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There’s Nothing Equal About #MomsEqualPay Day

Mothers’ Day was May 14, but your celebration might have been premature. Today is Moms’ Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far moms have to work into 2017 to catch up to what fathers made in 2016. That’s right, moms working full time, year round are typically paid only 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. Moms already do such much; on top of that, they have to work five months longer to make up for the wage gap.

The wage gap between mothers and fathers exists across education level, age, location, race and occupation. Some moms of color experience even larger wage gaps; for instance, Latina mothers are paid just 46 cents for every dollar paid to white, non Hispanic fathers. And on top of that, the wage gap varies depending on where a mom lives. In Delaware, where the wage gap between mothers and fathers is the smallest, moms lose $10,000 annually; but in Utah, moms lose $25,000 annually compared to fathers, and it’s even worse for some moms of color.

What’s driving this wage gap? There are several key interrelated factors: overt discrimination, implicit bias, and stereotypes about women and mothers; women’s caregiving work, which reduces women’s paychecks if, for example, they have previously left the workforce temporarily because of a lack of affordable child care or other caregiving supports; and women’s, and mothers’ overrepresentation in low wage jobs and underrepresentation in higher paying jobs, including those that are nontraditional for women.

Women with caregiving responsibilities, and mothers and women of color in particular, face persistent discrimination and stereotyping in the workplace. Women, including those who work, shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities. But outdated workplace structures and policies, including lack of paid leave and access to affordable child care, mean that many women are losing wages because they are forced to cut back on their hours, take leave without pay, or leave their jobs altogether in order to meet caregiving responsibilities.

Additionally, working mothers still face gender stereotypes about their competence and commitment at work. One study found, for example, that when comparing equally qualified women job candidates, women who were mothers were recommended for significantly lower starting salaries, perceived as less competent, and less likely to be recommended for hire than non-mothers. Fathers, on the other hand, experienced a bonus — they were recommended for significantly higher pay and were perceived as more committed to their jobs than non-fathers.

Women who are caregivers are often steered by employers towards particular types of jobs, or passed over for opportunities for advancement or promotion based on discriminatory stereotypes about their commitment to the job – for instance, not being told about a higher level position with higher pay which requires travel, because the employer assumes, without asking, that a woman with children will not want to be away from home or work long hours.

Workplace discrimination against mothers begins during pregnancy. Indeed, the National Women’s Law Center just filed a class action lawsuit alleging that Walmart refused to provide pregnant workers with temporary accommodations which would have allowed them to continue to work safely and provide for their families, and instead pushed them onto unpaid leave or fired them. Being unnecessarily forced onto unpaid leave or being fired can be devastating to a pregnant worker and her family, who lose income at the very moment their financial needs increase.

Moms experience a wage gap across occupations, and are concentrated in lower paying occupations. Take a second and think about moms in TV shows and movies. Chances are, if she’s a single mother struggling to make ends meet, she’s working as a waitress.

 

Sadly, that’s a pretty accurate reflection of reality. Server is one of the most common occupations for mothers, along with child care workers, and cashiers and retail salespeople. These are all jobs that typically pay mothers less than $10.50 an hour. In contrast, fathers tend to be concentrated in more highly paid occupations: fathers are 3.5 times more likely than mothers to be a CEO or a legislator, while mothers are 5.6 times more likely than fathers to be a server.

And when fathers and mothers work in the same occupation, fathers typically are still paid more. Even when mothers work in more highly paid occupations, fathers typically are paid more.

The wage gap and low wages don’t just shortchange mothers; they hurt families too. That’s because families are increasingly relying on women’s — and mothers’ — earnings. In 2015, 42 percent of mothers were the sole or primary family breadwinners. If a mother typically loses $16,000 annually due to the wage gap, that affects her family’s economic security.

And moms’ concentration in low wage jobs compromises family economic security as well. Working mothers with very young children are more likely than workers overall to be in low-wage jobs. More than half of mothers who have very young children and work in low-wage jobs are raising children on their own; four in ten are working full time; and nearly one-third are poor. They are disproportionately Black, Latina, and immigrant women. When mothers support children on their own, lower wages leave families close to the poverty line. More than 1 in 9 single mothers working full time in 2015 were poor.

To truly celebrate moms, we need policies that close the wage gap, advance women’s equality, and help women and their families achieve economic security by:

  • Strengthening our equal pay laws through legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Pay Equity for All Act, so that women are better able to fight back against pay discrimination.
  • Building ladders to better paying jobs for women by removing barriers to entry into male-dominated fields.
  • Lifting up the wages of women in low-wage jobs by raising the minimum wage and ensuring that tipped workers receive at least the regular minimum wage before tips.
  • Increasing access to high-quality, affordable child care.
  • Helping to prevent and remedy caregiver discrimination, and protecting workers from pregnancy discrimination with legislation like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
  • Providing paid family and medical leave and paid sick days.
  • Ensuring women’s access to the affordable reproductive health care they need.
  • Protecting workers’ ability to collectively bargain.
  • Establishing fair scheduling practices that allow employees to meet their caregiving responsibilities and other obligations.

Join advocates around the country today at 2pm ET for a Twitter storm to demand #MomsEqualPay!

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.