The Fawcett Society’s new report calculates the impact that becoming a mum has on a woman’s earnings. The report, ‘Not having it all: How motherhood reduces women’s pay and employment prospects’ is a new survey of existing research, drawing together the most recent data from academic and government sources. It finds that:
- Before becoming parents, men and women are equally likely to be employed but childbirth marks the start of a great divide which continues even after children have left home. Just over half (57%) of mothers with children under 5 are in paid work compared to nine tenths of fathers.
- Even those women working full time experience a pay penalty – partnered women without dependent children earn 9% less than men on average but for mothers with two children working full time the pay gap is 21.6%
- Pregnancy can make women particularly vulnerable to discrimination. During the recent downturn there has been a marked increase in the numbers of women seeking help because they believe they have experienced pregnancy related discrimination.
The Fawcett Society is calling for new policy responses to reduce the impact of motherhood on a woman’s earnings. Four priority areas emerge from the report:
1. Provide mothers with the support they need to return to jobs at their previous skills levels
2. Enforce and extend the law to protect pregnant women and women on maternity leave
3. Create substantially more part-time work in higher paid occupations
4. Tackle the low pay that exists in sectors primarily employing women.
Dr Katherine Rake, Director of the Fawcett Society says, “The choice of whether and when to return to employment is of course a very personal one. However, it is critical that those mothers who choose or need to be in paid work should be able to do so without suffering a pay penalty.
“These findings will have particular pertinence in the run up to the school holidays when mothers are often facing the biggest challenge in trying to combine employment and child care. The report shows that women are nine times as likely as fathers to arrange not to work during school holidays (5).
All the evidence gathered for this report shows that mothers are faced with impossible choices . To find jobs that are compatible with childcare, they have to make major compromises, trading down their careers so that they can meet their children’s needs. The challenge now for government is to support mothers to maintain their position in the workforce and achieve the family life that they want.”