as "more reliable."
Mothers in the workforce aren't just financially penalized either; they must face stereotypes that frequently hinder their career choices. While their male counterparts enjoy bonuses, claps on the back, and higher esteem once they become "reliable" fathers, England found that “employers have a bias that mothers are going to do worse, so they don’t promote them or pay them as much.”
In fact, a study conducted by Harvard University found that women who are mothers face bias even in the application process. The researchers applied for jobs as mothers and fathers, where the applications were identical other than their gender. The mothers were called back half as often as fathers. Other studies found that visibly pregnant women were perceived as less competent at their jobs, less dependable, and more emotional than their non-pregnant female co-workers.
But, those perceptions are entirely wrong. Studies have shown that women with children are in fact more productive in the workplace. A study conducted by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that mothers with at least two children ended up being the most productive of all (maybe because they know a little something about multitasking?).
So how do employers go about changing the way we view mothers in the workplace? For starters, let's stop looking at maternity leave as a luxurious vacation. England pointed out to Bloomberg that offering flexibility and changing attitudes could go a long way to ending unfair bias.
To the extent that employers can, they should institutionalize a certain limited amount of flexibility or leave and not penalize it.