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3 Ways Working Moms Can Close the Gender Pay Gap

Bringing a child into the world should be a joyous occasion. However, many working mothers will tell you that having a child is a bitter-sweet time in their lives, because this occasion usually marks the beginning of the end of their careers, thanks to a little (yet persistent) thing called the gender pay gap. The good news is, choosing to have a child doesn't have to mean your career is doomed. Here are a few powerful ways working mothers can help regain control of their careers by aiding in the eradication of the gender pay gap once and for all.

Bringing a child into the world should be a joyous occasion. However, many working moms will tell you that having a child is a bittersweet time in their lives, because this occasion can mark the beginning of the end of their careers.

Why? Because it’s hard to balance family and work under the best of circumstances. Add in a little something called the gender pay gap, and it becomes harder to justify focusing on the work part of life.The good news is, choosing to have a child doesn’t have to mean your career is doomed. Here are a few powerful ways working mothers can help regain control of their careers and close the gender pay gap once and for all.

working moms

(Photo Credit: mrhayata/Flickr)

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The Numbers Don’t Lie

The gender pay gap is definitely real and it’s definitely a huge problem, especially for working mothers. In fact, in PayScale’s report, The Gender Pay Gap Is Real, it was found that married women with kids earns an astonishing 31.1 percent less than married men with kids.

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That helps explain why another study (conducted by Pew Research Center) found that over half of the working mothers with children under the age of 18 who were surveyed said that “being a working parent has made it harder for them to advance in their job or career,” as compared to only 16 percent of men who reported the same outcome. Moreover, one-in-four mothers also reported that they quit their job at some point in their careers for family reasons, whereas only 10 percent of men did the same.

The study, which surveyed over 2,000 adults 18 years old and older, also found that, “Roughly four-in-ten mothers with children of any age (42%) say that at some point in their working life, they have reduced their hours in order to care for a child or other family member,” and “a similar share of mothers (39%) say they have taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for a family member.”

Of the women who said they reduced their hours to care for a child or family member, roughly 35 percent said that the reduction hurt their career overall, as compared to the 17 percent of men who had the same negative effect. Of the women who reported that they “took a significant amount of time off from work for family-related reasons,” about one-third indicated the time off hurt their career, whereas only 18 percent of men reported the same.

Hope for the Future

Despite these alarming figures, and the fact that women earn less than men in nearly every industry, there is still hope for a brighter future for working mothers. Thankfully, this issue has gained enough attention to encourage companies to implement changes – but working mothers also play a significant role in sealing the deal. Here are a few ways working mothers can be the change they want to see in their careers and in the working world.

Being the Change

1. Find an employer that is employee-focused and family-friendly.

Not all employers are made alike, so be sure to do your homework and find one that meets most, if not all, of your requirements. Just like in a marriage, both parties involved need to mesh well and also have a mutual respect and appreciation for one another. Finding an employer that values its employees in and out of the workplace is priceless, especially if you’re a working mother.

The reality of being a parent is that children get sick and need to care. There are afterschool activities and sports practices to which children need to be driven. There are more mouths to feed, clothes to wash, and chores to be done when you’re a working parent (as opposed to being childless). After all is said and done, it’s nice to have an employer who has policies in place to accommodate the challenges of being a working parent, so that you can thrive in your life and career.

2. Stop shying away from your successes and start owning them proudly.

It’s about time working mothers started taking credit where credit is due. For some reason, working women have a tendency to become embarrassed or feel guilty for accepting praise, even for a job well done. How can we expect these problems to be eliminated if we keep fueling the fire?

This may sound terribly cliché, but it’s time to lean in. The only thing you’re doing by denying yourself the recognition you’ve earned is removing yourself from the spotlight – the exact same spotlight that will lead to much-needed promotions and raises. Sheryl Sandberg hits the nail on the head when she points out that much of the hesitation women feel in owning their successes is due to the negative association between success and likeability – the more success you have, the less likeable you are. For men, the opposite is true.

To make matters worse, working mothers have added guilt, because doing well in your career can be associated with neglecting your children. This causes many working mothers to hide in the shadows, out of fear that they may be perceived as bad moms by their co-workers.

That’s simply not the case. Step up to the plate and embrace the recognition bestowed upon you in your career. You’ve earned every bit of your success.

3. Apologize less, negotiate more.

I’m just going to say it: women apologize way too much and for no reason. It’s almost automatic for many of us to apologize, even if we’re not at fault.

Needless to say, this type of behavior is detrimental to your career … so stop doing it. Rather than wasting all of your precious energy gobbling up everyone else’s blame and sorrow, funnel it into doing good for the working mothers of the world and negotiate a salary that reflects your true worth. (Find out what that is, here.)

Working mothers can’t expect to narrow the gender pay gap if they’re not being proactive and asking for equal pay. Did you know that men are four times more likely to ask for raises or promotions than women? It’s time to stop apologizing to others and start apologizing to yourself, because you’re cheating yourself out of a well-deserved raise. Remember: 75 percent of people who negotiate a raise are granted some sort of bump in pay.

Lastly, the gender pay gap isn’t going to close overnight, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make small, meaningful steps in our everyday lives to end the pay gap once and for all.

Tell Us What You Think

What other ways do you feel would help narrow and eventually close the gender pay gap? Tell us your thoughts on Twitter, or leave a comment below. We’d love to hear what you have to add.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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