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Old 02-20-2006, 06:39 AM   #1
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Study: Mothers Less Likely To Get Hired; Paid Less

Quote:
Despite women's gains, mothers still face hiring obstacles

by Jenny Deam
The Denver Post
Feb. 16, 2006


A landmark study by Cornell University has quantified what many working mothers have suspected for years: Women with children are less likely to get hired and are paid less in starting salaries than similarly qualified fathers or women without children. This disparity often follows them throughout their careers.

The findings become especially significant since about 70 percent of American women with children under 18 work outside the home. Additionally, in six of 10 marriages, both parents hold paid jobs. While women may have made enormous strides toward parity with men in the job market, when children are added to the picture, the attitudes of potential employers change.

Dick Gartrell hears it all the time. A director of human resources at the University of Denver who also runs seminars to teach corporate managers good hiring practices, Gartrell says employers complain when told they shouldn't let parenthood influence hiring decisions. "They have a job to fill, and they want to be able to ask a woman if she has children or if she is going to have children so they know if she will leave. I tell them you have no more reason to ask ... than you would to ask a man if he is going to have a medical disability," Gartrell says. He cautions employers not only is it bad form to ask about children during job negotiations, it is dangerous for the company. While not illegal, if a comment has been made during an interview and then a problem later arises, that comment could come back to haunt.

Still, there is little legal recourse if an applicant feels wronged. There is no federal law prohibiting a potential employer from asking a woman - or man - about their family. Some states have such laws, but their effectiveness varies widely.

Shelley Correll, author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y., says she not only found proof of discrimination in her 18-month study, she also found salaries for working mothers tended to decrease exponentially with each additional child.

To test her suspicion, she created two fictitious applicants seeking a job as a marketing director for a communications company. Both had virtually identical qualifications and resumes with no indication of gender or family status. The applications were presented to 60 undergraduates - both men and women - for evaluation. The reviewers found the applicants to be equal and said they had no hiring preference. (Correll used undergraduates because she believed them to be most closely attuned to the current hiring climate. She also assumed they had been raised in an age when sensibilities about working mothers had changed.)

Next, the same resumes were shown to another set of undergraduate evaluators. This time, though, the applicants were both women. A memo was slipped into one of the application packets mentioning she was a mother of two. Her resume was changed slightly to include a reference to being an officer of a parent-teacher association.

The outcome changed dramatically. The evaluators said they would hire the childless women 84 percent of the time. The mothers were given a job only 47 percent of the time. The mothers also were offered a starting salary of $11,000 less than their counterparts without children.

Correll recently moved her test into the real world. In an undisclosed Northeastern city, she created 300 pairs of cover letters and resumes to apply for advertised midlevel marketing positions. One "applicant" said in her cover letter she was relocating with her family. The resume mentioned the parent-teacher board position. The other cover letter said the "applicant" was relocating but made no mention of a family.

Early results of this study show the applicant who did not mention a family was called in for an interview twice as frequently as the mother.

"It documents what a lot of working mothers already feel," says Correll. It's not that employers don't like mothers, she adds. On the contrary, she thinks society values motherhood. But she does think "cultural ideas of motherhood are seen as pretty incompatible with cultural ideas of the workplace." According to the "ideal worker" belief, says the study, a committed worker is willing to "drop everything at a moment's notice for a new work demand," will "devote enormous hours to 'face time' at work," and will work late nights and weekends. "The cultural logic of 'intensive' mothering in U.S. society ... assumes that the 'good mother' will direct her time and emotional energy toward her children without limit," says the study.

Liz Ryan, a 25-year human resources executive, mother of five, and founder of an international online community for professional women, speculates the tightening job market is giving potential employers a sense they have the upper hand and are more free in their questioning than they would have been a few years ago. She also wonders if there is a backlash brewing against mothers - and increasingly, fathers - who have demanded more flexibility from companies to be with their families.

Melissa Hart, an associate law professor at the University of Colorado who specializes in employment discrimination, also worries about the tension between women with children and those without in the workplace over such things as time off for sick kids or leaving promptly to spend more time with families. She calls it a systemic problem in the corporate climate of this country. "No one is given life balance," she says. "Forget about family balance. People are resentful (of women with children) because they are looking over their shoulder and thinking someone is getting a better deal than they are. But the truth is no one is getting a good deal."
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Old 02-20-2006, 09:14 AM   #2
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I can vouch firsthand for every word of that study article...from all four sides of the table...company HR, (completely ineffective) human rights legislation, career woman sans enfants and now mother about to re-enter the market post-maternity leave. I have also seen what happens to the careers of fathers who take parental leave (or who leave on time to pick up kids at daycare).

I know all too well the reality of what type of job I will get and salary level when I return despite my relative market value given my track record. It's very much a trade-off between work and family.

Unless your job comes unequivocally first in your life (whether you have a family or not), you will not get very far in the corporate world.

As the current onslaught of 20somethings develop their careers to mid and senior levels over the next 10-15 years and start having children, I think we might see a dramatic shift in that mindset.
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Old 02-20-2006, 09:27 AM   #3
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Is having children a lifestyle choice?

