Personal Reflections on Wage Inequality
I was a professional recruiter when I was pregnant with my first child in 2001. Two weeks into my maternity leave my job was eliminated, leaving this new mom without the full-time income that my husband and I had planned on. The day after I was laid off was September 11, the day of the domestic terrorist attacks. In the economic aftermath my line of work became obsolete. There were no jobs to return to. After months of unemployment and caring for my newborn I tried to make the best of difficult circumstances and I began graduate school to become a psychotherapist.
I had earned over twenty dollars an hour before the layoff. My husband Bill and I assumed I could find a professional, part-time job with a similar hourly rate to supplement his income while I was in school. We were wrong. I discovered that there were few part-times jobs available that required the skills of a college graduate and paid a respectable wage. The majority of the part-time positions available offered the same hourly pay rate I would be paying a childcare provider to watch my daughter while I worked. While I was willing to work hard and put in long hours, those part-time jobs were a wash financially.
So Bill and I muddled through. I took temporary jobs when they made sense. We used as little childcare as possible to minimize at least one of our expenses. This resulted in our spending many months working opposite schedules. We passed like two ships in the night, desperately wanting time to relax with one another and having precious little opportunity to do so. The lack of time together strained our marriage. When I sensed us drifting apart from one another I would remind us both to not allow our “divide and conquer” approach to our responsibilities to divide and conquer us.
During my years in human resources and recruiting, I had heard these words come out of the mouths of hiring managers time and time again: “Let’s not hire her. She seems qualified but I’m guessing by this gap of time her resume says she spent out of the workforce that she’s got kids and she’s not going to be willing to stay late.” Or a department head would instruct me, “I want you to extend a job offer to this woman. She mentioned she’s a single mom, so I’m willing to bet she’s willing to work for cheap. Offer her the low end of our salary range for this job.” I wanted those attitudes towards the value of women’s work in the workplace to be an anomaly, but they are not.
As reported in The Motherhood Manifesto by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner,mothers are 44% less likely to be hired than non-mothers who have the same resume and skill set. If they are hired, mothers are offered starting salaries that are approximately $11,000 per year lower than non-mothers with the same experience. Once you combine this wage discrimination with the lack of flexible jobs available it’s no wonder why so many hard working women like myself end up spending years without employment. Wage discrimination forces countless women and families to endure financial and familial stress amidst the need for more income. The emotional cost of maternal wage discrimination is enormous. It’s time to abolish the absurd premise that the work of mothers is somehow worth less.
April 12th is Equal Pay Day, a national event acknowledging the wage discrimination experienced by women in all fields and most pronounced among the 80% of women that have children. This blog has been excerpted from Angela Sasseville’s upcoming book Families Under Financial Stress: Tools to Support Your Relationships and Your Continual Growth.
Cross posted from the Flourish Counseling blog