Equal Pay Act Anniversary Reminds Us Mommy Penalty is Real

coinsFifty years ago today President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act prohibiting “discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers.” So, are you earning your fair share? If you’re a white woman, you may not yet be at parity, but you’re getting closer. If you’re a woman of color, you’ve got a ways to go. And if you’re a mother, you probably wish the paper Kennedy signed had called for an end to discrimination on account of motherhood.

On June 10, 1963, women earned, on average, 59 cents for every dollar a man earned. Today they earn closer to 80 cents. African American women earn 36 percent less than white men earn and Latinas earn only 45 percent.  And mothers, according to new analysis, perhaps face the greatest gap of all.

Shelley J. Correll, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University writes, “When we compare the earnings of mothers and childless women who work in the same types of jobs, have the same level of education, have the same amount of experience and are equal on a host of other dimensions, mothers still earn five percent lower hourly wages per child.”

Correll also notes that research supports the idea that many employers believe ”mothers are less committed to their jobs, so they are less willing to hire mothers into good jobs or to offer them high salaries.” These employers are missing the boat. And as a result, mothers, and their families, are missing out too.

According to the Council on Contemporary Families, which convened an online symposium on the topic of the wage gap, in 1963 only seven percent of wives out earned their spouses. Today, twenty-eight percent do. Women make up almost half of today’s workforce, and we know from the recent data reported by Pew Research, they are the sole or primary breadwinners in forty percent of all households with children under the age of 18. American families are relying on mom’s paycheck.

To think that these breadwinners aren’t committed to their jobs is just wrong. While researching my book and in my daily life, I’ve encountered hundreds of breadwinning mothers. These women understand the value of a dollar and know just how far they need to stretch their paychecks to cover groceries bills, mortgage and rent, heating and electric charges, and tuition. And if they’re going to sandwich a job in between they’re daily caregiving and family responsibilities, they want their work to be meaningful and rewarding. They show up at work ready to make a contribution despite the fact they still bear most of the responsibility for caregiving and for housework.

Savvy employers would be better served to examine their own commitments, before they question the commitment of the mothers they employee. Are they structured to support working parents? Do they offer backup day care, telecommuting, flex time, paid sick leave and fair pay?

Mothers are committed to work. It’s time work commits to mothers.


Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cawood/4469120382/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *