Early in their careers, most women walk into work ready to kick ass and take names. They’re eager, ambitious, enthusiastic, and willing to work hard. And then something happens. Slowly, but surely, many women begin to downsize their ambition. They start to question whether advancement is really something they want; if the trade offs are worthwhile. This happens not because women just aren’t interested in having the corner office, but because they face strong headwinds that after time, leave them depleted. One such headwind many women face – the “mommy tax.”
Most people would agree that people shouldn’t have to choose between having a family and a fulfilling career. Yet, for many women, this is the exact choice they’re forced to make. Women who have children have to pay the “mommy tax,” which results in a loss of income and opportunity due to their status as a mother.
Mothers who take time off to raise children, even a short period of time, are hit with a hard realization when they re-enter the workforce and find that they are unable to command salaries commensurate with their experience. Even for women who don’t take time off, they find that they are not given the juicy assignments, aren’t asked to lead initiatives, and are overlooked for promotions based on the often erroneous assumptions that they are unable to handle the job because of their outside responsibilities.
What’s worse, you don’t have to have children or even want them to be subject to the mommy tax. Just today, a friend of mine overheard the business development director at her company proclaim that they shouldn’t give one of her female colleagues a project because “she will probably be pregnant in six months.” These are the hazards of working while female.
It’s time that employers realize that mothers are not a cost to their business. Mothers, like fathers, are able to contribute in a meaningful way at work, even if they have to change a diaper (or seven) when they get home. They are just as capable, hard working, and driven as any man in their same position. Giving parents (moms AND dads) the proper supports – paid time off, affordable child care, flexibility – will go a long way toward eliminating the “mommy tax” so may women unfairly pay.