Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Are Parents Discriminated Against in the Workplace?


The answer, according to a recent piece in the New York Times Magazine, is yes. If you are an employee – particularly a woman — who also happens to be a parent of young children, and you want to have any semblance of work-life balance, you’re going to wind up getting passed over for jobs, promotions and salary increases by people who either do not have children or those who don’t spend time with their children because they’re working a bazillion hours a week, the article suggests.

Citing the increasing number of lawsuits being filed “claiming workplace discrimination because of family care-giving obligations,” writer Eyal Press wrote:

“The rise of lawsuits in recent years has coincided with a new body of
research, much of it produced by a scholarly project called the Cognitive Bias
working Group. One member of the group is Shelley Correll, a sociologist at
Cornell. A few years ago, Correll was poring over labor-market data and noticed
that while the gap between the wages of men and women had narrowed, the gap
between mothers and everyone else remained wide. . . As an experiment, Correll
and other researchers asked volunteers to evaluate a pool of equally qualified
male and female job applicants. On some resumes, a clue signaled that the
applicant was a parent. Correll also sent 1,276 resumes for entry-level and
midlevel marketing jobs to 638 real employers.”
Can you guess what the results of Correll’s experiment? Press wrote:

“Mothers were consistently viewed as less competent and less committed
and were held to higher performance and punctuality standards. They were 79
percent less likely to be hired and, if hired, would be offered a starting
salary $11,000 lower than non-mothers. Fathers, by contrast, were offered
the highest salaries of all.”
Joan Williams, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, told the Times that it shouldn’t have to come down to choosing between work or family. This tension between careers and care-giving obligations (to children and to elderly parents), Williams said, is created by a “marketplace structured around an increasingly outdated masculine norm: the ‘ideal worker’ who can work full-time for an entire career while enjoying ‘immunity from family work.’”

I think Williams is onto something, and that the results of Correll’s experiment is depressing beyond words.

(Image from the New York Times.)

1 comment:

happymom said...

It is true that working parents can be discriminated against in the workforce. I had a boss a long time ago that was furious when I had to call in with a sick child who had strep and an ear infection. I managed to reschedule my clients, who had no problem with over the phone meetings when my daughter was napping happily on antibiotics. This boss was a single woman with no children. I ended up quitting to stay home, rather than deal with her anymore. All the money in the world was not worth the trauma, luckily my husband and I made ends meet. I heard that one of her employees suffered a miscarriage that was proved to be from work related stress.