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First of all, let's take a look at the numbers. The BLS says that women with children make median weekly earnings of $680, while women without children have median weekly earnings of $697. Not a big difference, until you look at the corresponding numbers for men: $946 for men with children, and $799 for those without.
"I think parenthood is like the new site of gender discrimination," said Michelle Budig, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in an interview with NBC News.
Budig is co-author of a report called "The Wage Penalty for Motherhood," which posits three reasons for reduced wages among mothers:
1. Lost job experience, due to leaving the workforce for a period of time.
In today's workforce, being out of commission for even a year or two can put you behind continuously employed workers, in the same way that being among the long-term unemployed diminishes employment opportunities.
2. Lowered productivity at work, due to outside demands on time and energy.
Although some might argue, of course, that multitasking mothers are the ideal employees, in terms of productivity, having priorities outside the office might annoy managers with admittedly unreasonable expectations about employees being able to put in last-minute overtime.
3. Trading higher wages for mother-friendly (but lower-paying) jobs.
Just as women sometimes earn lower wages because they tend, more than men, to choose jobs that benefit society, women sometimes choose lower-paying jobs because they offer more flexibility for families.
4. Discrimination from employers.
Even in cases where none of the above considerations are a factor, employers may have developed biases against working mothers -- which makes it impossible for them to prove otherwise.
Men, on the other hand, benefit from these stereotypes. A man with a family might be regarded as a stable choice for an employer. Plus, they may be more apt to work harder, if they believe the success of the family depends on their success at work.
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