Women often refer to the glass ceiling when discussing their potential for advancement at work. But, we often fail to talk about another enormous roadblock women face – the maternal wall. If you are pregnant – or even thinking about becoming pregnant – you may be hurting your chances of success at work. I’ve talked about the “mommy tax” before, and just last week, the New York Times ran a story on this very issue, Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies.
For many women, pregnancy and motherhood come at a very high cost. While men are rewarded with promotions and higher pay after becoming fathers, mothers are often sidelined, given fewer opportunities, questioned about their commitment and ability to work, and passed over for employees who are seen as less of a “liability,” i.e., men. Women who become mothers also earn less than men and women who do not have children.
The stories in the NY Times article are sad, and they are unjust. We should all be fighting for workplaces that value our full humanity, including our decision to have children. We should be working toward a culture that values mothers and fathers equally and that doesn’t force people to choose between having a family and a fulfilling career. We can do this by advocating for policies that support families and workers, raising our voices when we see these injustices occur, and educating those around us about the harmful effects of bias in the workplace. We can and must do better.