I ask because there was an interesting article in the Toronto Star last year, describing life in the top law firms in Toronto, where it was the female associates who when polled, voted NOT to recognize maternity leave as uninterrupted work. They did so saying that having a child is a lifestyle choice and that women who elect to have children should realize that and not be on the same footing as another woman who elected not to have a child and continuously brought in profit to the firm without taking months off at a time every few years or so.
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Old 02-20-2006, 09:51 AM   #4
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They shouldn't be able to ask about that - give the person a chance before you make a premature judgment. It's not fair, and despite what people might say that men are under pressure too- how many men are ever asked if they have kids before they apply for a job? How many would even be affected in any way re hiring or salary?

And being paid less is blatant discrimination. It is a question of balance, maybe the proper balance between work and family doesn't exist in the corporate world rather than in the individual.
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Old 02-20-2006, 10:27 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
NOT to recognize maternity leave as uninterrupted work
What does this imply exactly? That they don't get paid for the time off, or does it refer to when they become eligible for promotion, or what?

In any case this article is really about hireability and starting salary, not maternity leave--there is no right to paid maternity leave in the US, and most companies don't offer it.
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Old 02-20-2006, 10:41 AM   #6
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There is a lifestyle choice aspect to it. The bottom line is that those who are contributing more to the company (with or without children) should be compensated more by the company . I suspect you will find more conflict with women without children (or women with grown children) who have to pick up the slack of family leave and do not usually have longterm absences and women with children (particularly those with multiple maternity leaves) than you will between the male employees with or without children and female employees who have children.
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Old 02-20-2006, 10:43 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint
There is a lifestyle choice aspect to it. The bottom line is that those who are contributing more to the company (with or without children) should be compensated more by the company . I suspect you will find more conflict with women without children (or women with grown children) who have to pick up the slack of family leave and do not usually have longterm absences and women with children (particularly those with multiple maternity leaves) than you will between the male employees with or without children and female employees who have children.
Big fuckin' word!!!! The workplace should be about rewarding ability not fertility!
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Old 02-20-2006, 10:44 AM   #8
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It was basically about losing seniority - maternity leave was paid for at least 16 weeks. The question was, say you were employed for 18 months, then took off 6 months, upon returning should you be considered to be year 3 or still year 2.

I know this article is about a slightly different matter, but at the same time, it goes to show that there are a lot of issues about having mothers in the workplace and contrary to popular belief, it's not always the men who are necessarily hostile to women having children in the corporate world.
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Old 02-20-2006, 10:52 AM   #9
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Yeah, the seniority thing does makes sense. This article doesn't in any way blame men for the hiring inequity, though--just "employers."
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Old 02-20-2006, 10:59 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
Is having children a lifestyle choice?

where it was the female associates who when polled, voted NOT to recognize maternity leave as uninterrupted work. They did so saying that having a child is a lifestyle choice and that women who elect to have children should realize that and not be on the same footing as another woman who elected not to have a child and continuously brought in profit to the firm without taking months off at a time every few years or so.
Yep, it is it seems.

I had a female boss with 2 grown children who was VP of HR. At a luncheon with execs from our company and a partner company, she said openly to the group (sitting across from me) that she would never put (ergo hire or promote) a woman in her childbearing years in a "responsible position". Luckily I already had my responsible position when she became my boss.

Needless to say, everyone at the table literally froze in disbelief until someone smartly changed the subject lol.
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Old 02-20-2006, 03:44 PM   #11
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Bottom line - for HR people to even take marrital status or children into consideration is very poor form at best, even I know that. Every textbook I've read, case study I've worked through, and project I've worked on dealing w/ HR has explicitly stated that you can't ask those kinds of questions.

Like anitram and others have pointed out, the people that are going against the rules are men and women. I don't think this is a gender issue, it's an HR issue.
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Old 02-20-2006, 04:07 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic
I don't think this is a gender issue, it's an HR issue.
It's neither of those, it's a workplace issue. HR doesn't make final hiring, promotion, salary and firing decisions...but they generally and conveniently take the fall for bad decisions.

And even though technically you can't ask direct questions about family status - and I say technically because although there are laws to prohibit it (in Canada), they aren't enforced - there are many ways to get candidates to volunteer the information without direct questions.
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Old 02-20-2006, 07:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by AliEnvy


It's neither of those, it's a workplace issue. HR doesn't make final hiring, promotion, salary and firing decisions...but they generally and conveniently take the fall for bad decisions.

And even though technically you can't ask direct questions about family status - and I say technically because although there are laws to prohibit it (in Canada), they aren't enforced - there are many ways to get candidates to volunteer the information without direct questions.
But if it's a workplace issue, than by default it has become an HR issue. HR should to some extent take the fall for bad decisions because obviously the employee/exec/whoever made the bad decision was not properly trained or made aware of how the organization will or will not go about assigning jobs/promotions/benefits/etc and what is and is not acceptable.

In the States, we don't even have laws regulating what you can ask, but there are other laws that basically do. For example, discrimination and disability laws mean it would be very dumb, risky, and unprofessional to ask an interviewee anything about his or her age, race, religion, marrital status, family status, or disabilities. In doing so, you're creating a huge liability if that person is not hired and suspects it has something to do with something other than job qualifications.
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Old 02-20-2006, 08:24 PM   #14
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It's virtually impossible to prove you weren't hired because of your race or marital status or sexuality, etc.
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Old 02-20-2006, 09:11 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Angela Harlem
It's virtually impossible to prove you weren't hired because of your race or marital status or sexuality, etc.
Exactly.
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