Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Motherhood Colors Others' Views in the Workplace

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Motherhood Colors Others' Views in the Workplace

Article excerpt

Byline: Candace Moody

Motherhood changes everything. Including the likelihood you'll be considered for a promotion.

That's according to several studies conducted in the 2000s by researchers who wondered if women identified as mothers experienced repercussions in the course of their careers. In several scientific blind studies, women whose distinguishing characteristic was parenthood were rated 10 percent lower in competence than women who weren't identified as mothers. Raters asked to identify candidates who would be 'committed to the company' rated mothers about 15 percent lower in this category.

Managers and teams at work do have conflicting feelings about a mother's commitment to work; they have trouble deciding which should be a priority: "family devotion" or "work devotion." The studies found that "contemporary cultural beliefs about the mother role include an expectation that mothers will and should engage in "intensive" mothering that prioritizes meeting the needs of dependent children above all other activities." Given the choice between rushing home to care for a sick child and attending a staff meeting, we all expect a mom to choose her child. The question is whether that expectation bleeds over into our view of the mothers' competence and commitment to her career.

Women have been in the workplace in significant numbers since the 1970s, but our view of them as caregivers first and wage earners second hasn't changed. In most families, it's the mother who bears most of the responsibility for child care when both parents work; it's understood that all things being equal, the woman will leave work to attend to family matters. This affects a huge part of the population of working women, since 81 percent of women in the United States have children by the time they are 44 years old.

Two Cornell University sociologists conducted a laboratory experiment in 2005 in which participants evaluated applications of same-race, same-gender job applicants who were equally qualified but differed only in the fact that one was a parent. …

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