A University of New Mexico study found that mothers earn a minimum of 14% less than women with no children, even though females represent nearly half of the current United States workforce. At least three-fourths of women in American have children by the time they are 44. This means that a large percentage of working mothers in the United States will experience some level of workplace discrimination during their careers. While we would hope that the struggles women have faced through the last few decades in the workplace would have united them, this doesn’t always appear to be the case.
Younger women with no children may use the fact that other women in the company have children in order to get ahead while older women with grown children seem to have little patience with younger mothers attempting to move up the corporate ladder while raising a family. In fact, in many cases senior female managers can be even harder on the working moms in the company in an effort to “prove” themselves or show they do not allow extra flexibility to working moms. Conversely, older female workers may actually harbor bitter feelings when they see allowances being made for today’s mothers that were not offered to them years ago when they were working and raising their own children. These attitudes can escalate into blatant workplace discrimination for working moms. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission counsels employers to avoid assuming that women with children are less committed or less capable than their child-free counterparts, yet this caution is not always heeded.
Today, employment discrimination based on caregiving responsibilities—whether for children or aging parents—is called Family Responsibilities Discrimination and can encompass married or single women, married or single men, parents of young children and workers who have the responsibility of caring for elderly or ill parents or spouses. Even though many states do not have a specific statute on the books to prohibit family responsibilities discrimination, the state courts nonetheless have ruled that this type of discrimination is illegal. When a mother—or father—of young children or a pregnant woman is not promoted or is penalized for taking time off to deal with family responsibilities, then discrimination has occurred. Women with children are the most likely group to experience Family Responsibilities Discrimination—they are nearly 80% less likely to be recommended for hire, almost 100% less likely to be promoted and are routinely offered at least $10,000 less in salary for the exact same position as a male in roughly the same situation.
If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your status as a mother, you might want to speak to an attorney who is knowledgeable in workplace discrimination. This qualified legal professional can assess your case and let you know whether you have a solid discrimination case against your employer. Check your company’s personnel department to determine whether they have adopted leave policies or practices that appear to treat employees with and without children differently, and speak to co-workers to determine whether others with children feel they have been discriminated against.