The Motherhood Penalty

I’ve had people tell me, to my face, that given the choice between equally-qualified male and female candidates for a job, they would always select the male candidate. The reason? Predictably, that the woman is more likely to take parental leave and to be the primary caregiver for her children than the man.

It isn’t shocking to me that men or women responsible for hiring personnel might think this way. But, it is unfortunate – no woman on earth can opt for her male partner to carry, give birth to, or breastfeed their babies. So, generally speaking, if a woman wishes to have children, she has to sit in the motherhood penalty box. And, just because there are laws to prevent discrimination against mothers in the workplace, doesn’t mean the laws are working.

But, as Shelley Correll of Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research describes in this video, we’re not only dealing with stereotypes of men versus women, but also of mothers versus childless women. And, surprisingly, the stereotype goes so far as to say that mothers are less competent in their work than childless women. The tangible result? A pay gap between the two groups of women – an even bigger gap than the one between the men and the women.

Consider my interest piqued, Shelley Correll.


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