Join Me: Get Mad about Mom-Dad Pay Gap

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Allison Stevens(WOMENSENEWS)–How far into 2012 must women work to catch up with what men earned in 2011?

The answer varies widely and often depends on whether the women have children.

On average, women’s wages caught up with men’s on April 17, meaning there’s a 23-percent gap, or 77 cents to the male dollar.

Women in Wyoming, the lowest-ranking state, will have to wait longer for equity. Their pay gap is 36 percent, or just 64 cents on the male dollar, according to the Washington-based National Partnership for Women and Families. African American women will have to wait longer still, since they earn 62 percent. For Latinas, earning 54 percent, the wait is longer yet. In some states, women of color earn less than half as their male counterparts.

Child-free women, on the other hand, are closing in on pay equity. They make 90 cents to a man’s dollar, according to Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO and executive director of MomsRising, an advocacy group in San Francisco.

By contrast, women with children make only 73 cents on the man’s dollar, and single mothers make about 60 cents for every dollar paid to a man, Rowe-Finkbeiner said in a recent blog post.

For women under 35, the pay gap between mothers and child-free women is actually wider than the gap between men and women, according to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C.

Where’s the Outrage?

I applaud efforts to draw attention to pay inequities between men and women. An anti-discrimination law was passed nearly 50 years ago, and it’s high time we honored it. But where’s the outrage over the motherhood penalty?

Shelley Correll, associate professor of sociology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., sees bias at work here. Mothers are considered less committed to their careers and less competent than other workers, she says, which can contribute to lower salaries and employment discrimination in hiring and promotion.

She and Stephen Benard, a professor of sociology at Indiana University, have conducted groundbreaking research into the wage gap between women with and without children. They found that mothers are offered $11,000 less in starting salaries than non-mothers with equal resumes and experience. Imagine how many months of rent that would cover for all those moms and their families?

Welcome to the motherhood penalty.

The cumulative financial effects of the motherhood penalty pile up over the course of a lifetime, Benard said at a recent hearing held by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Simply being a mother is a “significant risk factor for poverty,” he added.

While women suffer penalties for having children, men get a bonus.

Fathers were offered $6,000 more in starting salaries than men without children who had equal resumes and experiences, Correll and Benard found.

Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office found that fathers were more likely than mothers to become managers in 12 out of 13 major industries.

So let me get this straight: We still do most of the hard caregiving work, and they get more pay and better jobs for it?

How’s that for fair?

Moms Must Be More Punctual

Here’s more: Women with children are–for some inexplicable reason–held to stricter standards of punctuality than women without children, Benard said. Fathers, incredibly, are actually given more leeway to arrive late to work than men without children.

Fathers are also viewed as more committed to their careers than men without children, another feather in the fatherhood cap. “It may be the case that having children leads evaluators to view men as more dependable, and women as less dependable,” Benard said.

More than 8 out of 10 women are mothers by the time they are 44 years old, and a majority of us are in the paid work force. We deserve and desperately need fair pay.

We need to band together to narrow the motherhood gap, especially during difficult economic times like these, so we can better support ourselves and our families.

“When I think about moving the gender revolution forward, part of what I think has to be done is to find better ways to not have family things limiting women’s careers,” Correll said. “We’re sort of stuck in the mud. We really need to get behind and push to move forward.”

Rowe-Finkbeiner noted in a recent blog post that “the eyes of the nation are focused on moms” on the heels of Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen’s foot-in-mouth comment about Ann Romney, a stay-at-home mother of five boys, “never worked a day in her life.”

As the mother of only two boys, I have to agree that those words were–as Rosen herself has conceded–“poorly chosen.”

Not only do some mothers deserve more equitable pay when they’re out of the house, many also need more consideration for staying home with their youngsters, particularly if they’re single parents without a partner to help handle the diapers and tantrums.

That’s why we ought to get behind a bill that would amend current law that requires mothers to work in the paid labor force to receive federal welfare subsidies. The Women’s Option to Raise Kids (WORK) Act would allow mothers to continue receiving benefits while caring for children ages 3 and under.

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Mothers–whether paid or unpaid–work hard. Wherever we are, we don’t need penalties placed in our way.

Allison Stevens is a writer in Washington, D.C. She writes for a variety of publications and outlets, including organizations that work on behalf of women’s rights.


2 thoughts on “Join Me: Get Mad about Mom-Dad Pay Gap

  1. I know it is only one day since Ms. Stevens asked for readers to join her in outrage, but, I am surprised that no one has yet commented here – in outrage! I suppose it is because we intuitively know that we are being discriminated against in wages in all these ways, we see it daily, we live it, we watch as our friends and family live it. We feel helpless to keep working at this as it may cost us the very gains we have made. It certainly costs us respect from employers who think we are greedy to want a little more, to want a little recognition for our work and our abilities, to not see men grandly posing in their success while we know a woman has given up much for that to happen.
    Yes, I am outraged, I have been quietly and continuously outraged for about 50 years, but, that has not helped this situation much. Men set out to keep us less able than themselves for the purpose of their freedom to accomplish without female competition, especially as much of their intent IS to control as many women as possible, in as many ways as possible. We experience it in schools and universities as students and staff, at work everywhere, and often, still, at home where the man ‘needs’ a female at home to care for all the boring household work that would take them away from their striving against other male competitors. It is a contest for such men, not a working together to make a strong family or a caring world. The idea that both members of the couple care for the children still is used to show what a good man the male is, while what an irresponsible woman the female is, to not take care of her children ‘full-time’. For those women who do take care of their children ‘full-time’, while the male is almost absent from home, in the long-term of their lives, these women are losing badly, whether they know that or not, and their children may or may not benefit as human beings, from their choice. It is a fallacy to believe that it is the mother’s job to be ‘the’ home parent. In a rural life, all are at home, that is the traditional model upon which our fuzzy idea of parenting is based. Now, we still try to keep that by turning the mother into a kind of farm animal, while everyone else in the house becomes a modern person. For the man in that picture, the woman ‘farm animal’ is one of the key prizes of his life, and to be able to keep her there is part of his life job and thus why he gets the big dollars.
    This results in a lack of serious good conscience in the male working world, because if they really think about what they are doing to their wives and the model they are showing to their children, they would not be able to live with themselves. That would result in their losing their high paying job, and few want the consequences of a life of conscience. So we have the television programs of “the wives of …”, where women are encouraged to be ridiculous and high spending, a form of urban farm animal, who does not have any greater conscience than her husband. The opposite urban farm animal female is the mother who does all the housework, cares for and drives all the children, who never wants anything for herself, and who goes to church and does all the volunteer work while her husband is a director or elder making the church decisions about the women and children whom they do not really know at all.
    The children certainly do lose as human beings in these scenarios. The boys learn to inherently be bullies to women and children, while believing that there is some sort of bully out there, not themselves, who is the real bully. Girls learn helplessness in relationships and a strong work ethic in subservience. Clothing and toys today have never been more sex different, with sturdy bully clothing and toys for boys and not as well made cute sexy clothing and toys for girls.
    While women have more rights than we used to have, there IS an undercurrent that is seriously working against us.
    Thanks for bringing the stats of this to our attention, Ms Stevens.