Kate Hawkesby: The fatherhood premium vs the motherhood penalty

Kate Hawkesby ,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 22 January 2019, 6:45AM
But for men, being a dad adds value. Photo / Getty Images

Interesting finding out of an Amsterdam University, that part-time working mothers with flexible schedules, end up doing more work without pay. This is often to compensate for the fact they're working fewer hours, and feel torn between home and work.

Which reminds me of an interview I did with a post-doctoral fellow in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.

She was describing a phenomenon sociologists now call the ‘ fatherhood premium’ which is where being a dad actually increases your employability and salary, whereas motherhood penalises women.

Women who have children, end up with five to 10 per cent lower wages per child, than women without children. 

But for men, being a dad adds value. Men who have kids are considered to be more likely to be responsible, they’re more likely to start on a higher wage and are more likely to be considered for promotions.

So how is this possible given our big push for gender parity and workplace equality? 

How is parenthood such a divisive factor?

Men, it was found, upon having children, seem to increase their attachment to the labour force. 

So is spending more time at work for a dad perhaps easier than going home to bath and feed the kids?  

Or is it more about a renewed focus on providing more for their family? 

Either way, dads tend to chalk up more hours, be seen as more responsible, and be revered for it. 

So what is that? Is that an ingrained bias? Is it that society expects women to be at home with children, but applauds men who have kids and come to work?

Is it a conscious decision employers make? 

Apparently many employers view women with children as having a split focus – a mother may want to get home in time for the kids, or only be available until the phone rings from the school sick bay. 

This bias from employers may almost be unconscious, in spite of the fact that mothers often put out as much, or even more work than a male counterpart or another woman who is not a parent.

This is not the case for every employer of course, but it’s interesting that despite all our focus and efforts on addressing gender parity and workplace equality, we still have some way to go for mums who choose to work.

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