"Even women who continue to work full-time after becoming mothers are at an economic disadvantage. Women experience a motherhood wage penalty that cannot be explained by work experience, education, and other factors that are typically associated with one’s earnings. When researchers take into account differences related to earnings such as job experience, educational attainment, and previous part-time employment, they find that mothers receive a 4% wage penalty for the first child and a 12% penalty for each additional child.

Why should mothers earn less, even after differences in work histories and educational attainment are taken into account? Research suggests that mothers earn less because the stereotypes associated with motherhood cause them to be perceived as less capable in the workplace and less worthy of raises and promotions. Good mothers are considered to be nurturing, always available for their children, willing to place their children’s welfare above their own, and continually directing their time and attention to their children. Although research shows that employed mothers are no less committed to their work than are other employees, they suffer economic losses because of the expectation that mothers cannot be fully committed to both work and family.

In other words, their performance, contributions, and effort are less favorably perceived simply because the role of mother is viewed as incompatible with the role of the ideal worker (in which one is expected to be available at all times for work). In her book Opting Out?, sociologist Pamela Stone reveals that many women are “pushed” out when they are given less challenging work or fewer opportunities because of the perception that having children rendered them less committed to career advancement or made them “flight risks.”

In contrast, fatherhood is typically perceived as increasing a man’s commitment to work because his family responsibilities indicate he will be more devoted to work in order to fulfill his duties as a “good provider.” In fact, in contrast to the motherhood wage penalty, research indicates men’s wages increase by 9% with the birth of their first child. Moreover, in comparison to childless men, fathers are viewed as more committed to their work and are offered higher starting salaries."
Mariko Lin Chang, Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It

Notes

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