The Motherhood Penalty: Why Women are Less Likely to Get the Job

By Sara Demoranville

Imagine having the perfect resume for a competitive job opportunity. You have amazing credentials, the necessary skills, and fit the ideal description of the new hiree. Everything is in place and you feel confident about getting the job, except that someone else essentially has the same resume as you. The decision narrows down to you and him, and sure enough, he gets the job. Why? Because he is a man, and you are a woman.

Unfortunately, this is the sad reality of much of the workforce. According to a recent study, men are three times more likely to get the job than women when considered under the exact same circumstance. Researchers claim that this is often due to the “motherhood penalty”, a pre-notion that women will leave the workforce to become a stay at home mother.

Is it fair to make this assumption? Is it fair to base a decision on the unknown future and simply one’s ability to give birth?

The fact of the matter is that it’s wrong to assume anything based on gender, and the stigma that women will drop everything to become a stay at home mother is simply outdated. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the amount of stay at home mothers has seen an overall decline from 49% in 1967 to 29% in 2012. While many women continue to become mothers, today’s society has made it more than possible to balance work life and motherhood.

It is also important to note that not all women even become mothers; and if they do, not all become stay at home mothers. What about the fathers? Studies show that society has seen an overall increase in stay at home fathers, but you don’t see them getting a “fatherhood penalty”. This leaves us with one question: is it really motherhood that is causing employer hesitation or is it womanhood and its corresponding stereotypes?

Imagine you’re applying for that same job, only this time there is no indication of whether or not you are a woman. Just by excluding the gender factor, you are three times more likely to have an equal chance at getting the job over the man who is applying against you. You still may not get the job, but at the end of the day it will be about the person, not the gender.

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