Women in the workplace contend with `Mommy Wage Gap'

Employed mothers may earn 3% to 10% less for each child

August 24, 2005|By Carol Kleiman | Carol Kleiman,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

You've heard of the "Mommy Track" - that very slow and discriminatory career path that many employers put female workers on if the women have children. Well, now there's another entry to the "Mommy" category, and it's a telling one.

The newest term is the "Mommy Wage Gap," and it addresses the discrepancy between what employed mothers and other women earn.

According to Heather Boushey, an economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, women with children "earn from 3 to 10 percent less per child compared to employed women without children."

Boushey adds that when the figures are further broken down, "there is a bigger penalty for women with children for their second child than for their first."

Wage differential

For the first child a woman has, the wage differential in comparison to nonmothers is from 2 percent to 10 percent less. For the second child, the gap is from 4 percent to 16 percent less than for women with no children.

The economist, who recently was part of a roundtable discussion of the "Mommy Wage Gap," also points out that the gender wage gap between men and all women, whether or not they're mothers, remains a problem.

"In 2003, the ratio of women's to men's pay for year-round, full-time U.S. workers stood at 75.5 percent - lower than where it had been in 2002 or 2001," Boushey said.

Her organization is working to devise on-target policy solutions to narrow all the existing "gaps" - especially the Mommy Wage Gap.

Most people are aware that employed mothers have a tough time trying to find balance in their lives. But there's another gender category involved in the struggle: employed fathers.

A recent survey of 546 working adults by Ajilon Professional Staffing shows that "American workers are divided as to which parent has to work harder to achieve work/life balance."

And the task has not gotten easier, even though the concept of trying to find a happy medium between personal and professional responsibilities has been more widespread in the public arena.

According to Ajilon, whose North American headquarters is in Saddle Brook, N.J., "62 percent of the men and 66 percent of the women agree that work/life balance is just as hard or not any easier to achieve compared to five years ago."

And while women continue to face hardships when they have children - because they are expected to leave their jobs to take care of the children or are perceived to be not as responsible professionally as they are personally to their families - men, too, have some barriers to overcome, according to the survey.

The men report they are "less likely to discuss work/life balance issues [at their jobs] because they don't want to seem less career-oriented or driven [than other men]."

More flexibility

Neil Lebovitz, president and chief operating officer of Ajilon, remains optimistic that things are getting better for men.

"Companies are recognizing that working fathers today need more work/life balance and are finding ... ways to provide them with the flexibility they need," the executive said.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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