Newsflash: Mothering and the workplace are at odds.

A new study has found that childless women succeed more in the workplace than women with children. This confirms the reality that there is an undo burden put on women in child-rearing, a burden that translates to the workplace as an obstacle. Where is the study that compares the work place success rate of men with children? It doesn’t exist because it is assumed that women do all the child-rearing, so even if a man has a child, he can comfortably advance in his career.

This attitude is changing slowly as everyone has to work more in general now, regardless of gender, and as some jobs give men leaves of absence and as households (slowly) become more equitable. I know lots of couples that (at least try) and share responsibilities. But the women that are used as examples in this article are definitely of the generation where the assumption that all child-rearing was done by the woman held true and certainly impacted how much you could succeed in your career. In most corporate work places if you look at who is in charge, men that are in charge often have families at home, whereas women have had to sacrifice having a family for their career. It is a double standard that is embedded in the core of how the workplace is structured.

The video is a good watch. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeine from MomsRising.org gives some tips on how to stay in touch with the professional world during maternal leave, along with calling our work place policies on maternal leave antiquated.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted August 24, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m confused about something in the video, at the beginning they have the interviewer giving an introduction on the subject matter and she says women without children make the same as men. When i heard that i was thinking it was a bit off, because from the statistics i’ve looked up, they didn’t make exactly the same but the gap was smaller. Then the woman being interviewed said women without children make 90 cents to every man’s dollar. So, i’m assuming that the woman being interviewed was right? And i’m also assuming in this gap between women without children and men that the man may have a kid or not.

    It astounds me that so many people look over the issues of the pay gap like they don’t exist simply because women are the ones to give birth to the child. All the pay inequity is somehow the woman’s fault with these people because she can choose to have kids or choose a career. And that’s not unfair to a lot of people? I have to choose, but the father of my hypothetical child doesn’t and that’s okay? It’s not discrimination? And obviously that argument can’t be made perfectly even if you do think the parenting thing isn’t about gender, since women without children still don’t make the same amount as men. Another important issue is harassment from coworkers, especially with the “manly” jobs, even if you earn as much money you can still be disrespected in the workplace because of gender.

  2. Posted August 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    In terms of the high-value “professional” careers in the US, the idea of part-time and full-time have notable problems in terms of work week length. If you want to work full-time in such a career, you can’t just work 40 hours a week. Your mileage can vary, but it is much more likely you are working in the ballpark of 60 hours a week. If you want to work less than that, you pretty much have to settle for a part-time job where you work upwards of 30 hours a week with limited or no benefits.

    What makes this so problematic is that it is prohibitively difficult even for a two-parent household to (1) have children, (2) get benefits, and (3) have both parents take on equal workloads. Two parents working 60 hours a week simply leaves the parents little time to either attend to the children and spend time with each other. If both parents work part-time, it usually leaves the family without full benefits and without advancement opportunities. The compromise that is often made is for one parent to work full-time and for the other to work part-time, but this creates inequality within the household and in work advancement (and while it is beside the more general problem, it is the woman who is more likely to sacrifice the career).

    While maternity leave and FMLA-type circumstances necessarily require additional measures to protect those who make the sacrifices to raise children, the basic workweek structure in professional careers needs some looking over. Employers generally have to provide benefits to “professional” workers because they work 40 hours a week, but there is no compensation of further benefits or overtime for working more than 40 hours. As such, these employers are rewarded for working their full-time employees harder rather than hiring more full-time people that need benefits. We need a compensation structure that allows professional to work a more manageable load of ~40 hours so they can tend to their personal and family needs without jeopardizing their career or giving in to inequality. To achieve this goal, it is essential that our laws change the math so that employers are in better position to “do the right thing.” This would probably require a radical rethink of how the US looks at benefits — like maybe adopting a single payer system, so employers won’t hire and work their staff in such a way that minimizes the number of people who earn benefits.

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