Being a Working Mother in America

It’s been over 40 years since the majority of mothers in this country left homemaking full-time and entered the workplace.  But as women press the fight for their rightful place at work—where the pay is fair and they are free from any form of harassment—their male spouses have something else in mind. Being the primary wage earner in a household is still a major part of the gender identity of many American men and is tied deeply to how they view themselves. 

A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review purports that there is a direct correlation between a father’s breadwinner status and his political views. It examined fathers’ views in comparison to their income and found that men who earn less than their wives tend to be more partisan. Though the men become slightly more supportive of women’s rights, in general, they also grow a great deal more conservative.

The study found that Republican men who contributed less than their wives to household income over a two-year period were significantly less supportive of women’s reproduction rights; and that the less income they contributed in relation to their wives, the more anti-choice they became. The research also showed that Republican men became considerably less supportive of government aid to people of color when their wives outearned them.

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Democratic men reacted to their wives outearning them by becoming more supportive of their wives’ reproductive rights.  However, the same study also revealed that Democratic men who became the family’s primary breadwinners over the same two-year period became less supportive of women’s rights, in general. 

Mothers’ Equal Pay Day was Tuesday, May 23, the unofficial day each year that highlights how much longer American mothers must work in order to catch up to the fathers’ pay in the prior calendar year. A new study released last week by the National Women’s Law Center explains the reasons for needing a Mothers’ Equal Pay Day.

Mothers are paid less than fathers at every education level and in every state in the union. On average, an American mother makes about 71 cents to a father’s dollar. (In comparison, the national average for all women is 91 cents to a man’s dollar, a full 10 percent less.)  

For mothers who work full time and have only a high school diploma, the situation is worse; they earn only 67 cents for every dollar made by a father with the same high school credential. The pay gap is evident across most all occupations, from waiters and waitresses to janitors, cashiers, building cleaners, retail sales, and drivers. Unskilled mothers earn, on average, about $10.50 per hour; unskilled fathers typically earn $12.50 per hour or more. For a mother to keep pace salary-wise with an unskilled father, she would need to have a bachelor’s degree or more.  

Is there a disadvantage for mothers who work in American society? In a study published recently in the American Journal of Sociology, mothers suffer a penalty relative to non-mothers and men in the form of lower perceived competence and commitment, higher job-related expectations, lower likelihood of hiring and promotion, and lower recommended salaries. 

Mothers are considered by their employers to be 12 percent less committed to their jobs than non-mothers, and mothers are six times less likely than childless women to be hired.  Mothers are also at a disadvantage when it comes to promotions—childless women are 8.2 times more likely to be recommended for a promotion. 
Interesting stuff, don’t you think? 

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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