The Motherhood Penalty

One argument against the wage gap is that women voluntarily leave the workforce to have children. This is a common explanation people use to support paying women lower salaries than men. “About 39% of mothers say they have taken “significant” time off work after having a child” (Farber, 2). Although these mothers are voluntarily taking off work, it is for a justified reason. They are recovering from childbirth and nurturing their new borns. It is reasonable to put a 1 year old in day care, but not a baby who is only a few weeks old. This argument attempts to refute equal gender pay, but fails because it is unreasonable to expect a women to take no time off and unfair to have women penalized for taking maternity leave.

After returning to work post childbirth, women can earn up to a third less than men. According to Business Insider, men actually earn up to 6 percent more after having a child (Friedmann, 3). This is absurd that women’s wages dwindle while men’s wages increase. Furthermore, compared to childless women, women who take this time off result in earning 7% less per child (Farber, 2). Other studies help prove that the pay gap between mothers and women who aren’t mothers could actually be even bigger than the gap between men and women. It is ironic that women would be paid less after childbirth when children cost thousands of dollars to raise. Therefore, it seems that women are being penalized for having children when this is a natural part of life.

A solution to this dilemma could be requiring men to take the same amount of leave as women and to require the leave to be paid. Currently, federal law guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for most employees. President Trump is taking steps in the right direction when he formally announced his child care plan that guarantees 6 weeks of paid maternity leave (Fitzgerald, 14). Without these requirements, mothers are at a disadvantage and may feel pressured to stay at work. What will a woman do with her breastmilk when it is time to pump at work? Shouldn’t a mother hold her child for the first few weeks? In the final analysis, women taking maternity leave is not a valid argument to punish them with lower wages.



Farber, Madeline. “3 Reasons Why the Gender Pay Gap Still Exists.” Wage Gap: 3 Big Reasons It Still Exists on Equal Pay Day | Fortune, 03 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

Fitzgerald, Thomas. “Aiming to win over moderate women, Trump proposes subsidies for child care, paid maternity leave.” N.p., 13 Sept. 2016. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

Friedmann, Sarah. “Nine Frustrating Arguments About The Pay Gap, And How To Debunk Each One.” Bustle. Bustle, 04 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.


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