Women Are Getting Penalized By Companies That Assume They’ll Want To Have A Family One Day

January 6, 2017  |  

When you hear news like the kind below, it makes you wonder if we are actually living in 2017 and not 1950.

A new study found that women in the workplace are still faced with a “motherhood penalty” even when they’re not pregnant. In order words, companies tend to shy away from hiring women because they fear women will wind up getting pregnant and either taking a long leave or quitting.

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Here’s how the study worked. Researchers created two fictional resumes using the names James Cabot and Julia Cabot. Both applicants were listed as law school students seeking a job at high-paying law firms; they had similar economically advantaged backgrounds, schooling, experience, and the same elite interests like sailing and polo. “Yet when law firms looked at their resumes ― which, again, were totally the same but for their gender ― recruiters were three times more likely to call James in for an interview, according to a study first published last year in American Sociological Review and recently written up in Harvard Business Review,” reported The Huffington Post.

“This is a key mechanism that is keeping women out of high-paying occupations,” Lauren Rivera, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a co-author of the study, said.

Disheartening, right?  Especially considering the fact that when women do become mothers, their salaries decline by 4 percent, according to one survey. On the other hand, when men become fathers their salaries actually increase by 6 percent. “Even at progressive companies that say they value hiring and promoting women, the default assumption is still that a woman will want to downshift her career once she becomes a mother, if she can afford it,” HuffPo pointed out.

The study also came up with another pair of candidates to accompany the Cabots ― James Clark and Julia Clark. These two fictional candidates, however, were both from less well-off families. “For the study, the resumes from James and Julia Cabot and James and Julia Clark were sent to 316 offices of 147 leading law firms around the U.S. The goal was to apply for summer associate positions ― internships at law firms that pay around $3,000 a week and typically lead to full-time job offers once the candidate finishes school. Those entry-level positions pay a stunning $150,000 a year (not counting the bonus) and offer a fast track to the 1 percent,” reported HuffPo. James Cabot received higher interview requests at 16.25 percent of the firms; Julia Cabot got a 3.8 percent callback rate. Lower-income Julia Clark got a higher 6.3 percent callback rate. But the lower-class male candidate, James Clark, received just a 1.3 percent callback rate. What this finding showed was class still offered no benefit for women.

“An upper-class man is always going to be working,” a lawyer named Betsy told HuffPo. “He’s always gonna stay in the workforce, and chances are he’s well connected, and that might be a good person to have at your firm.”

Unfortunately, the study didn’t look into race and ethnicity, which likely would’ve revealed even greater discriminatory practices.

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