An interesting article over at fortune.com that for the first time shows research that indicates moms (compared with childless women and men) are less likely to get hired and if hired, are likely to make less money. The study was presented by two Cornell University sociologists, Shelley J. Correll and Stephen Benard, who presented a paper called “Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty?” at an American Sociological Society meeting in Philadelphia in August
Correll, an associate professor of sociology, and Benard, a graduate student, conducted an experiment wherein 84 men and 108 women Cornell undergraduates were asked to evaluate several female candidates for the same mid-level management position. All of the hypothetical applicants were equally qualified, with strong success in their previous jobs. The only difference: Some candidates’ profiles noted in passing that they had children and were active in parent-teacher associations, while the other candidates’ profiles said nothing about children. The result: The student evaluators said they would hire 84% of the women without children, but only 47% of the mothers. (In case you’re wondering, the female evaluators were no more kindly disposed toward the moms than were their male peers.) What’s more, the gap in starting pay between mothers and childless women averaged $11,000. “In fact, the more children a mother was described as having, the lower the salary that the test subjects said they would offer,” notes Correll. “Other studies have shown that the reverse is true for men. The more children they have, the higher the salary offers they receive.”
What’s going on here? “We’re not saying that employers discriminate against mothers because they don’t like them,” Correll says. “Motherhood is a role held in very high esteem in our society. However, whether we realize it, consciously or not, our cultural ideal of motherhood is that of a mother who will devote herself first and foremost to her kids, 24/7 if necessary. So, to many people, motherhood and a career–especially in a company that also demands 24/7 of its employees–are seen as just not compatible. Fatherhood, on the other hand, presents no such dilemma, since traditionally fathers have been less involved with raising kids and more expected to be primary breadwinners.” Ah.
Being a white male, I would have probably would have given little thought to this 15 years ago, but having lived in Japan for a number of years where similar instances occurred toward me, I can feel for all mothers faced with this situation. Unfortunately I don’t have a solution for it beyond education which will take years to change if the education is ever implemented.