“One of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children. “ So begins a recent New York Times article that spawned a wave of buzz and controversy in the media (“The Motherhood Penalty vs. The Fatherhood Bonus). The article is based on research that has shown that women’s’ earnings decrease by 4% for each child that they have, while men’s wages increase by 6% for each child that they have.
How is this possible in the 21st century, you may be thinking? In the age of Sheryl Sandberg and the “Lean In” movement? The issue is not whether or not mothers are equally as competent as fathers in the workplace – without question, men and women have equal talent and skills in a professional setting. The crux of the issue is that, in the mind of our American culture, a man’s role is to be the breadwinner, and a woman’s role is to be the caregiver. And when it comes to a working mother’s place in corporate America, as much as it pains me to say it, perception is reality.
In 2010, Sheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook gave the TED Talk “Why we have too few Women Leaders”. In that talk, she pointed out that, “If a woman and a man work full-time and have a child, the woman does twice the amount of housework the man does, and the woman does three times the amount of childcare the man does.” So in the mind of a hiring manager, when a woman has a baby in daycare, and that baby gets sick, the woman is the one who will more typically leave work to pick up the child, making the woman a less attractive hire than a man. Is this reality? Not necessarily. But take that train of thought, multiply it across every hiring manager in America, and you get the pay disparity that this article describes.
So, how does a working mother react to this? First, if the issue is one of perception, mothers can start changing that perception through your actions. For instance, set up backup childcare and backup-to-the-backup childcare so that you have help when daycare calls you to pick up your child who is running a fever and you have a meeting with out-of-town clients.
Then, there is the opposite side of the spectrum – entrepreneurship. We are blessed to be living in an era where it is so easy to start a business. Yes, it can be scary, especially if your family depends on a certain amount of income from your job to pay the bills. But ultimately, running one’s own business gives a woman the freedom to work and keep her family as the priority – and after all, shouldn’t our families take priority over our careers?
Michelle Walters is the Owner of Suburban Denver Properties, a residential real estate brokerage and investment firm. If you are looking to buy, sell, or invest in real estate you can find her at www.SuburbanDenverProperties.com or on Twitter: @mwalters2001