Motherhood penalty causes gender pay disparity

By Jack Tuckner, Esq.

You are a woman, you are less than a man for performing comparable works, chances are, that’s the average – 79 cents in the United States for every one dollar that a man earns for performing work requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility in general. Why is that? It’s not just any longer because of sex discrimination: “We are not hiring women,” “No women allowed,” “You can’t perform this job” – that has diminished substantially over the last few decades. Yet the gender pay gap remains stubbornly so. Why is that? Well, according to numerous studies internationally, and a recent study by a Harvard economist named Claudia Golden, the pay gap exists because of the motherhood penalty, because of the Mommy Track, because women who have children earn substantially less than women who never have children, whereas men who (don’t) have children see no diminution in their pay versus men who have children. It’s as simple as that. Why?

Jack Tuckner, Esq

Many different reasons – women take on way more of the responsibilities of obviously bearing a child, of being out on maternity leave, a big chunk of time that women aren’t at work after the baby is born, child illness, child doctor’s appointments, spending time with the children, housekeeping, work that women still do the lion’s share of, and companies reward people who work mad hours, they don’t reward people who need flexibility, and those are women in their 20s and 30s in the prime child-bearing years, when the steep decline in earnings occurs. It’s simple: It’s the motherhood penalty.

Now, changing societal and cultural mores, and the way business with the prime profit motive goes about its existence – that will take a whole lot more than we can figure out in this short video. But one thing that we can control, one thing i know for sure is that pregnancy discrimination which is an aspect of sex and gender discrimination is completely illegal. And when you are working, and first experience the winds of the animosity that your employer, your company starts exhibiting, whether subtly or not, because you’re having a baby and your time to see your OB, to be out on maternity leave, to have morning sickness, to go home at night and to not go out and drink with the clients, to spend time with self-care, for yourself or your baby, is not in your company’s best profit margin interests. And they penalize you for that, it happens all the time, everyday.

When you experience that, oppose it, complain about it, put it in writing, because it’s illegal, because under federal law, and your state’s anti-discrimination statute, your company without question is not permitted to treat you differently, to treat you worse, just because you’re pregnant, because you need time to take care of yourself and your unborn child, because you need time to recover from childbirth, because you need time during the day to express milk, for your baby after your maternity leave – that’s all covered. And if your employer is treating you badly, telling you that your success curve has now gone from straight up to a downward trajectory, because you chose to have a baby, you want to make sure that you are giving your company the chance, the opportunity to realize that what they’re doing is sex and pregnancy and disability discrimination, and to turn that around, because if they don’t turn it around and you’ve documented it, you will at least be in a position to hold your employer accountable, to teach them a lesson, to make sure that their sexist, discriminatory practices don’t affect all the women who’ll come after you.

And most importantly, because you are still working, once you complain about discrimination, your employer is not permitted to treat you worse just because you are now holding them accountable, holding their feet to the fire – that’s illegal backlash known as retaliation under the various statues that apply. So, you’d want to make sure that you are giving them a chance to see your way, to fix it, to not be sexist, to show the flexibility that the law now requires your company to show to you once you’re pregnant until you come back, through when you come back from maternity leave. Because if your company doesn’t correct what they are doing that is discriminatory toward you as a result of your pregnancy, which is inseparable from who you are as a woman obviously, you wanna be in a position where they would have to make you happy in the separation. If you have to get a divorce from your company, you want to be able to leave with your head held high, and your shoulders squared. And if you need assistance, with your particular sex-based workplace challenge, particularly, as it relates to pregnancy, give us a call at Women’s Rights at the Workplace, Tuckner, Sipser. I’m Jack Tuckner. The consultation is free of charge, and of course in complete confidence, and we’ll help empower you brainstorm together about how you can turn around the situation which seems bleak at the moment.