You’re probably familiar with the motherhood penalty – where women suffer in the workplace due to having children.
“From the moment the stick turns blue, we face challenges and barriers we never knew previously existed.”
The data shows that employers are less likely to hire women with children and pay them less than their equally qualified but child-free peers. The research shows that women’s earnings drop substantially after their first child, continuing throughout their careers.
The motherhood penalty is based on the perception that women with children are less able, less committed and less ambitious. But this biased approach completely ignores the motherhood advantage.
Women, after having children become more determined in being efficient and productive in their work. But this is because they are forced to combine work and motherhood; women have to cut through the noise of everything demanding their attention to focus on what’s most essential. And the research backs this up.
A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis looked at the productivity of 10,000 workers. The findings show that over a career span of 30 years, mothers outperformed women without children at almost every stage. What’s more, mothers with two kids were the most productive of all!
The research on Parenthood and Productivity suggests that the increase resulting from ‘responsible parents with a stronger commitment to work’ more than cancels out any decrease in productivity caused by the additional burden of parenthood.
Women may have less time when they start a family, but the researchers concluded that ‘on the other hand, they may better use the time that is left.’
Giving birth to a child and looking after its physical and emotional wellbeing whilst often simultaneously being the CEO of the home is a development experience like no other. Skills developed on parental leave and then in the subsequent years after include:
- Flexible thinking
- Scheduling and planning
- Dealing with change
- Time management
- Influencing skills
- Communications skills
- Building trust
- Dealing with uncertainty
And I know the list can go on – what have I missed? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
Anthropologist Sarah Hrdy terms this ‘postpartum superefficiency’ when a mother’s brain matter is different, and in some way better, after giving birth. It’s capable of juggling the challenges of everyday life while maintaining a laser-like focus on what matters most.
It means that mothers have cognitive capacities and understanding that have a broader application than just their mothering. These are real tangible capabilities with real-life applications and are probably the best training ground there is!
So let’s not buy into the unhelpful narrative that being mothers make us less than we were before giving birth. Being a mother actually is an advantage to you, your colleagues and your employer.
Let’s start embracing that for ourselves and each other and helping to get our motherhood advantage recognised and rewarded.
We’re genuine, like-minded women, just like you!
We’re a community, reinventing how we combine work and motherhood without sacrificing our sanity and wellbeing.