The Motherhood Penalty: How To Start A Conversation With Your Employer

business colleagues with male and female signs on scales of justice, gender equality concept

Motherhood is a roller-coaster ride of many emotions – joy, fear, love, vulnerability, responsibility, fatigue, strength, and guilt. Sure, there are challenges, but a mother embraces it all with a smile. She braves it all for her little one, but when the mother is also a successful working woman who decides to walk the tight-rope of career-motherhood, the path that is already fraught with a myriad hurdle gets a bit tougher. She becomes yet another victim of the motherhood penalty – the systematic disadvantages that a woman faces in her career once she becomes a mother.
How motherhood penalty impacts a woman’s career?  

A working woman is faced with an unreasonable degree of discrimination when she takes the motherhood route. Though many factors can impede a woman’s smooth climb up the corporate ladder, motherhood remains the most significant reason for gender inequality, the decline in career advancement, and a sizable decrease in earnings.
Women who tread the motherhood route are not hired quickly and are not assigned lucrative clients or considered for promotions. Moms are considered less competent and committed and are paid less than their colleagues who are also fathers,  

This is a case of the motherhood penalty (and fatherhood bonus), resulting from the old patriarchal ideas entrenched in cultures worldwide.
But there are ways you can assert women empowerment and challenge gender bias in your workplace. You can initiate a discussion on the motherhood penalty with your employer. Here are a few ideas –

Be transparent about your responsibilities at home.
It is often considered taboo to discuss your kids or other issues related to children with seniors or your employers, but with changing times, such hackneyed ideas have changed too. Companies accept that motherhood is a phase of their women employees’ life. They also realize that they cannot afford to lose a talented workforce. So, have a candid discussion with your employer, set realistic goals, and strive to achieve them. Don’t shy from seeking help.

Convince your employer about your commitment to excellence.
Another widely prevalent misconception is that a career takes a back seat after becoming a mother. Many employers blatantly discriminate against moms because they expect them to opt for flexible timings and less strenuous jobs. It is your onus to break the stereotype and convince your employer of your determination to succeed.

Offer flexible timings and stick to the schedule.
When you are a new mom and a career woman, juggling your work demands and caregiving duties becomes necessary. Unfortunately, this leads to many professional women taking long career breaks or opting for lower-paid jobs (or lower-skilled ones) that are more flexible.
But, contrary to the belief of 38% of working women, a flexible working plan (hybrid) does not have to impact your career growth or income negatively. Meet your employer, convince them about your commitment to your work and explain your hybrid work proposal to them. More importantly, stick to that schedule and prove yourself.

Make intelligent career moves.
Yes, you have had to face many physical and emotional challenges on your journey to motherhood. Perhaps you had to sacrifice many promising opportunities, but don’t let that make you desperate and jump at every chance that comes up. Instead, scrutinize the pros and cons, think about how it will affect your work-life balance, and then decide. If, on the other hand, you are keen to take on a particular promotion, put all your negotiating skill to use and make sure you seize the opportunity.

Have you ever paid the Motherhood penalty? 
How did it impact your career goals? Please share your experiences in the comments.


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