Becoming a mother can be exciting and fulfilling. But for many women across the U.S., adding “mom” to their resume can also have serious implications for one’s career growth, earning potential, and long-term wealth.
Dubbed “the motherhood penalty,” experts have put a label on the uphill battle women face in the workplace once they become mothers.
What is the motherhood penalty?
The motherhood penalty is the price women pay for growing their families while they’re in the workforce. Statistics show that moms in the workforce are less likely to be chosen for new roles and promotions, will earn lower salaries, and be held to a higher standard than fathers and non-mother.
According to a Harvard study, hiring managers are less likely to hire mothers than women who don’t have kids. And when they do hire a woman with children, employers are likely to offer her a lower salary than those without kids. And same study reveals a flipside: fathers don’t pay the same penalty. Moms were six times less likely than non-mothers and 3.35 times less likely than childfree men to be recommended for hire. And if they did land the role, moms were more likely to be passed up for a promotion.
“While the term is based on bias, and stereotypical views of mothers, it has real impact on wages, pay equity, hiring, considerations for promotions and advancement, and inclusion in the workplace,” says Pam Cohen, PhD, Chief Research and Analytics Officer at The Mom Project, a career-resource platform for working mothers.
The motherhood penalty significantly impacts women’s earning potential—and childcare costs are a contributing factor
One of the reasons that the motherhood penalty can impact women over time is because women are more likely to take leaves of absence from work after having children or to assume caretaking responsibilities. “Parents—both moms and dads—who take career pauses are significantly more likely to report that their career advancement has been negatively impacted by parenthood, and moms are 114% more likely than dads to take a career pause,” says Cohen.
One major factor that plays a role in the high rate of moms shelving their careers: childcare expenses.
Data from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that families can expect to spend anywhere from $800 to $1,230 per month, per child, on licensed childcare services. And experts say that the pandemic made things harder on moms.
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