In her recent post Could It Simply Be Motherhood? A Contrarian Rationale for Gender Pay Equity, Cafe contributor Becky Regan addressed research on the earning differences between male and female MBA graduates ... and explored the impact that motherhood has on women's careers and earnings.
Now new research from Cornell University ("Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood
Penalty?" published by Shelley J. Correll, Stephen Benard and In Paik) brings more evidence of the motherhood penalty, but also reveals a number of intriguing findings on the combined impact of gender and parenthood status on pay.
By experimentally holding constant the qualifications and background experiences of pairs of fictitious job applicants, but varying their gender and parental status, the researchers asked independent evaluators to rate their backgrounds, competence and commitment, and consequently determine whether a job offer should be extended and for what starting salary.
Their findings from this experiment and other studies assimilated into their research results:
The pay gap between mothers and childless women is bigger than the pay gap between women and men (for workers under age 35). The motherhood penalty appears to be alive and well and may even challenge the gender wage gap for supremacy.
Fathers did not experience the same disadvantage that mothers did. In fact, fathers appear to be advantaged over childless men, being rated as more committed and offered higher starting salaries.
Childless women were advantaged over childless men on many measures, being seen as more competent and more likely to be recommended for hire, although (notably) the salary advantage here was not a significant one.
While the researchers are quick to point out number of limitations in their methodology, I think the findings here are worth noting and reflecting upon, as they suggest that a host of cultural assumptions about both gender and parental status are making their way into hiring and wage decisions.
Ann Bares is the Editor of Compensation Café, Author of Compensation Force and Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group LLC, where she provides compensation consulting services to a wide range of client organizations. She earned her M.B.A. at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, enjoys reading in her spare time and is currently trying to decide whether to follow her daughter to China this summer. Follow her on Twitter at @annbares.