MP Dunleavey: How to stop paying the motherhood penalty

Women in Red

Stop paying the mom penalty

Continued from page 1

Hand over the sponge

Correll is right: Perceptions have to shift. And maybe balancing the domestic load is one way to get there.

If couples shared the domestic demands equally, women would gain more time and energy for the workplace, and men would, perhaps, lose some. More important, the definition of what's "normal" would have to shift. Eventually, parents who both worked and attended to their children would no longer be penalized financially or professionally.

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So, here's how we can end the motherhood penalty:

  • Flexibility for all. "If flexibility is seen as a women's issue, it's not going to get us anywhere," Strober says. "Men are just as interested in flex time. They don't want to sneak out to a parent conference or a ballgame. If men start asking, too, we'll get much further."

  • Allow for dual loyalties. With so many parents in the work force, we need to cultivate a corporate culture that includes -- and doesn't stigmatize -- the demands of home life. Good workers can work where and when they need to.

  • