The argument for paying moms less

This is a guest post from Cathy Reisenwitz, who blogs at Birmingham SEO Blog.

Time magazine reports that young, childless women are earning more than men. You’d be hard-pressed to find evidence of widespread discrimination against childless women in the workplace. But equally solid data confirms working mothers’ suspicions that working moms do in fact get paid less than childless women. Here’s another article on it from BusinessWeek.

Before you get up in arms about gap in pay between childless women and mothers, consider that maybe gap is fair.

Maybe moms get paid less because they work less. The majority of mothers work part time. Fully two-thirds of mothers work less than 40 hours per week, and most mothers prefer part-time over full-time. Employers pay part time workers less, whether parents or not, and offer fewer benefits because part-time workers aren’t as cost-effective for companies to employ as full-time workers. Childless women are also significantly more likely to work overtime. The vast majority of mothers, 92 percent, work less than 50 hours a week.

As a result of working less, working mothers are also less qualified than childless women. You don’t get the same amount of experience and expertise working 20 hours a week that you do working 40. Should a woman who worked full time for 2 years and then part time for 3 get the same promotion as a woman who worked full time for 5 years? A 1999 study by Klerman and Liebowitz puts it this way: “The motherhood penalty is partially explained by differences in human capital. Women with (more) children may have less experience and seniority due to the employment breaks taken to accommodate childcare.”

Meanwhile, women who get pregnant, or intend to, are more likely to choose careers that pay less.

Then there’s the issue of productivity. Do working mothers do less work during the hours they’re at work? I haven’t found any studies comparing productivity of mothers and childless women, but studies have shown female doctors are less productive than male doctors.

So if working mothers work less, are less qualified and choose lower-paying careers than childless women, should they really get paid the same? I’m thinking no.

This is a guest post from Cathy Reisenwitz, who blogs at Birmingham SEO Blog.

Posted in No image, Parenting, Women
137 comments on “The argument for paying moms less
  1. Tzipporah says:

    Provocative, but misguided.

    Question 1: Why would you value working overtime? I’m a working mom, and I consistently work fewer hours than my (non-married, non-mom) female supervisor. I also consistently get a lot more done in the time I’m here. Why would you reward someone for inefficiency?

    Question 2: Why assume that “part-time” is 20 hours? I’m technically part-time, at 35 hours, but then so is the whole of France, right? Are they less qualified than American workers? And I think the kind of experience you get in your hours at work is directly related to your approach to work – are you a networker? A fixed-focus loner who gets deep into a project but doesn’t know what your coworkers are doing? Do you miss important meetings b/c of your schedule, or have a flex schedule that works around them?

    I don’t argue the fact that working moms earn less than childless women overall, but I do believe in equal pay for equal work. Don’t tarnish all working moms with this stereotype of uncommitted, barely-there part-timers. There is no excuse for paying someone less because of what they “might” be doing as part of a larger group, only on what they actually do (or don’t do) in their actual job.

    • Cathy Reisenwitz says:

      I think we all want equal pay for equal work, and in an ideal world, employers would evaluate each potential employee accurately based on exactly what they will bring to the job. Unfortunately, in order to make good choices, employers often have to make assumptions and judgements based on generalizations and prior experience when making hiring decisions.

      • Tzipporah says:

        Yes, but should they make decisions based on misinformed stereotypes and misunderstood, misrepresented studies, such as the ones in this article?

        • Johnnyboy says:

          I agree with what you are saying here, ppl should not make decisions based on potentially misrepresented studies.

          I think we are in a time where it’s easy enough to do a bit of research and find out the truth, or as near to the truth as possible.

      • Brightday says:

        The article makes precisely the point of equal pay for equal work. Mothers, overall, are less productive – they work less – than childfree women generally do. So they earn less. Paying someone who is less productive the same as someone who is more productive is UNequal pay.

        And, btw, your and your supervisor’s work ethics are nothing to base a rule on.

    • Annie says:

      I did not work overtime because I was inefficient. I often worked overtime because the working mother in our office would dump her stuff on me to finish when she had to leave early because of an issue or event with her child. I worked in a small law firm and it was simply assumed that I as the single non parent would be the one to stay late when we were in trial. I also was the one who got the additional training needed to do more work there, since the working mother did not have time to do so.

      I accepted this as somethign the childless have to do to help their colleagues who are parents — until the time we had eight cases set for trial in 2 months and I asked if I could take a week off after the last case was done and before we geared up for the next trial. I was told no, because the working mother’s child was off school that week, so she had to be off work that week, and we couldn’t both be out of the office at the same time.

      Needless to say, I don’t work in that office any more.

  2. Roberta Warshaw says:

    I am sure this will be a sore spot for many mothers. But I have to agree with the premise of the article.

    I had to reluctantly give up all my female doctors. Why? Because they weren’t available when I needed them. My first primary care doctor was fabulous. I adored her. Then she started having children and working “mothers hours”. I could never get in to see her anymore. Recently my grandsons wonderful pediatrician went on maternity leave. I am quite sure we will need to find a new doctor for him as well.

    I think this is going to be a major problem with the shortage of primary care doctors already on the horizon. Since more women are going into the field than men, if they all start working part time once they have children where does that leave us, the patients?

    • Tzipporah says:

      This is a real concern, for industries where we need someone there at a certain time, etc. We, as a society, have yet to find a real replacement for the unpaid and low-paid work that women used to do in the home (and still usually do). There are no more teen girls who finish their “schooling” by working as servants in other women’s houses, learning how to run their own households.

      To keep our economy going, should we reinstitute a draft, this time domestic instead of military, requiring anyone 18-21 to spend time working as a low-paid domestic?

    • Caitlin says:

      Hopefully in the future, all male doctors will start working part time when they have children – and then you’ll just have to suck it up. ;-)

      • Working says:

        @ Caitlin – If I need a pediatrician, asap, I need to ‘suck it up’ because a the doctor wants to see his/her daugther’s soccer practice? Nice one. Really good one. Low quality in service because of “work/life balance”. Brilliant.

    • Beth says:

      Doctor’s decreasing hours are a problem, I agree, but my MALE doctor recently cut back his time after he and his wife had a child. His hours are half what my former female doctor’s “mom hours” were. (I had to switch docs due to move).

      Don’t confuse availability with gender.

      • Jennifer says:

        I question your assumption that mothers are less productive at work after they have children. I can speak only anecdotally — but in my group in my office, the two mothers consistently complain about not having enough work (we bill hourly) while the others stare at us in disbelief. Of course, the two mothers work from home, so that may be in factor in our productivity; also working from home is a perk, so we work hard (ie efficiently) to prove we deserve it.

        Also, I’m curious to know how those figures change as more men become the primary caregivers. In the last 2 years I have seen in my community a surge in the number of men caring for children — more of them volunteering at school, retrieving kids from the bus stop, coaching sports, etc.

  3. Tzipporah says:

    Also, looking at the NIH study – the women are not “less productive” than men, if you measure patients seen per hour. The difference is that male doctors are staying later, working more hours to maximize their pay (which is based on number of patients seen). If women are choosing not to do extra work, and not then be paid for it, how is that a productivity loss? Productivity is about work done in relation to time and/or wages paid.

    • Tia says:

      If you compare how many patients per hour, vs how many patients per day, your productivity indicator would be very different. And for an employer, the bottom-line is total results.

  4. Elizabeth Reid says:

    I second questioning the assumption that more time at the office is better.

    Even Penelope wrote in an old post – “If you work the most hours you look the most desperate.” http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2006/04/16/dont-be-the-hardest-worker-in-your-job-or-in-your-job-hunt/

    Working efficiently and producing quality output is probably more important than working long hours, mom or not.

    • dana says:

      I agree. I think most part-time workers work at least as much, if not more, in a shorter amount of time, than their full-time co-workers. When you are at an office job 8hrs or more per day, one feels “ok” about not working every second. But if you are part-time, you know you have only a ltd amount of hours to get the job done so one tends not to waste as much time.

  5. Sue Burton says:

    As a full-time working mom in the 8% minority working > 50 hours per week, I would suggest that companies pay by the role’s value to the organization (full or part time) and by the employee experience (vs. demographic profile). When companies are hiring for a role, they have a compensation range in mind. As they interview candidates they can assess — in detail — both the length and depth of experience along with prior accomplishments as they calculate a salary offer. I have worked with plenty of single, childless men & women who don’t work efficiently or consistently >40 hours. I’ve also worked with working mothers and working fathers who routinely go far beyond expectations in terms of work quality and quantity. As someone who has worked full time, both as a singleton and a parent, I can say my value to my employers has magnified over time — not so much by the number of collective hours I have toiled, but by the wisdom, expertise, judgement and perspective I have gained from being a full-time worker AND a mother. That combined experience is tough to quantiatively value through statistics … but I’d bank on my working parent team members to carry the day any time. That confidence is priceless.

    • Nyree says:

      I’d agree with most of the comments above. I’d also like to see the value of being a parent, and particularly a working parent, quantified. As an over 50 hours a week employee, and an over 70 hour a week parent, I would say that I’m a better, more experienced, more skilled worker (particularly with all those skills being celebrated as the key to a 21 st century economy)- not a slacker!

  6. Christine L. Soutter says:

    Well-reasoned, well-argued — but now it’s time to critically analyze the data to support your hypothesis. If the studies citing lower pay for working moms actually included part-timers, that makes sense — but what if it had excluded part-timers already as incomparable (which they are) and had only focused on full-time mothers? Then we shouldn’t see such large differences; if we do, then the issue of discrimination raises itself again (because full-time workers should get full-time pay).

    I love the difference in productivity among female versus male doctors that you cited. Do you know why? The most frequently advanced explanation is that female doctors take extra time with their patients — time that the new HMO models, requiring a gazillion patients per hour to be seen, don’t allow. Male doctors, better at following their bosses’ instructions even when questionable, adhere to the new standards and thus see more patients per hour than females. If you’re a boss, hire a male doctor; if you’re a patient, go to a female doctor. The implications, alas, are that women are paying (by being evaluated less well and presumably therefore rewarded less well) for the failure of society to allow doctors enough time to treat their patients thoroughly. Why should individual women be stuck covering those costs personally???

    • Tzipporah says:

      “Why should individual women be stuck covering those costs personally???”

      Women have always been stuck covering these kinds of extra costs, both personally and structurally. Only women in the upper classes have avoided it, by hiring (or enslaving) others to do that work for them. The question is, why are we only noticing and caring about it now? Because it contradicts the capitalist/meritocratic narrative we’ve learned.

    • Arachna says:

      Indeed. How can you cite a study that does does not include part timers and try to explain something about the study by talking about part timers? How deliberately dishonest.

      • Cathy Reisenwitz says:

        The argument was that mothers applying for a full-time job are more likely than non-mothers to later go part time, which might help explain employers’ propensity to hire them less often and pay them less. This has nothing to do with comparing part-time workers’ pay with that of full-time workers.

      • Tzipporah says:

        “The argument was that mothers applying for a full-time job are more likely than non-mothers to later go part time,”

        But is this true? How many of those non-mothers will later become mothers? And how does your argument address the structural issues for society that this is always about women, and not men? Or do you only care about the implications for employers, and not for society as a whole?

  7. Maggie McGary says:

    So should men who have kids make less too? How about women who don’t have kids, but who are not efficient or just plain do a crappy job? Also, no offense, but this statement “As a result of working less, working mothers are also less qualified than childless women. You don’t get the same amount of experience and expertise working 20 hours a week that you do working 40″…. is bullshit. I didn’t work for 8 years to be home with my kids. During that time I spent a ton of time online and basically built the foundation of my current career–a career that didn’t exist at that point: community & social media manager. While not working I cultivated a skill that many don’t have, and as a result today I am in a much stronger position, career-wise, than many women my age who either don’t have kids or didn’t take time off.

  8. Enrica says:

    When you talk about women in workplaces I usally agree with you Penelope, but now I am sorely disappointerd by this post that could have been written by a men so full of stereotypes against working mothers it is. I am a full time (40 hours in Italy) working mother with a 20 years experience and I am planning to go part-time (35 hours a week). In 8 hours a day I normally have more work done than my male colleauges and I plan to do still a good quantity in one hour less. My work is about quantity but even more about quality, so I wonder why I should be paid less than a let’s say 5 years experienced woman just because she has no children: she also lacks much of the experience I have, not to say that she must demonstrate to produce the same quality work I do. In Sweden companies look for parents to enrole because in raising children they develop particular capabilities that childless people do not have a chance to develop but I guess Sweden is much more ahead than the USA and Italy.

    • karelys says:

      I think that your sore disappointment is missing the point of the article. There is always exception to the rule and to the generalization.

      But I think Penelope is raising a valid point. In general, mothers will take time out of work to be with their kids, meaning that they lost a few years of advancing their knowledge, updating skills, etc.

      So if you decided to run a company from home you are not in the batch of women that do so therefore you should not worry and get all fired up. The shoes doesn’t fit.

      But it’s true.

      My coworker has about the same years of experience as I do. But hers are broken up in batches because she’s had two kids and took long maternity leave. Meanwhile, I have the same amount of consecutive years working and learning the updates, sharpening skills, etc.

      I have no kids so if I need to stay late or anything I will. Also, I don’t have the risk of my kids getting sick and not able to go to work.

      That has bothered my boss a lot lately.

      So my coworker has taken this lower paying job (than what she had before) so that she can have more freedom for her kids. She is just as productive. She doesn’t get paid less or more than me because our difference on having kids or not.

      She is definitely making less money because she has chosen a lower income but higher freedom for her family. She is well productive.

      And time and productivity are related by the quantity of quality job done. But the truth is that if I need someone reliable that I can trust to run an important department in my company I am going to choose the single lady with killer work ethic because she will be available despite her short experience. Because if she got potential she will learn fast. If she’s got ambition she will catch up fast.

      There is nothing keeping her back (assuming I decide I like her work ethic).

      But I lady with kids and killer work ethic…..unless she discloses to me that the job will come before family then this is not the job for her.

      She needs to run a business out of home or take another job that is more flexible.

      And yes, longer hours make a huge difference in pay. Even if you are productive just as much as a working mother you are producing more with more time as well.

      the article doesn’t say that working mothers get paid less by the hour based on the fact that they got kids.

      And maybe that is why women get paid less as men in general. There are reasons similar to this.

      We get all up in arms rather than asking those women and working mothers who paid just as much as men that can do same caliber work as them. We don’t ask them what got them that same pay. I bet you it was not sympathy from their employer. It was different! They did something about it!

      • Caitlin says:

        It’s not Penelope “raising the point”. It’s a guest post!

        It’s written by someone who has tried to emulate Penelope’s penchant for provocation but has failed to back it up with substance. She’s cited sources but misinterpreted them (whether lazily or deliberately, I don’t know) and woven them in with her own assumptions and leaps of logic.

        Frankly, it’s a pretty poor post and not up to Penelope’s standard.

        Oh, and by the way, I’m a childless woman.

  9. sophie says:

    Such a touchy issue and one I see both ways. I’m a mother and have worked part time and full time (I also went to school while working).

    When I worked part time, I was demoralized to earn an hourly wage considerably less than the $/hr value of my salaried full time coworkers, even though they only worked 40 hrs/week. Yet, I felt my productivity per hour was as great as theirs.

    On the other hand, I often was irritated with many coworkers who were mothers and spent too much time on their career job doing their motherhood job. Too many of my coworkers’ children had way too much access to their mother’s phone lines (for that matter, incompetent fathers also had way too much access to the mother’s phone lines).

    I don’t think there’s a solution to the complexities of parents vs. non-parents working. I think it’s an issue that causes us to just sigh and deal with it.

  10. Writer Vixen says:

    ANYONE who contributes less should be paid less — including any working moms whom that applies to.

    This has been a pet peeve of mine for years. As a child-free professional woman, I long ago had my fill of picking up the slack for women who leave work promptly at 5p while the rest of us stay til 7:30 or 8 finishing up a project. Women who constantly take time off for school plays, soccer games, etc. Women who don’t show up for presentations because they have no other care arrangements for a sick child.

    The most maddening part, frankly, is that they never (in my experience) even acknowledge that they aren’t pulling the same weight as those of us (men & women, both) who routinely work 55 to 60 hours/week, show up for everything we need to do, and meet all of our deadlines without expecting others to pick up our workload. So not only do we cover for them, it’s literally a thankless task.

    It’s pointless to debate whether any of us SHOULD be working those kinds of hours. The fact is, that’s what’s required in upper-level jobs. And if you want to play at that level — and receive the pay and professional opportunities that come with it — then you have to be willing to put in the commensurate effort.

    It’s time to stop talking about “gaps” and start accepting responsibility for the fact that every choice we make carries a consequence. If you choose to be a mother, then you choose to close the door on other opportunities. That’s life. Accept it. Choose what makes you happy and stop complaining about the choices you passed on.

    • karelys says:

      I agree with you and it is not because I am a married (no kids) woman. I agree because seriously, I have chosen to get married earlier in life (I am 23) therefore if I want to finish school I have to work harder in every area and keep focus so that I excel in everything.

      But my single friends get bothered that we don’t hang out/go out as often. Well, fine. I am paying for my own home, saving for retirement, building a strong marriage, etc.

      We make choices. I chose this so I take it in and love it. And I don’t mourn the possibilities that passed me by because sometimes it is either/or.

      As irritating as your situation may be know that you are not the whiny woman asking for the ENTIRE system to be more sympathetic and pay you more despite being a mom and having less experience, time flexibility, and availability.

      Know that what you do is going to make the person that is trained to occupy those positions that pay more. Even when you are a mother in the future (if so you chose) you are still going to be that woman. And so you will get the bigger paycheck.

      I am tired of hearing women and men complain that the system is unfair to them.

      Well guess what!? I am an immigrant who came here with barely the clothes in my back and zero English and I will surpass you pretty soon because I know where I am going.

      To those who whine that minimum wage is not enough I say sharpen your skills!

      Do you think I learned English staying tucked in my comfort zone?

      Do you think I’ll have kids and desire the rewards of working or running a business without anticipating for scenarios that will jeopardize my work or a team’s success?

      If you are a working mom and feel you are discriminated because of a stereotype well don’t be the stereotype. Break out of it and show it to the employer and see if you don’t get a bigger paycheck.

      People want not work themselves out of the stereotype but want to be paid just as much as those who break out of the box.

      • Chris M. says:

        “Well guess what!? I am an immigrant who came here with barely the clothes in my back and zero English and I will surpass you pretty soon because I know where I am going.

        To those who whine that minimum wage is not enough I say sharpen your skills!”

        Oh, please. I am also an immigrant, who happened to be very lucky to have free superior education in my native country. I earn a 6-figure wage in the U.S., and pity the many Americans who never will have the opportunities I had. Reading the book Nickel and Dimed will probably give you some perspective: http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/nickelanddimed.htm

    • Caitlin says:

      More fool you for “routinely working 55 to 60 hours/week” thereby giving your employer 30% more time than they’re paying you for. Once in a while on a big project is fine – but doing it “routinely” is sheer idiocy.

      No one should be penalised for working the job they’ve been hired to do, or for their employer’s inability to deploy the right resources for the job.

  11. WorstProfEver says:

    I tend to agree with what you say, being childless and sick of watching parents get free ‘time off’ — but I’d still be cautious about overgeneralizing. It’s fine to pay parents (and there’s the rub, this shouldn’t be a mom issue it should be a parent issue but we all know that’s not the case) less if they’re simply working less. Part-time is part-time, as you say, and it’s quantifiable.

    But I think the reality is more about assumptions. For the same reason I’d be angry if an employer assumed I was going to have kids just because I was a woman, I’d be mad if an employer assumed someone was less qualified or willing/able to work full time just because they were a parent. In my experience, the people who use their kids to get out of work are the ones who were already finding ways to slack before having them…and yet women lose out on both these counts, either being paid less or expected to do more work for the pay.

    So, while I fully support employers correlating pay with actual hours or projects, it’s both because I don’t think parents should get any slack just for being parents, and because I don’t think non-parents should be expected to do MORE work than average on that count.

    • karelys says:

      why don’t employers quantify productivity by saying “you get this done in this many hours?” (obviously x amount of hours must be enough. Too long of a topic here but i am not going to digress).

      So if a working parent demonstrates excellence and productivity they deserve to be well paid. That way the employer doesn’t lose a valuable employee either.

  12. Tzipporah says:

    As I said above, it’s a structural problem of the shift in work/domestic arrangements. My own modest proposal for fixing it here.

    • WorstProfEver says:

      Love it — particularly since, as a former prof, I don’t think students are very capable of learning until after that point so I’ve often thought there should be some sort of mandatory social service.

  13. Will in Chicago says:

    To the people commenting that part time workers are doing as much as people working 40+ hours, I will take the opposite perspective. What if a person working 40 hours is more productive per hour than the person working 20 hours who is distracted by homemaker tasks? As a manager of people, I think there is a moral high ground to assume that each person has the same productivity level, at least in the beginning. Saying people working 40+ hours is less productive than someone working 20 is silly. 50 hours in a week is not alot. Some professions work 80+.

  14. Caitlin Sadowski says:

    A real problem here is that mothers are *perceived* as less productive than childless women with the exact same background and experience — yet the reverse is true for fathers vs. childless men. Children provide a benefit for men and a penalty for women. This inequity can change; educating our co-workers to recognize the presence of systematic bias against mothers is a first step.

    The clearest example of this is a study in which participants were given a resume to rate; half of the participants were given the exact same resume, but received additional information that the resume belonged to a parent [1]. This study found that mothers are rated as less competent and committed to paid work than female non-mothers, are given less slack about being late, and may be offered a lower starting salary. Conversely, fathers are rated as more committed than male non-fathers, are given more slack about being late, and may be offered a higher starting salary.

    Very few studies have looked at whether there is a productivity difference between mothers and non-mothers. However, a 2004 survey of German postdocs found that there was not a difference in scientific productivity between scientist mothers and female scientist non-mothers [2]. A similar study looking at working mothers across disciplines in the Netherlands also did not find a productivity difference between mothers and non-mothers [3]. Additionally, working mothers have been shown to have better physical and mental health, higher self-esteem, and financial stability [4].

    [1] S. Correll, S. Benard, and I. Paik. Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty? American Journal of Sociology, 112(5):1297 – €“1338, 2007.

    [2] V. Gewin. Baby blues. Nature, 433:780 – €“781, 2005.

    [3] C. Wetzels. Does motherhood really make women less productive? The case of the Netherlands. Bilbao ESPE Conference, 2002.

    [4] L. Bennetts. The Feminine Mistake. Voice, 2007.

    • Arachna says:

      That this article ignores all of these very well known studies shows that the author is either a. extremly badly informed about a subject they’ve choosen to write about – thus deliberately misinforming others or b. are deliberately ignoring relevant facts in order to say something “controversail” as if the exact same things haven’t been said by most of society for 50 years.

      • Tzipporah says:

        The problem is that these studies are “very well known” only in certain circles. Ones that are much less popularly-accesible than inflammatory posts such as this.

      • Jessica says:

        The statistics quote in the post are for US; those studies you mentioned are not. Big, big difference.

  15. Shevonne says:

    The real issue is not who is getting paid more, but that women are still having to sacrifice either having a career or having a family.

    This is one of the reasons for the birth of the “mompreneur.” A mother who decided to start her own business, so she could have it all. For me to have the flexibility to be with my children while still being an asset in my field, I’ve had to become an independent consultant. Unless you find a company that offers their employees some flexibility, it is tough for a working mother.

    I do see that times are changing, and that companies are buying into work/life balance, so this gives women a chance to have both a career and family. However, we are still not there.

    • Writer Vixen says:

      The single most powerful change we can make in achieving work/life balance, is to stop talking about this as a WOMEN’S issue and begin talking about it as a PARENT’S issue.

      But at the point where men begin feeling free to take the time to equally co-parent their children, this entire conversation is going to shift to a dialog between PARENTS and NON-PARENTS.

      Those who choose to be child-free will always have more flexibility and control over their time than those who choose to commit to a family. Ultimately, this is a social and cultural issue, not a “women’s issue,” not an “equal pay” issue.

      • Penelope Trunk says:

        The reason this is a woman’s issue is that men do not see a decrease in salary after they have kids. In fact, a man’s salary is likely to increase after he has kids.

        This is because

        1. Men do not feel the same pull to take care of their kids as women do. Not a popular comment, I know, but it’s fact.

        2. Men who have kids usually have a woman at home doing most of the household chores. Women who have kids do not have this.

        3. Men do not make choices to decrease their earning power after they have kids. Whereas women consistently make choices that will decrease their earning power after they have kids.

        You can find all the research to support this stuff if you search the “women” category on the sidebar of this blog.

        Penelope

      • Tzipporah says:

        “The reason this is a woman’s issue is that men do not see a decrease in salary after they have kids.”

        But the larger reason is that society is still schizophrenic about women’s role as paid workers. Men don’t feel a “pull” to take care of kids, but they also don’t feel a “push” for it. How many of you go to a couple’s home and make judgments about the woman based on its cleanliness, or on the kids’ well-being/manners, etc., but NOT judge the man for the same issues?

    • Lisa says:

      To echo much of what is said or implied here, my problem with this (ridiculous) article is the failure to weigh the impact that public policy choices have on these employment outcomes. I grew up as what used to be called a “latchkey kid” — from the age of 9, I came home from school alone every afternoon and stayed there alone until 7 or 8 pm until my single mother got off work at her high-pressure job. It was no way to grow up, and now in many states it’s illegal. But what was she to do? She needed a career to pay the bills — she had no partner to help — but she couldn’t afford childcare. Until Americans understand that raising kids well is a SOCIAL GOOD (and I say this as a single woman with no intention of ever having children), and begin to invest in it, we will continue to have completely unacceptable choices for women, and therefore, completely unacceptable income disparities.

  16. Let's Think for a Minute says:

    “You don’t get the same amount of experience and expertise working 20 hours a week that you do working 40. Should a woman who worked full time for 2 years and then part time for 3 get the same promotion as a woman who worked full time for 5 years?”

    The author of this post expressedly links years of experience with expertise, and yet, she has only been in the workforce just over 2 years herself. I should be taking her “expert” advice on career matters because….?

    • Writer Vixen says:

      Well, the fact that the author’s point of view expresses common sense would be one good reason.

      But if common sense isn’t enough, perhaps my 30 years of experience which confirm and prove her 2-years-plus insights may carry a bit of weight. ;)

    • Caitlin says:

      “The author of this post expressedly links years of experience with expertise, and yet, she has only been in the workforce just over 2 years herself.”

      Ha, ha! Love it!

      It’s a good point actually. Someone with 5 years experience is far more qualified than someone with 2 years experience. Whereas someone with 15 years experience is not necessarily more qualified than someone with 12 years experience. At that point the QUALITY rather than the quantity of the experience matters far more.

      Anecdotally, most women I know are having babies in their late 20s or early 30s. Statistically too, the average age of the first-time mother is rising, especially in the professional class. So most working mothers are already past that early career stage that Cathy is in.

  17. Cathy Reisenwitz says:

    I could not agree more that it’s entirely possible that one person could get more done and gain more experience in 20 hours than another person could in 40, or in 2 years rather than 4. It’s just impossible to quantify.

    What is possible to quantify is hours and years on the job. That’s why employers make salary and hiring decisions based on those metrics.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on how employers could determine how competent and experienced someone is based on metrics other than years and hours on the job?

    • TJ says:

      Um, maybe based on their accomplishments and track record of results? You know, actually evidence of competence other than the fact you could hold onto a job for so many years without getting fired.

  18. Jill M says:

    The relentless focus on “productivity” needs to end! Creating a study that measures some quantifiable value can be so easily manipulated in the manner of measurement that productivity is a suspect measurement. The study provided in this post is a prime example. If we are discussing healthcare, productivity should not be measured by how quickly a patient was processed through the system, but by how effective the visit was – were preventive measures identified? were all symptoms addressed? will this visit provide the patient with resources (info and/or prescription) so that the patient does not return again for some time?

    The tone of this post was very much whiny and vindictive. Have you considered that many of these part-time parents are not receiving any benefits from the company? That single women AND men do personal business while at work (office drama, boyfriend/girlfriend issues, etc)? Why does Ms. Reisenwitz feel the need to attack working mothers? What is her angle? Why does she claim that “employers often have to make assumptions and judgements [sic] based on generalizations”? The simple fact is that, employers do NOT have to do this. Employers, like everyone else in life, have the capability to make choices, and the choice to hire someone does not have to be based in assumption and judgment. That is a weak shield to try to hide behind.

  19. Chris says:

    What’s hilarious is how every commenter here seems to assume that it’s wrong for two people to be paid differently. This is because they either have chosen, or grown up with, the view that the employer’s business is somehow not his (or hers) to do with as he chooses, but some vehicle for the provision of jobs.

    In a properly Liberal society, if you don’t like what you’re being paid, see if you can get more somewhere else. If you can’t, then you’re not worth what you think you are. It’s that simple.

    It’s an employer’s fundamental right to discriminate on whatever basis he chooses. With whom he does or does not enter into contracts is no business of the State. If you don’t like that, then seek employment elsewhere.

  20. Nina says:

    Um…this wouldn’t be an issue if men equally stayed home with the kids and worked “father’s hours.” So instead of penalizing working “mothers,” the system would be penalizing working “parents.” And lord knows that when men are part of a disenfranchised group…you know more people are gonna hear about it and take note, especially when they take to the streets and complain of inequality. Therefore, mandatory parental leave for all(!) if you want to fix this problem.

  21. Teri says:

    The huge factor that, for me, makes this 100% discrimination is the simple fact that in most states, it is against the law to leave your child in daycare for longer than 10 hours. So, even if a working mother has decided that she is more committed to her job than her child, the state has decided she can not work longer than perhaps a 9 hour day, if she is quick with her commute and is docked for 1 hour lunch, whether she actually takes the lunch or not.
    Let’s not even get into the fact that “female” professions ALWAYS earn less. Is it because we accept less? Or because it is systemic. What makes a fireman earn 200,000 a year here in Las Vegas, while a school teacher makes 45,000? The fireman works 10 days, and the teacher 20. Who is more productive?

    • Jessica says:

      Q: “What makes a fireman earn 200,000 a year here in Las Vegas, while a school teacher makes 45,000?”

      A: Supply and Demand. How many people are capable of being a fireFIGHTER, and how many a school teacher?

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      This is a really interesting comment. It adds a legal piece to the conundrum. I did not know that you cannot leave a kid in childcare longer than ten hours.

      Also, this child care law is surely intended to protect children. But it end up favoring rich people. If you have a nanny at home you can leave your kid for a week. If you have group child care outside your home you can only leave your kid for ten hours.

      Penelope

  22. tonya says:

    This is not provacative, this is ridiculous. i have never commented on penelope’s posts because i alway learn to think outside the box. This woman needs to throw away her box. her data is flawed. it does not look at long term vs short term employment figures, i suspec that she is only considering new to the workforce women. the reality is moms are more efficient at what we do and multitask exceptionally well. I waited to have children and my productivity is much higher than before i had them. i’ve learned how to do more with less (sleep, money,personal time, etc), i’ve learned how to be more diplomatic as my network has become more varied, i’ve improved my ability to navigate resources better; and there is nothing that provides you with better training to be a supervisor than bringing up 3 very different children with different abilities, interests and attitudes.

  23. Colleen says:

    What folks are forgetting: the issue is “equal pay for equal work.” If equal work is not happening, *it is not discriminatory to pay different wages*. A 20-35/hr a week part-time job is different – LEGALLY – than a salaried full time job. If that full time job is salaried/exempt, the person is expected to work until the job gets done, not put in X hours and leave. If you cant make that commitment, then no, it’s not discriminatory for you to not be hired for that position.

    Assumptions about ability based on parenthood are illegal – that’s discriminatory. Paying a part time worker different wages than a full time worker is not discriminatory – they have different job descriptions and expectations.

    Yes, years of experience count, as you can often see from public service positions that say “X years experience equivalent to X years of schooling.” And yes, your experience is discounted if you worked part-time. Again: part time /= full time, no matter how much more productive you *think* you are.

    I’m in full agreement with WriterVixen that “It’s pointless to debate whether any of us SHOULD be working those kinds of hours. The fact is, that’s what’s required in upper-level jobs. And if you want to play at that level – and receive the pay and professional opportunities that come with it – then you have to be willing to put in the commensurate effort.”

    • Tzipporah says:

      “If that full time job is salaried/exempt, the person is expected to work until the job gets done, not put in X hours and leave.”

      Really? B/c I work damn fast, and I’ve never had an employer tell me to just go home once I’ve finished everything. I always have to hang around and look busy until 5, even though I finished my work in the first 2 hours. Maybe because it makes everyone else look bad?

      • Dee says:

        I also work fast, and I’ve never have to ‘look busy’ for a couple of hours, because there is always something else to do. Always. Planning, preparing, reviewing.

        Maybe other employees have a heavier or more complex workload than you do. In that case, it’s a different job.

  24. Nancy says:

    This article is based on the capitalist assumptions of US culture — that people who do less economically-recognized work deserve to own less and be more poor.

    This is the rational for not providing women with paid maternity leave and the argument against socialized healthcare, both of which are available in ALL other civilized countries. It’s even used as an argument against better funding for public schools.

    Think of the wealth of a society as a pie: how do you divide up the pie and decide who deserves how much?

    Sure, you can leave it to capitalism, as this article rationalizes. But other countries don’t.

    Like them, the US could decide that a society’s primary purpose is to provide for its children and whoever’s taking care of them. But it doesn’t.

    The impoverishment of working mothers and their children is not fate. It’s a choice that US society has made. Don’t rationalize it as something inevitable.

  25. Laya says:

    I’ll buy this (though still not think it’s “fair”) if there is similar gap between men who also take time off for children/family, and men who either aren’t fathers or don’t sacrifice time at work for time at home. I read an article a while back (which of course now I can’t find) that talked about men’s desire for greater work-life balance. It said how some men are choosing childcare or caring for an aging parent or injured spouse over work, and how several court cases have been fought and won by men arguing that they should not pay a penalty for making that choice.

    I also wonder how this works in other countries. For instance, in Canada each couple receives 12 months of paid leave for a pregnancy, and they can choose how that leave is used – anywhere from dividing it equally between them to having only one parent or the other use it. So, are men who take 6 full months off work for the birth of their child penalized more than men who only take a month or less? Canada has job protections, but that only ensures an equal level position – it doesn’t say the person gets the same job back, and it has no bearing on how the person is viewed, or how taking the time does or doesn’t effect their oppurtunities for advancement.

  26. MJ says:

    I disagree with the idea that women who intend to become pregnant choose lower paying work. I’m an attorney in a law firm and one of the VERY few childless ones – plenty of young women go to law school, go to big firms, have kids. Most fall off of the ‘full time partnership’ track, or the planet, at that time – but they started down that road. If the intention = work choice comment were correct we’d only see women in the admin jobs.

    And yes, it ticks me off too that I’m dealing with client matters 5 days a week, but have several coworkers that I can’t call on M, W, F – whatever – because they are at home. Part time in law practice is 40 hours a week – why are these people disappearing???

  27. Bicycle Built For Two says:

    I am a recruiter and a mother and I whole-heartedly agree with this article but I also feel that there is more to it. Working mothers tend to need more time off (child sick days, days when children have off from school, parent-teacher conferences, etc). I completely understand needing this time but to complain about it impacting their income is absolutely ridiculous. If you work less (in some cases REGARDLESS of efficiencies) you should be paid less.

    If I HAVE to leave to be home to make dinner for my child, my coworker should be compensated for staying to address the client need that arose. It is that simple.

