Should Working Moms Make Less Money?


working moms paid lessYour maternity leave is up, or your baby has turned into a toddler and you think it's time to head back to work. Either way, jumping back into the workforce post-baby has a lot of challenges. You probably didn't realize making less money than you would have if you'd stayed child-free would be one of those, huh?

A piece in The New York Times that highlights the fact that the last three women to be nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court have been childless gives working moms some more bad news: Even as the disparity between women's and men's pay grows smaller, the gap between working moms and the rest of the workforce gets wider.

Why? Well, feminist tactics for one.

And our economy exacts a terribly steep price for any time away from work -- in both pay and promotions. People often cannot just pick up where they have left off. Entire career paths are closed off. The hit to earnings is permanent.

The fact that the job market has evolved in this way is no accident. It’s a result of policy choices. As Jane Waldfogel, a Columbia University professor who studies families and work, says, “American feminists made a conscious choice to emphasize equal rights and equal opportunities, but not to talk about policies that would address family responsibilities.”

As a working mom and proud feminist, I can agree with Waldfogel.

Initially workplace gains were not about making the workplace different so working moms could fit in easier, it was about just getting the dang door open. But now, we need an overhaul so that working moms and dads, and workers of both sexes who must take care of sick or elderly family members, don't lose needed income simply because they must care for another human being.

Family leave should encompass all genders and all types of family care-taking. If your partner, mother, aunt, or uncle is ill and needs care, you should be able to take off work to care for your loved one without penalty or financial ruin. Babies fall into this category as well.

A well-cared for society is a productive society, and productivity equals more tax dollars and higher standards of living. A sharp contrast to the state of exhaustion, stress, and inevitable ill-health for caregivers who must work and pull the second shift, or simply live in poverty.

Rather than punishing women financially, who make the choice to care for their child, we need to encourage ALL people to care for their children and other loved ones. Paid family leave, flexible work places, and yes, universal health care are all part of that package.

It's time for the next feminist movement, which is really a humanist movement.

Do you think working mothers deserve to make less money than everyone else?


Image via mudpig/Flickr


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hotic... hoticedcoffee

Working mothers deserve be paid for their work, not for the work they could do if they were more available.  There is already FMLA leave which allows any employee time off to take care of a loved one's medical needs, and I don't feel that it needs to be paid time.  Many businesses cannot survive that way, and it they're expected to, you can be damn sure companies that aren't already offering mom-perks will make a even bigger effort to not hire or promote women with children.   

This is not yet another thing the government needs to do to take care of everyone.  The absolute mess they've made out of universal health care should tell you the government is not capable of, and should not be expected to take everyone under a protective wing.

nonmember avatar SKL

1) I agree that feminists focused too much on the wrong issues for too long. Their #1 issue continues to be the right to kill babies and therefore remain childless - the exact opposite of what most women actually plan for their lives. Their second favorite issue has been gay rights - again, not relevant to a typical woman's key concerns. Women's rights need to be seen in the context of what most women actually seek to (and can) accomplish. I've been saying this for decades.

2) Women and men should be paid based on the value they bring to their company. Period. It is not corporate America's job to pick up where individuals' planning and responsibility leaves off.

3) Part of being an adult is taking responsibility and planning for your life choices. That includes the choice to become pregnant. If a woman/couple is not ready to take the responsibilities, including managing around lost career productivity, then they shouldn't be having kids. Or, they need to re-think their careers.

4) There is nothing wrong with switching your efforts from your career to your kid. Just don't expect to be paid for it.

nonmember avatar tkoral

I agree with the author 100%...women make choices about their career paths based on the reality that some workplaces will not accomodate family responsibilities. I am a lawyer. The fact that the last three women on the Supreme Court are childless is no accident. The career path to that level of prestige demands a level of commitment to the workplace that makes it an impossible career path for many lawyers, men and women who have significant responsibilities at home. I do not know what the solution is but I do believe that working moms and dads offer important voices whether in industry or government. Men and women should be able to maintain a strong commitment to their family and still reach the upper echelons of industry and government. ( I am not referring to men and women who profess a commitment to family but miss family dinner, take blackberries on vacation and allow hired help to do the majority of child rearing). Employers resist change as much as any group of people and I fear this level of equality will never happen without legislation.

kittymom kittymom

You know I have to agree with the article.  I know of a lady who use to work in my department.  She was pretty high up on the "food change" when she had her baby.  She was making 80K easily cause she has a masters degree in her field.  Well she decided to be a SAHM and raise her child until that child went to first grade and then she would re-enter the work force again.  Well 6 years later she "tried" to enter the work force and finally did but now her salary is 35K even with her master's degree. 

Heck this even happened to me and it was not because of having a child or taking care of a sick family member.  I was working as a Project Manager making 55K, got laid off from a company, could not find work to save my soul for over a year.  When I did find work it was doing data entry at 14 bucks an hour.  8 years later I have worked my way back up into another PM postion and I am only now making 42K a year.  I was only gone out of the work force for 1 year and yet 8 years later my salary is 13K less then it was.  Go figure!

nonmember avatar SKL

Do you think that if a man took off 6 years to do something unrelated to his career, he would be welcomed back with open arms (and a higher salary)? Have you ever heard of such a thing happening?

I agree that taking years off of your job is going to reduce your marketability. The question I have is, how can anyone expect otherwise? During those years, other professionals have been building up valuable career-related experience. Should that experience not be recognized? Try thinking from the employer's perspective.

If you want to be a leader in your career, you simply have to sacrifice. You can't have your cake and eat it too. There are a few careers where mom experience actually gives you extra points, and some where it's neutral, but especially in the careers that have been historically male-oriented, forget it.

Carey... Carey2006

Heck no!!! They tend to get their work done in less the time!!!!

tazdvl tazdvl

I think it depends on how long they have been gone and what they have done in that time to keep  up with their field. Things change so if you don't keep up with the changes you shouldn't expect to make the same amount.

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