The Different Faces of Sexism at Work

According to latest U.S. Census data, working women who are under thirty and childless are out-earning their male counterparts. Keli Goff, in her Huffpo piece, “Has Mommy-ism Replaced Sexism (And Is That a Bad Thing?)”  thinks that this seems to indicate that…

…sexism “in some corners is being usurped by mommy-ism, discrimination not based on sex but based on the decision to become a parent. This raises a fundamental question: Is paying, or promoting someone less for becoming, or planning to become a parent, sexism?”

Seems the answer is maybe yes, maybe no. On one hand, it seems anyone should be allowed to build the family of his or her choice without fearing they will lose his or her job or promotions, and law should protect this right. On the other, when parenting gets in the way of effective performance it does not seem like parent driven sexism as much as job-related reality.

As Goff says, what a boss likely often feels but not say because legally s/he can’t goes something like this: “I am not concerned that you are a woman. I could care less as long as you can do the job and do it well. But I am concerned that after gaining and training a valuable employee like you, I may then lose you for a significant amount of time, possibly more than once, because of your completely valid choice to give birth and have a family. I may even applaud that choice on a personal level, but on a professional level it may impact our company, and our revenue and I have to care about that.”

Woman who do not have kids make it easier to not have to deal with this. However, most of the time childless women at work are childless “for now.”  Most do end up becoming mothers.  Fathers don’t face this sort of parent based dilemma.  Goff seems to think that the solution to the mommy-ism issue and for women to achieve true parity with men, is to get fathers more engaged in helping their wives achieve work/life balance–“Instead of pressuring the men in our management offices to help us achieve work/life balance how about pressuring the men in our homes to help out more with the kids?”

Research tells us that more dads are doing just that. But clearly not enough if mommy-ism is happening out there. To really help make it happen it has to go back to companies as well.  They need to have policies that encourage “fathering,” like paternity leave.  It’s out there, but not as much as it should be.  In the meanwhile, it seems that the childfree just have it easier on this one.  Their career can be first and stay first if that is what they want.

But with regard to sexism in the workplace, there are those that are concerned that by the childless reaching pay equity might end up neutralizing gender based discrimination altogether. What is your take? And on mommy-ism — have you seen it out there?

3 thoughts on “The Different Faces of Sexism at Work

  1. There is a something going on that is the opposite at the company where my boyfriend works. He’s been there 4 years and hasn’t been promoted. He started as an Itern and then was hired on full time. They promote guys who don’t deserve it, and last time he applied for a job that was open they gave it to another intern, passing over two guys that had already been hired on full time and had more experience with the company. My bf was pissed b/c the other guy or him should have gotten it before the Intern. Well they just promoted the other guy as well. He wasn’t surprised that he didn’t get that promotion either.

    He found out through talking with someone else that works there that they are promoting people(men, there are not many women there) who are married and whose wives are about to or already have had a baby. He noticed the pattern when it was pointed out to him. The person who pointed it out has been with that company for a long time. He thinks they want something to hold over him b/c they know he won’t be able to just leave if he has a family depending on him. the whole thing is ridiculous b/c he wouldn’t even consider marriage and family if he was still in the position he’s in.

    They kept having him jump through all these hoops telling him, it would help him get promoted but it went no where. they are just waiting for him to get married and have a baby(which is not happening as long as he’s with me).

    I honestly don’t know of anyone who’s been passed over for promotions or raises based on whether they have kids. a lot of women take time off after having kids and I think that has a lot to do with it. Either that or they need more time off work to deal with child related stuff and that has to have an impact on their raises and promotions when compared with someone who doesn’t have to take time off for child related stuff.

    1. Seems like it can happen both ways…not good if you are a woman going to have a baby, and can be not good if you don’t get married and start having them..The latter may relate to the idea that if you are married with kids you will be more apt to stay on the job..that is if you are a male. ~L

  2. I can relate to you an experience I was part of back in the late 1990s when I was still working in my supervisory role in an office.

    My boss (a recently married but not-yet-childed woman in her early 30s) and I were discussing staff assignments for the next 6-12 months. She tossed out the name of one woman who would be good to take on a somewhat tougher assignment than she had been doing since she began working for us the year before.

    However, she was about 4 months pregnant and I told my boss I did not think she was best suited for the new project because she would be going on maternity leave in a few months and could very well not return afterwards. I did not want to waste time training her to do this project if I would have to train someone else to do it in a few months.

    My boss knew I was right and we chose someone else, a single man who had been with us about the same amount of time and had no children.

    The woman had her baby, went on maternity leave, and never returned to work for us. The man who was assigned the project remained with us a few more years.

    I never regretted doing what I did.

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