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What about problems of working mothers in your area?

ASK THIS | May 08, 2007

Traditionally, mothers or mothers-to-be have faced what researchers call a ‘maternal wall’—either pushed out by inflexible scheduling or penalized in other ways. What’s the story in your community? E.J. Graff has questions that can get you started on some very strong news stories. [Last in a series]

By E.J. Graff

Q. Do your community’s working women or stay-at-home mothers have stories to tell of being pushed out by inflexible scheduling; being treated as less capable than before they had children; or of being “mommy tracked” against their will?

Q. Do women in your community have reasonable paid maternity leave (and do men have comparable family leave)? When they come back to the job, do they still have the same jobs, or have their responsibilities been redistributed?

Q. Are social scientists in your area’s universities looking into the mental mechanisms that lead to bias?

Q. Do any of your community’s employers have innovative programs to overcome ‘maternal wall’ biases?

Nationally, studies have documented what some researchers call “the maternal wall”: once working women let it be known that they are pregnant or have children, they are less likely to be hired, promoted, or given raises. They are penalized sooner for late arrivals or absences, and are fired faster.

Most women who stay home with their children during their earliest years intend to go back to work, and expect to pick up where they left off. Other women did not intend to return to work, but lose a spouse through divorce or death—and must work again.

What stories do these women have to tell about trying to get back to work, whether good or bad?

Are they forced to take jobs at lower pay and less responsibility, in different fields?

Are they penalized for their “resume gap”?

What do such penalties do to women’s incomes, and therefore, to the children’s standard of living?

Some employers and occupations have recently been making serious efforts to keep women involved during those years so that they don’t lose valuable skills, and to bring them back in as soon as possible. Are any such employers located in your community? 







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