How will you explain the glass ceiling to your daughter?
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to?
This week we are observing Equal Pay Day. The day in April 2016 when a woman would finally catch up to a man’s 2015 earnings. We’ve heard the statistics. They’re infuriating. The average wage of a woman working full-time, year-round is only 79 percent of a man’s earnings.
Statistically, the mommy-tax makes things even worse. Mothers, on average, have lower wages than non-mothers.
Why? Many of us never dreamed of leaving the workforce, yet felt our hands tied after having children. We just couldn’t make enough to cover the cost of child care -- or felt stifled by the pay gaps ahead. “I’ll go back when they’re in school” we said.
Six or more years later, we’re stuck. Our skills are outdated. We have 20-something year old managers who don’t “get it.” We need flexibility. We take a job we don’t love and feel overqualified for. Or we opt out completely, not really feeling like it was much of an “option.”
So how will this change for our daughters? Here we are working tirelessly to put them through school and save for their college educations. They are graduating at higher rates than their male peers. They’re getting higher degrees than them as well. But they too, have a uterus. They too, may have children. Will this set them back?
How do we teach the next generation of women to break this cycle – crash through this glass ceiling where they can see the top, but it seems impossible to get there?
What if care was the solution? If workplaces didn’t see women as moms/potential moms/less-dedicated employees (historically, this is true), but instead saw men with the same “liability,” then workplaces couldn’t retain the bias towards women -- because children and child care would be what they actually are: both parents’ responsibility. Shocking.
“Your kids are sick? Where’s your wife?” While this thought seems so outdated, certain workplaces still subtly question a male employee’s potential if he has care responsibilities at home. Or at least that’s the fear (perhaps it’s valid since they’ve seen their female counterparts suffer). Some companies – or high earning professions -- are stuck in the “Leave it to Beaver” era where mom is home with the kids. It’s the 21st century people. More than 60 percent of families are dual-income. And sometimes women work because they want to. Imagine that.
Let’s change this bias. Let’s get in front of workplaces and demand they recognize dads as equal parents. And let’s raise men who demand this egalitarianism as well. (BTW: It’s crazy how this bias is really male-focused, yet it’s the women who bear the financial burden.)
So how do we explain this ceiling to our daughters? We tell them to find a partner who believes children should be cared for by both parents – that Mom is not the “default” or “primary” parent just because she gave birth. And we teach her to only work for companies who value family care and flextime for all genders, as reflected in their workplace procedures and benefits. So that way, when her kids are sick one day, she’ll hear something like:
Your kids are sick? Hope to see you tomorrow.
Your kids are sick? We have a back-up care program that can help.
Your kids are sick? Where’s your husband?
My friend and colleague Avra Siegel wrote this piece outlining the three main obstacles working moms face for equal opportunities – as well as pay. I strongly suggest you and your spouse read it. It will help you both be advocates for the women – and moms -- you know, especially your daughters.