A recently-released study conducted by the University of New Mexico shows that working moms make up to 14 percent less in wages than do other working women. While we have long known about the wage gap between men and women, and although there have long been cases of discrimination towards mothers in the workplace, this study reflects the first documentation of a pay disparity in recent decades.
The study excluded stay-at-home moms and focused in on women who hold jobs and have children, even if these children are of middle school or high school age. The findings show that the wage gap between moms and other women falls somewhere in the 7 to 14 percent range. Any number within that zone would qualify as statistically significant.
How can we explain this disparity? Unless women without kids are simply donating eggs and profiting in that regard, there must be some outside factor at work. Does the wage gap arise out of self-selection, in that moms choose to pursue lower-paying careers so that they can devote more time and energy to their kids? Does it come out of a bias against pregnant women or a belief that a mother won’t be able to handle a high paying job or a demanding promotion? Or is something else going on altogether?
The researchers at the University of New Mexico asked themselves all these questions and structured their models to address each one. The result? Almost every variable considered had a positive impact of some sort on the overall equation. This means that, yes, moms do self-select to a degree and choose jobs that pay less. And yes, a subtle bias against working moms prompts hiring managers to pass them over for jobs and promotions, on either a conscious or subconscious level. Other factors involved include: working moms are more likely to get a strong second income from their husbands, childless women get promoted faster because they don’t take maternity leaves, and the lack of benefits offered by part-time work makes it a poor substitute for full-time employment, even on a relative scale.
For the sake of working moms and society as a whole, we can only hope that this wage gap narrows over time. Just as with the gap between male and female workers, it has been a long time coming.
This is a Guest Post written by Sam Peters, who enjoys writing about career and job related topics.