  28. Frank says:

    Here’s an assumption I don’t buy into: “Employers pay part time workers less, whether parents or not, and offer fewer benefits because part-time workers aren’t as cost-effective for companies to employ as full-time workers.” No, employers offer fewer benefits to part time workers because they’ve decided the job market will support that choice. When it doesn’t, they either offer them benefits or take them on full time and offer benefits. Employing part time workers without benefits is more cost effective than employing full time workers with benefits, if you can get away with it. So let’s not disparage part time workers (intended or not) and let’s call it like it is – a market driven decision.

    to hire employees without offering benefits that part time workers Employers keep

  29. Working Mom Who Knew What She Was Getting Into says:

    Any reasonable company has a base starting pay for each position. It would be discriminatory for that base pay to be different for men and women. If a man and a woman are hired at the same time for the same position, their pay would be the same. Over time, however, their salaries would diverge because of perceived differences in their work quality/quantity. If, after 5 years, the man is making more than the woman, it is probably not because of discrimination. It’s more likely that the man did a better job or did a better job of promoting himself. Either way – it’s a fair playing field.

    Now, assume that their work product is perceived as equivalent over those 5 years. Then the woman takes 6 months off for maternity leave and is out from work 1 day per month to stay home with a sick child. How can her salary continue to track with the man’s salary? She has to take a hit to her career. It would be unfair to the man if she didn’t. It is the price she has paid to have children. With luck, she picked a good partner who will share the child rearing with her so that she takes a smaller hit to her career.

    • Tzipporah says:

      Actually, your assumption is off. Men are much more likely to bargain for a higher starting salary, while women will take what is offered, not knowing that bargaining is ok. The same thing happens at each review/promotion cycle.

      Note that the linked study is from 1988, but I’ve read follow-ups that find the same thing in surveys of current workers.

    • Caitlin says:

      Sorry, you’re wrong. Starting salaries are not the same for men and women. When hiring two people for the same position, there will be a salary range (sometimes quite a large range). Where you fall into that range will depend on your experience and negotiation skills.

      • Working Mom Who Knew What She Was Getting Into says:

        Ok .. so may be it depends on the field and company. In chemistry and in starting positions (right out of school), there is very little range and very little bargaining power. All of the companies with similar jobs pay about the same amount of money (on purpose, so they don’t have to bargain). I have read that men do eventually get paid more because of better bargaining skills. Perhaps a better way to state it is that the “offer salary” is the same for men and women – where it goes from there is dependent on the individual.

  30. Matt Weber says:

    “So if working mothers work less, are less qualified and choose lower-paying careers than childless women, should they really get paid the same? I’m thinking no.”

    This is of course correct, but it doesn’t follow that there’s no problem. Imagine replacing the word “working mothers” with the disadvantaged demographic of your choice. Does it still sound like everything is OK? (This also applies, perhaps even more trenchantly, to Cathy’s statement in the comments, “in order to make good choices, employers often have to make assumptions and judgements based on generalizations and prior experience when making hiring decisions.” Some such “generalizations” are actually illegal, *even though they may be based on real information.*)

    What it does tell you is that whatever the problem is, it probably can’t be solved in the world’s HR departments. I think this is fair, just like I think it’s fair to say that educational disparities by race or sex can’t be solved by affirmative action at the college level. (Notice the difference between “solved” and “ameliorated.” Yes, you can help at that level, but it isn’t efficient, which may still mean it’s better than nothing.)

    The problem is that there are levels of problems at which it’s hard to implement policy solutions. If I’m too lazy to do my share of the housework and child care, so my wife scales down her hours to take care of it, what’s the remedy? I’m not saying this to encourage defeatism or exalt the status quo, I’m just saying the problem is hard, and it’s not obvious (to me) how to address it legally; and, as always, when I have a sucking chest wound I don’t care about *why* the doctor is or isn’t as good as he or she is or isn’t. (Of course, what I care about isn’t the only thing that matters — maybe a transient drop in the efficacy of medical care is worth advancing what could be a persistent social good. Again, problem, hard.)

  31. Julie O'Malley says:

    Money slid way down the priority list once I had children. My best (female) friend is a child-free EVP who makes probably 10 times what I make. We’re both full-time working women who made choices, and we’re both happy.

  32. hardworking single ma says:

    @Matt Weber:
    “If I’m too lazy to do my share of the housework and child care, so my wife scales down her hours to take care of it, what’s the remedy? I’m not saying this to encourage defeatism or exalt the status quo, I’m just saying the problem is hard, and it’s not obvious (to me) how to address it legally”
    Agreed. I don’t see a solution on the “policy” level. That said, individuals often times CAN do something about it. I did, when faced with that problem – divorced my husband. Better solution though would be to stay childfree until the culture changes substantially (imagine most females refusing to have children – more attention and resources might appear…) I am a big supporter of CF lifestyle and hope more people, including my daughter, will embrace it. Once we stop worrying about “working mothers” and start talking about “working parents”, I might reconsider my attitude.

  33. Bevin says:

    I’m not quite sure what to make of this article. If I sort out my strong objections to it, I think the problem is that my pay should not be based on what I am “likely” to do or not do. My compensation from the organization should be based on what value I provide, not on the fact that I work 20 or 60 hours. I say this even as a working mom who has generally put in better than 60 hour weeks the length of my working career. I haven’t taken off at 5 since I had my last hourly job (which, incidentally, was more years ago than I can count).

    I think that’s the issue that I have with the data and this article. It presupposes that my butt in a seat for a period of time is worth more than my natural productivity. It makes my value dependent on what I am “likely” to do (I’ve never done what was likely in my entire life…I like to keep ‘em guessing), and as such, perpetuates the myth that working moms are not good for an organization.

    This saddens me, as I’m pretty sure in my chosen career path that my children have been an asset to the organizations that I’ve worked for in the form of personal growth. Nothing like having an employee that gets it, and if you want to see leadership in action, try getting 3 boys to clean their rooms at the same time.

    It’s a good conversation though, and one that we need to have.

  34. EME says:

    I have been following Penelope’s blog for a few years now. Some posts are insightful. Other posts tell me that she is willing to take controversial positions for publcity’s sake, even if they don’t make a lot of sense. But as a working mother, I really have to draw the line at a woman who allows a guest to post such crap.

    As a single mother, I raised two daughters while working in executive positions in marketing. I managed up to 50% travel, sometimes around the globe. I may or may not have been paid equal to my male counterparts, but no one worked harder or contributed more. And no one who worked with me ever doubted it.

    Every working mom makes a decision about how she wants to balance work and family and where she wants to take her career. Each one handles it a little differently. The contributions they each make to their firms are also different.

    Looking backwards to see how women collectively have made their decisions in the past ignores the changes that women are making in the workforce every day based on their increased education, experience and opportunity.

    Should we decide that women don’t want to be CEOs because there are so few of them? That there won’t be more in the next five years because there haven’t been in the last 10?

    If we follow Cathy’s argument to its logical conclusion, we should just decide to pay working mothers, equally contributing fathers and people with disabilities less under the suspicion that they are not working as hard or contributing as much. So would Cathy tell Penelope she should make less because she has Aspergers?

    I thought that this blog was a place for intelligent discussion. Clearly, I was wrong.

    • Jessica says:

      @ EME – Girl, it seems we read two different posts-
      This post states a statistic: moms make less in the US.
      Then propose that MAYBE it’s because

      1) moms work less hours;
      2) by working less hours, moms do not have the chance to develop work/networking/organizational savvy-ness skills
      3) moms (and moms-to-be) tend to select lower-paying careers.

      You obviously didn’t meet none of these criteria,
      but if a) the working mom, b) the contributing father, c) the people with disabilities and d) Asperger’s people are working less hours; are not as competents as other employees; and chose a lower paying career-well, well, yes, they should be paid less.

