In 2015, around 70 percent of American mothers and over 90 percent of American fathers participated in the labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meaning that parents either worked or looked for work. Furthermore, fewer families contained an unemployed person last year than the year before—6.9 percent of families in 2015, versus 8 percent in 2014.
That’s good news for the economy and for families, but as any working parent will tell you, it’s not uncomplicated good news. Both working for a living and managing life outside of work are full-time jobs, and it’s difficult for any working parent to make those jobs fit into 24 hours. (Especially, it must be said, if that parent is a working mom, who historically does more of the unpaid labor of running a home and caring for children than a working dad does.)
If you’re one of these multitasking working parents, or know someone who is, today is an important day: Working Parents Day. Celebrate by considering what you can do to make the world work a little better for working moms and dads.
- Question your assumptions.
One of the most interesting findings in PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap, is that the gender pay gap is 0 percent for single, childless men and women who do the same jobs. Once they marry and have children, women start earning less than men—even when they never prioritize their personal lives over their jobs.
The fact that even putting work first doesn’t make a difference for equally qualified women shows the impact of unconscious bias. In short, it’s not that women don’t want to be in the room, or that they don’t deserve it—it’s that their bosses sometimes overlook them in favor of their male colleagues.
It’s not always just men overlooking women, either. Last year, PowerToFly founder Katharine Zaleski wrote a column in Fortune in which she apologized to the working mothers she’d dismissed before starting her own family, saying of one prospective colleague, “I decided this editor was too much of a mother to follow up on the idea.”
If you catch yourself saying things like this, even to yourself, take a step back. Better yet, don’t wait. Rather:
- Push for decision-making based on data.
Data-based decision-making is a great leveler, because it doesn’t allow bias and emotion to cloud judgment. If you’re a hiring manager, consider asking for a name-blind application process, to cut down on prejudice during hiring. If you have a hand in determining compensation strategy, think about whether your organization should do a salary equity review, to make sure workers are paid fairly based on skills and experience. And finally, when you’re negotiating your own salary, make sure you’re asking for what you’re worth, based on data, not hearsay or your own salary history (which might reflect other people’s bias, not your value).
- Don’t lean on the childfree.
Anyone who has ever worked as a single, childfree person has probably had a moment in which they felt punished for being unencumbered by family responsibilities. It’s pretty common for companies to lean on those who don’t have school pickups or teacher conferences to make up for colleagues who have to get out of work in a timely fashion.
The problem, of course, is that all workers need and deserve a life outside of the office, and very few get paid enough to be on call 24/7. Also, it’s hard to work as a team when the members of said team resent each other. To keep from pitting parents against non-parents, don’t assume that colleagues without kids are available to pick up the slack.
Furthermore, recognize that if everyone is pulling their weight, but things fall apart when someone needs to leave on time for once, the solution isn’t to make someone else stay later, and the problem isn’t working parents—it’s a system that relies on workers to put in maximum effort, day in and day out.
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