It is often said that being a parent is a full time job. It’s no wonder then that many new parents take time off from their career to focus on adjusting to their new lifestyle and to get to know the littlest member of the family. Many new mothers may also need time to heal after giving birth.
The last thing a new parent should be worried about is getting back to work. In the United States, however, there are currently no laws in place that provide paid maternity leave for expectant mothers. Thousands of women are forced to de-prioritize their minds, bodies, new parental responsibilities, and get back to the office.
According to the new State of the Gender Pay Gap report released by PayScale, women who take extended maternity leave from work make seven percent less money when they return to work and are less likely to eventually earn a promotion.
In 1995, former president Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which gave eligible workers 12 weeks of leave to care for a newborn. That leave, however, is unpaid.
As of 2018, the United States remains the only country in the developed world that does not require employers to offer paid leave to new mothers. New mothers in Finland, for instance, are entitled to up to three years of paid maternity leave, and Canadian mothers are given up to one year. Mexico, like America, requires employers give new mothers 12 weeks maternity leave, but in Mexico, the leave is paid.
“We’ll never close the pay gap if we don’t get serious about solving the opportunity gap. That means thinking about policies and work culture evolutions that could help balance the burden between the genders of caring for children and other family members and alleviate the career and pay impact for women,” Lydia Frank, Vice President at PayScale, said in a statement. “Employers should think about paid parental leave regardless of gender, onsite childcare, flexible work arrangements, etc.”
The report also found that the gender wage gap widens with age. On average, a 20- to 29-year-old woman will earn 81.8 cents for every dollar that her male co-worker makes. However, women in the 30- to 44-year-old range earn 76.7 cents to the dollar and women 45 and up make only 69.1 cents. These numbers significantly decrease for women of color.
Men are also more likely to move up the ranks during their careers, perhaps because they are less likely to need time off. The study shows that by mid-career, men are 70 percent more likely than their female colleagues to be in an executive role and, by late career, are 146 percent more likely to be in Vice Presidential or C-Suite roles.
The unpaid leave can be particularly discouraging to young and single parents. With the current lack of financial and career reassurance, many women are forced to choose between having children or a successful career. For women who want both, this can be a bitter truth to come to terms with.
The reality is that motherhood can often put a limit on advancement opportunities for women. The United States needs to implement legislation that will allow for paid parental leave and must also allow more equal advancement opportunities to people who face any sort of career disruption.
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