  35. Shefaly says:

    Instead of arguing ad nauseum about salaries, perhaps a more constructive approach would be to consider and learn from how women with children are negotiating at work and at home to build families and strong careers, rather than arguing the salary question. See for instance: http://www.womensweb.in/item/mothers-on-a-new-track-part-2.html

  36. Chris M. says:

    I have a solution that I believe would prevent future working moms from feeling discriminated against and paid less:

    Choose your partner carefully. Make sure he (she?) is ready to accept half of responsibility of raising a family.

    If every working mom made these demands from their husbands (or partners), I’m pretty sure that things would start changing quickly.

    Men with children would be put into a position to also make choices that would decrease their earning power (because they would need extra time to spend with the kids, go to the grocery store, and do 1/2 of the parenting and housekeeping that is currently under the responsibility of the working mother). Any perceptions employers may have about a working mom being less reliable/productive/willing to stay late would go away because fathers would have the exact same issues and dependencies to worry about. Problem solved.

    • Cathy says:

      Chris, this comment is spot on. I chose a wonderful man for my husband who may not have the prestige of working a 80+ hour week in a white-collar job earning huge money. BUT, neither am I relentlessly stuck at home. When I went back to work two days a week, he negotiated a four-day week and does the childcare and school runs on a Weds. On Thurs he works a short day and I drop off, he picks up. It can be done.

  37. Helen says:

    Thank God I am in sales, which has a clear bottom line to show whether I am productive or not. I am a working mother who has had to take the sick days and early leaves for my child and I wholeheartedly agree that a bum in the seat does not neccesarily translate into productivity. For example, it was a “snow day” today, so I had to stay home. To my co-workers who made it into the office, it probably looked like I was having a great day off. In fact due to the wonders of my Blackberry and laptop, I was as productive, if not more so, than I would have been at the office. Yes, thank God there is a quantifiable way to tell whether I am working or not!

    As well, I agree with those who have said that if you are slacker before kids, then you’re a slacker after kids. I’d like to see productivity studies following full time working women (those that stay full time after kids) from before kids to after kids and beyond. Also, what happens when the kids are older and don’t need as much care? Hmmm…

  38. Leslie says:

    I think an employees pay has more to do with perception of their commitment to their job than to the number of hours they actually work. In my experience salaried employees typically do not fill out time sheets. Mothers with children tend to make more money if their supervisor is a woman who also has kids. I think a female supervisor who is a mother might have some empathy for others in similar circumstances and also realize that time management is more important than actual hours worked for some white collar jobs. Of course, this is only an observation based on my personal experience.

  39. Caitlin says:

    You seem to be using rubbery numbers.

    Equal pay for equal work is not about overall compensation, it’s about the rate for the time you work (either an hourly wage or a pro-rata salary). Someone who works 40 hours a week for $60,000 a year and someone who works 20 hours a week for $30,000 a year are, in fact, on the same rate for the job. The part-time person is NOT being paid less and no one is claiming that they are. On the other hand, there is evidence to show that the employer gets better value out of the part-time person because the job is not necessarily half the size so the part-time person might do more unpaid overtime.

    I also don’t agree that childless women are more qualified. Most women I know are having babies in their early 30s and already have solid qualifications and work history behind them. There comes a point when you don’t really get more qualified to do what you do, and part-time work is more than enough to keep you up to date in your field.

    I’m also puzzled by your definition of “part-time work”. Technically, it’s anything less than 40 hours a week – that doesn’t automatically mean it’s 20 hours a week.

    You say that 92% of mothers work less than 50 hours a week. But no one should be rewarded for working overtime – that just means that either a) they’re inefficient or b) the company hasn’t allocated sufficient resources. What are the statistics for how many childless women or men work less than 50 hours a week?

    The real issue is that looking after children is considered the woman’s responsibility. Until men start stepping up and taking responsibility for caring for their own children and companies start supporting that, inequalities will persist.

  40. Lindy says:

    This is a slippery slope from what is, to what ought be.

    I am an economist (and mother of two) and am familiar with all the data and observations referred to herewith. To observe that mothers are, on average, paid less is one thing. The title (and author) structures an argument that moms should be paid less BECAUSE moms are paid less. (It’s like saying “a minority group earns less, and therefore an individual of that minority should earn less”).

    This slips from descriptive to prescriptive in a way that is discriminatory.

    • Fred says:

      This would be an excellent point if Cathy had, in fact, argued that any individual mom should be paid less.

      Read the article again. This is not what she argues.

      Instead, she attempts to rebut the notion that because working mothers (as a group) are paid less, there is necessarily unfair discrimination at hand. The point of the article is to demonstrate that there are underlying drivers behind this group disparity that are not rooted in the fact that employers devalue working moms merely because they are working moms; but instead, they devalue them because being a working mom often comes with other traits that are a legitimate hindrance to productivity, and therefore merit less pay.

      The article concludes with, “So if working mothers work less, are less qualified and choose lower-paying careers than childless women, should they really get paid the same? I’m thinking no.”

      This is a group-wide statement, not an individual statement.

      • Lindy says:

        Yes, but the fact that this is a group-wide statement, as you put it, is what bothers me. She should just say “So if A working mother workS less, IS less qualified and chooseS lower-paying careers than A childless womAn, should SHE really get paid the same? I’m thinking no”.

  41. Wattsy says:

    I debated whether to comment on this post which is obviously designed to be controversial.
    However I can’t let the many fundamental errors and false conclusions stand.
    I point out the following.

    1. “Before you get up in arms about gap in pay between childless women and mothers, consider that maybe gap is fair.” The only payment system that is ‘fair’, is when two people in the same job, doing the same work, with the same experience, are paid the same.
    2. “Maybe moms get paid less because they work less.” This doesn’t make sense. Do you mean moms work less hours? In which case, your comment is irrelevant, as obviously overall pay will be less than someone who works more hours. Or do you mean moms are less productive? (Which you fail to prove.) It is a lazy construction, solely designed to be controversial.
    3. “Employers pay part time workers less, whether parents or not, and offer fewer benefits” (perhaps true – relevance?) “because part-time workers aren’t as cost-effective for companies to employ as full-time workers.” (Where is the evidence for this?)
    4. “Childless women are also significantly more likely to work overtime. The vast majority of mothers, 92 percent, work less than 50 hours a week.” These two sentences don’t logically follow. Perhaps you mean, “full time workers are more likely to work overtime, than part-time workers.” And, is this a problem? It’s pretty fundamental to be able to understand the difference between logging hours at a desk and productivity. (Plus, the study you refer to is nine years old.)
    5. “As a result of working less, working mothers are also less qualified than childless women.” No, no, no, no. no. Where to start with this statement? First, you have confused ‘qualified’ with ‘experienced’. (A working mother and a childless woman, each with the same degree or diploma, are equally ‘qualified’.) Secondly, assuming you meant “working mothers are less experienced than childless women”, this is more than a generalisation, it is so sweeping as to be illogical. Is a 45-year-old working mother who had her first child at 35, less experienced than a 27-year-old childless woman? According to your sentence, she is. What nonsense.
    6. “You don’t get the same amount of experience and expertise working 20 hours a week that you do working 40.” A non-sequitur. Of course you don’t. No-one’s saying you do. If person A is currently working 20 hours a week, and person B is currently working 40 hours a week, no inference can be drawn about their prior and cumulative respective levels of experience.
    7. “Should a woman who worked full time for 2 years and then part time for 3 get the same promotion as a woman who worked full time for 5 years?” Well, perhaps she should. What if the first woman is a brilliant achiever and the second woman a clock-watching, mistake-making plodder? What if the first woman is twice as productive in her 3 days a week as the second woman is in her 5 days?
    8. “Meanwhile, women who get pregnant, or intend to, are more likely to choose careers that pay less.” Choosing to work at McDonalds for minimum wage has nothing to do with equal pay for equal work.
    9. At the end of the piece you realise you have not addressed the central issue of productivity. So you throw this in “…studies have shown female doctors are less productive than male doctors.” (Actually, that’s one study.) And sorry, although the headline of the article posits that female doctors are less productive, the study results don’t back this up. In fact, “The authors of the study appeared to be divided…over the explanation for their findings.” So, in short, you have not demonstrated anything about productivity.
    10. “So if working mothers work less, (not relevant) are less qualified (not proven) and choose lower-paying careers than childless women, (not relevant) should they really get paid the same? I’m thinking no.” I’m thinking, that one equally qualified and experienced person, doing the same work in the same field as another equally qualified and experienced person, should be paid the same.

