No, it's not your imagination: Being a full-time, working
mom isn't as lucrative as being a working dad. The motherhood
pay gap is real. Studies have shown it, and we moms have known it.
The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) has just released a map
showing how the salaries of full-time working moms with at least one kid at home compare to dads' pay in each U.S. state —and it isn't encouraging. Moms working full
time outside of the home and year-round "typically make 70 cents for every dollar
paid to fathers," says NWLC. It
varies by state with some areas showing a larger pay gap than others. For example,
in Louisiana, which has the largest pay gap, moms' median annual salary is
$32,000 compared to $55,000 for dads. In Washington, D.C., which has the
smallest gap, working moms make 90 cents to the dollar, or $72,000 to dad's
I was surprised to learn that my native state of Maine has the
third lowest gap (20 cents), while my current home of New Jersey, a seemingly
more metropolitan, wealthy and diverse state, has one of the highest gaps—mothers make just 66.7 cents for every dollar a dad makes, or $25,000 less
annually! What gives?
What about occupations? In both states, the office and
administrative support occupations employ the most people, followed by sales
and related occupations, according to Labor Department data. But this reflects
the national trend where these two sectors are also the top two occupations for the U.S.
as a whole, so it doesn't tell us much.
Should we mention we might become pregnant in the next year? Ask if there's a place to pump breast milk? Ask about sick days given our kids' germ collecting habit?
Kate Gallagher Robbins, director of research and policy
analysis at NWLC, says your profession can of course play a role. For example, in Louisiana
the large pay disparity could be due to the dominance of the energy industry,
which pays well but employs more men than woman. Robbins guessed that the pay gaps of my two home states
might vary simply because Maine's salaries were lower overall
compared to New Jersey, meaning there's less room for a wider gap.
"The typical median earnings for dads in Maine are lower
than they are for moms in New Jersey," she says.
Besides, researchers have found that the wage gap
persists across occupations, industries and education levels. So
that leaves the thing moms worry about when applying for or just starting a
job, or asking for well, anything in the workplace. Should we mention we might
become pregnant in the next year? Ask if there's a place to pump breast milk?
Ask about sick days given our kids' germ-collecting habit? Yep, discrimination,
otherwise known as the "motherhood penalty."
"The wage gap overall is bad enough when you compare all
women to all men but it's definitely worse when you compare moms and dads," Robbins
told me. "It's not an equal playing field. The discrimination that mothers face
in the workplace … There's really a double standard for moms and dads."
This double standard played out in my own home last year when my husband was
interviewing for a new job. I was VERY PREGNANT with our second child and he wanted to be sure
his prospective employers knew it. Family, after all, is important to him. He
works extremely hard, but wanted an employer that understood he would also be
spending time with his kids even if that meant leaving work early (some days) to
make it back for daycare pickup and hopping on the laptop after baby bedtime.
My head whipped around and my eyes bulged out of their
sockets. Was he insane? "What? You will do no such thing," I sputtered. "Don't
tell them you're going to need any special accommodation at all!" And then I
realized: Wait, it's different for him.