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“The Motherhood Penalty”: Gender Discrimination At Work

Posted by Giovanna A. D'Orazio | Sep 09, 2014 | 0 Comments

A new study from a University of Massachusetts professor, highlighted by the New York Times, confirms what we at D'Orazio Peterson see and experience on a daily basis—that women with children are often penalized in the workplace, while men are rewarded.

The study observed that while men with children are viewed as more “stable”, and therefore more likely to focus on their work and providing for their family, women with children are not, and are instead often viewed as being distracted after having children, and less reliable.

The perceptions are reflected in the statistics—which showed that while men earned an average of a 6% pay increase after having children, women's pay decreased 4%. Even more enlightening was that part of the study suggesting that while unmarried women without children earned, on average, $0.96 for every dollar that their male counterparts earned, married mothers earned only $0.76 for every dollar.

The notable exception in the study were those women earning the most money: women in the top 10% of earners did not lose income after having children, and those in the top 5% actually increased their salaries.

The problem, of course, is that most women, in particular young women with children, are not in the top 10% earning bracket. They are employed instead as teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, servers, store clerks, insurance reps, or any of the other thousands of positions that are filled by the great majority of the employed. And, of course, those not falling within the top 10% of earners are those who can least afford the pay reduction, demotion or in some instances termination that follows childbirth.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Pregnancy Discrimination Act exist to protect women (and men, in some instances) from workplace discrimination as a result of child or family needs. Unlike many employment laws, these statutes have teeth—they are protective of Plaintiffs. The only way to change the statistics, however, is for women who are subjected to this type of discrimination to come forward and shine a light on the type of conduct that exists in workplaces throughout the United States. Studies like this one are a good place to start.

If you have questions about discrimination against women in the workplace, give us a call at 518-308-8339. We're experienced exmployment attorneys serving all of New York from our Saratoga Springs office.

  Scott Peterson Scott by Scott Peterson | | Connect with me:

Representing plaintiffs in employment and serious injury matters.

About the Author

Giovanna A. D'Orazio

Giovanna has experience litigating, among other things, commercial, general civil, employment, land use and personal injury matters in New York State and federal courts. Giovanna focuses her practice on plaintiff's employment and personal injury matters, with a particular interest in women's rights and employment discrimination and harassment.

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