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Is 'Mommyism' the New Sexism?

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The people at the U.S. Census bureau are reporting that, for the first time ever, working women under thirty are out-earning their male counterparts. It also happens that these women are childless.

pregnant woman
And, as Keli Goff a blogger from the Huffington Post reported, "The results seem to indicate that sexism...is being usurped by mommy-ism, discrimination not based on sex but based on the decision to become a parent. This raises a fundamental question: Is paying, or promoting someone less for becoming, or planning to become a parent, sexism?"

I would venture to say yes - absolutely. A woman is the only one, not her male counterpart, who receives a backlash when she decides to take time off from her career to have a child.

I remember the months following the birth of my son, when I started to gear up to get back to work. I can remember only a handful of potential employers saying "congrats," the other half saying, "well, let's get you back to work so you dont get rusty!" I found it insulting. If my husband had been looking for a job, he would have gotten his fair share of congrats and that's it. No one would have accused him of getting "rusty" because he took the time to tend to his new family.

Also, when at a previous job, before I had a child, I remember the HR woman looking me dead in the eye and asking me if I planned on having children soon. Caught off guard by such a strange question, I stumbled, uttering a silly, "someday." Only now do I realize that it is totally illegal to ask a question like that. She went on to say that her boss was hesitant to hire someone who would soon be taking time off to have a child, as they had numerous high need accounts coming in. If that's not mommy-ism, I don't know what is. The company didn't even try to hide their discrimination.

Moms, have you experienced the same level of descrimination for your choice to raise a family?


next: Moms: Girl Time is Crucial!
10 comments so far | Post a comment now
MartiniMama October 25, 2010, 12:37 PM

Could it be that moms don’t want to put in the extra hours that it often takes to get ahead at work? Maybe they have something more important to do - like be there for their kids?!? Why does a study like this have to always lead to the charge of “OMG - DISCRIMINATION!” when there are other factors that could be at work here? I don’t doubt that some employers may very well discriminate against all kinds of people, those with children included. But I think that much of this could be attributed to some other factors as well.

Does the finding that these women are out-earning their male counterparts indicate discrimination against men now?

Anon October 25, 2010, 1:51 PM

A man who takes time off from work to care from his kids is looked at even more strangely than a woman.

What we really need is help for all parents who want to get back into the paid labor force.

Krista October 25, 2010, 6:13 PM

Yes this happened to me too when I went for an interview before I had kids and was told they had enough employes trying to bet pregnant

Carol October 25, 2010, 6:54 PM

If you take time out of work say the 12 week maternity leave and doing so for each children in a short period of time - say 3 times in 5 years. And on top of that taken your allocated sick/vacation time - that’s is a significant period of time away from work.
Choosing family over work is noble but it does impact your career.

michelle October 26, 2010, 11:10 AM

I was a high performer, bringing in millions in revenue, and yet the company I was working for tried to push me out after I announced I was pregnant. I had to go find another job at 5 months along (I am still angry about the financial and emotional stress this caused). I later learned they did this to another pregnant executive level woman at the same time. Also, to those who complain that working moms contribute less and so deserve to be paid less — NO. All the other working moms I know contribute as much or more to their jobs as their childless counterparts (we are far more efficient at work because we can’t waste time gossiping or whatever). Finally, discrimination against moms has a class element. The farther up you are on the employment food chain, the more benefits and flexibility you can get to help you balance work/family.

Paula October 30, 2010, 11:16 AM

I have worked in places that I felt looked down on women who had children and some places that were great about it. I also personally know and read about more and more women every day who are allowed to have non-traditional work circumstances like working from home or adjusted hours. Sure, it’s not the case everywhere, but there has been progress.

I don’t think the Census results are necessarily an indication of mommyism. Maybe it’s part of it, but I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. Lots of women who have children now are choosing to stay home with their kids. Many that continue to work have scaled back hours. So, it does not surprise me that there would be more childless women earning more money than men.

Maman A Droit October 30, 2010, 12:03 PM

Oh brother. If a guy had something going on inhis life that meant he had to take several consecutive months off work every couple of years plus go to frequent Dr. appts, I truly believe his pay and promotions would suffer because of it. And the more times it happened, the more his chances of promotions & raises would decrease. I think that’s true even if it was a good reason and the company was trying to work with him.

Are jerky comments about getting rusty uneccesary and rude? Of course! But is the fact that mothers tend to get paid less automatically intrinsically sexist? Not necessarily.

Jim November 5, 2010, 11:42 AM

Just to add a bit to the sentiment expressed above:

“If my husband had been looking for a job, he would have gotten his fair share of congrats and that’s it. No one would have accused him of getting “rusty” because he took the time to tend to his new family.”

False… Absolutely False…

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