This blog post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
After eight years of friendship and mutual support on the phone and online, I finally met Kiki Peppard last month! Kiki's experiences moving to Pennsylvania as a working single mom of two children is the first story in The Motherhood Manifesto. Her story details her experiences going to interview for jobs and having potential employers ask if she was married and if she had kids. As soon as prospective employers heard she wasn't married and had kids, they were not interested in learning any more about her. They didn't care about how excellent her resume and references were. Kiki struggled to land a job for many months and was appalled when she ended up having to rely on public assistance to feed her kids. She finally landed a job when her future employer did not ask about her family status!
Kiki's story is first in the book because it is a concrete example of how glaring gaps in our support systems for parents and cultural norms have resulted in profound bias against mothers in hiring, wages, and advancement. It begins to explain why there are so many women and children living in poverty and so few women in leadership. Most people are shocked when they learn that with equal resumes and job experiences, moms experience tremendous hiring and wage discrimination, while dads get a wage bump. People are also shocked that there are only three countries in the world that have no maternity leave for new mothers: Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and The United States of America. What?! And did you know that of the last six Supreme Court Justice nominees -- three men and three women -- all the men had children and none of the women did? This is not an accident. The stories I can tell!
MomsRising.org has been working since 2006 to end the bias against mothers in the workplace, also known as "maternal profiling."
Kiki is a hero in this fight. For more than 18 years she has worked to pass a law protecting moms in Pennsylvania from the personal questions she was asked in job interviews.
MomsRising has been at her side. This law has never passed. When I asked her about progress last week this was her reply:
"Over a year ago I moved to another county in Pennsylvania and naturally have a new rep and senator. I contacted my new member of the House of Representatives several times seeking his support and asking him to introduce new legislation (again) to prohibit employers from asking job candidates about their marital/familial status during job interviews. After several attempts to contact him, he finally called me back and said not only would he NEVER EVER introduce such legislation, if he heard that someone else did, he would devote all of his time and efforts to see to it that the bill failed. He said he would never endorse any laws that would interfere in how businesses are run or take away any rights of a business owner. Thank you, Mr. Republican Representative, I said to myself. At the end of that call, I finally threw in the towel after nearly 19 years of trying to get the legislation passed here in PA prohibiting legal discrimination in job interviews. I packed up my notes, books, and articles in a box for my granddaughter in case she would like to take up the cause when she grows up. She is now five. Maybe in 15 years Pennsylvania legislators will be ready to listen to her and to face the fact that women are people, too, entitled to equal working rights."
Recently, as Innovator in Residence at Millerville University in Pennsylvania, I introduced Kiki and told her story at my keynote address. It is my hope that others in Pennsylvania will claim Kiki's box about efforts to pass this law before Kiki's granddaughter is of age! There is hope. One professor at Millersville told me that she shows The Motherhood Manifesto documentary to her class every semester. She says the film moves her students and resonates across partisan lines. Which pleases me no end. Perhaps her students can pick up where Kiki leaves off. Someone needs to. It is time to end maternal profiling! It shouldn't be this hard!