    Penelope, you fell for the controversial nature of this when it was ‘pitched’ to you and then failed in your quality control. Lift your game. Women didn’t chain themselves to the barricades to have to read this ill-informed nonsense.

    • dana says:

      Very well said! Thank you!

    • Tina says:

      I was all ready to craft a response to this article, and now find that you have said brilliantly everything I would have wanted to say. Thank you for such a well thought out response!

    • Dee says:

      Regarding qualification – What women lack is organizational savvy-ness. Just because you have the same experience and education doesn’t give you the ability to get things done.
      So, even if a working mom is uber-productive, if she is only concentrating in doing tasks and doesn’t know who-is-who, and people don’t know her, you bet she will be lower paid than a her childless peer.

    • Arachna says:

      Yes!

    • Summer says:

      Oh my god, THANK YOU

  42. Reva Seth says:

    Although I’m in the group that feels results should matter more than when and how you work, this is an interesting perspective. I

    ‘m working on a book based on the success stories of women who, counter to the story that we usually hear, actually achieved greater career success after having a family. If any of the moms who have responded to this article are interested in getting in touch to share their experiences or stories, I would love to hear from you. You can find out more at:www.themomshift.com or I’m on Twitter @RevaSeth

  43. LB says:

    What a hornet’s nest. I managed a work group that included singles, marrieds and parents. Parents I managed were always the first to ask for premium time off, i.e., days after Thanksgiving, the eves, etc., to turn down pleas to stay late in a crisis, and to say no to occasional weekend duty. I even had a male subordinate forward me emails from his wife explaining why he could not help out. I observed my employees with kids talking to spouses about kid problems while at work, scheduling dentist appointments, working out pick-up schedules for softball games, and shopping around the Girl Scout cookie order forms. If I expressed even a hint of lack of understanding, I was labeled an anti-family monster. Meantime, my single or childless employees seethed with resentment. They’re sick of hearing it. I admire and respect people who work and have kids. But some of these arguments just don’t cut it in the real world.

    • Writer Vixen says:

      Hornet’s nest indeed! I’ve often been one of the seething co-workers who sacrificed personal time to pick up the slack for parents — almost always women — who had no qualms about sharing the credit on project after shirking the most demanding aspects of the work.

      It’s hard to tell if this is just my own experience, but it SEEMS like it’s getting better as I personally see more men who are becoming fathers today in their mid-30’s and are actually demanding to be more actively involved parents. I do believe that one of the most destructive lies women have bought into over the past 35-40 years is the idea that you can have it all. It’s a concept that ignores the reality of trade-offs and consequences in the choices we make.

      If we stop trying to “have it all, all at once” then maybe we can begin having conversations about the life choices involved in having children, and parents of both sexes can get real about the trade-offs. But currently, the vast majority of working professional moms are so shrilly adamant that their 35-40 hours/week are equivalent to the 60 hours worked by their colleagues, because they’re terrified of being irrelevant.

      But until they get honest with themselves about the true costs of having children — financial and otherwise — they will continue to feel obligated to defend themselves with soft logic about “productivity vs. time at a desk.”

      we’re going to keep going around about this.

  44. michael says:

    Great post. I hope Penelope reads it.

  45. Bob says:

    “I have a solution that I believe would prevent future working moms from feeling discriminated against and paid less:
    Choose your partner carefully. Make sure he (she?) is ready to accept half of responsibility of raising a family.
    If every working mom made these demands from their husbands (or partners), I’m pretty sure that things would start changing quickly.”

    And as a man, my solution is to choose a female partner who doesn’t want kids, as to avoid all this mess in the first place.

    No kids, no fuss. Everyone makes lots of money and we’ll all happy. At least until the lonely retirement years, but then again, you can always hang out with the other childless retirees.

    • Chris M. says:

      Bob, you were commenting on my comment, and I don’t disagree with your “other version”. Mine was for people who want kids; yours is for people like me, part of a dual income, no kids couple. I am happy with my choice, and both my husband and I earn 6-figure incomes.

  46. Richa says:

    Er, its seems this post just touched the tip of the iceberg and jumped to conclusions.

    You overlook the key factor: what about working moms who work full time ie 50 hrs per week, are equally qualified, if not more; and as efficient etc etc

    ie all other things being equal, why should working mothers be paid less that working fathers or working women without kids?

    Fact is that it happens. Quite often.

  47. Mitch says:

    what a stupid, ignornant post. kind of like from a scientist, correct in analysis but out of touch with the social implications. pls dont write again

  48. Naomi says:

    “So if working mothers work less, are less qualified and choose lower-paying careers than childless women, should they really get paid the same? I’m thinking no.”

    According to your logic, I could also say…

    “So if [insert your oppressed group here] are statistically less educated, poorer, and perform worse than [insert your majority group here] on [insert your standardized test], do they really deserve to receive “preferential treatment”? I’m thinking no.”

    Why don’t you ask yourself – whose is responsible for such gaps in the first place?

  49. Dee says:

    @ Naomi – who is responsible for such gaps? The women who make the choice, that’s who.
    We need to take responsibility for our decisions. And it’s really tiring to use the victim card for women who choose to a) take the mommy track, and b) do not delegate responsibilities to the husbands.

    • Naomi says:

      @Dee – it’s not the women who make these choices that are responsible, it’s the men who won’t share responsibilities that are at fault.

      If you have a child, you need to take child leave, you need to sacrifice, you need to leave work early sometimes, you need to forgo that promotion if that’s what it takes to spend more time with your child. And by you, I mean mom and dad.

      • Jessica says:

        And that’s exactly my point, Naomi. If there are men who do not share responsibilities, is because there are women who allow it. And then women play the victim card.

        Same for single moms. We need to be responsible with our decisions, that’s all.

  50. Jenn says:

    Few working moms I know care about making equal pay to men, and most find it very stressful that they cannot always do the late nights or have child care emergencies. If we could get professional part-time jobs that use our education and skills and allow for returning to full-time later, I don’t think you would hear a lot of bitching from the working mom set. Most of us recognize we can’t do it all, we’d just prefer to contribute, be respected/compensated at an amount equivalent to our contribution, and perhaps have 30 minutes a day to relax.

    Yes, the spousal work sharing issue is a big one. Let me know when someone solves that.

In Archive