This is the second in a series examining a post written by Chamber of Commerce Senior Communications Director Brad Peck, and the subsequent apologies for it by himself and Chamber COO David Chavern.
Peck decided to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the recognition of women’s right to vote by writing that the well-documented gender pay gap is mostly due to “individual choice,” then suggesting that women who want equal pay have a “fetish for money,” and recommending that women focus their energies on “choosing the right partner at home.” The apologies were cold comfort, considering the Chamber’s lobbying history. Part 1, here.
Numerous workplace studies, including those conducted by government agencies, have demonstrated that given equal levels of education and experience, women get paid less than men.
Mothers have it worse. Not only are they paid less than men, mothers are usually paid less than women without children, while fathers are usually paid more than childless men. (If you were wondering, no, the premium paid to fathers wouldn’t make up for the lower wages of mothers even in families with both a mother and father in paid employment.) Since about 80 percent of women become mothers this represents a quite large and consistent shift of wealth away from working women compared to their male peers.
Peck dismissively referred to taking time off work as a lifestyle choice, but it can be hard to go right back to work after having a child. Especially following a c-section, which is something like being given a 4-8 inch perforated hernia with a scalpel.
(I realize that’s not a pleasant image, but it isn’t as bad to think about as it is to go through. Women are hard pressed to afford having decisions made about their economic worth by people who have the luxury of not thinking about their experiences.)
If the job market punishes time away from work equally, but 80 percent of women will find it extremely difficult to have a continuous employment record, the effect of this supposedly neutral punishment is to mark mothers out as bad employees. When the only two explanations for persistent inequality are either that a practice is unfair or that something is wrong with the group that keeps coming up short, arguing that the practices are fair is very nearly the same as blaming those who fail to thrive under them.
Oh, but no one made her quit her job, you hear people say. Maybe.
Or maybe, when 51 percent of new mothers don’t have paid leave and about that many don’t have paid sick leave, when taking unpaid leave can get you fired, when there’s a nationwide lack of affordable child care and not everyone has a convenient relative with time on their hands, women’s choices can sometimes boil down to …
a) going right back to work after a punishing physical ordeal and maybe with a 6-inch perforated hernia, or
b) going right back to work with no one to watch the new baby, or
c) going back to a workplace where it was made clear during your pregnancy, possibly through overt intimidation, that your personal life is a huge inconvenience to your coworkers, or
d) getting fired, or
Wow. What great options. It’s enough to make a person feel super-empowered.
Or, women could just all stop having babies. It’d certainly be cheaper. And then they’d only lose out on a few percentage points of their earnings that are hardly worth mentioning, unless you’re stingy.
Since mothers are almost universally considered worse employees, just because, they also become discount employees. Extra discount, because after all, they were already women. Their bosses can then pay them an average of $11,000 less than an equivalent male worker and pocket the difference.
That’s a great discount for employers, not so much for mothers.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that having a baby is a leading cause of poverty.
Which is an interesting statement about the U.S., one of only 4 countries in the world not to offer paid maternity leave. It’s perfectly acceptable here to cut off resources to the families of young children and then put the blame for any resulting poverty on the choices of their parents.
Cross posted from SEIU Early Learning.
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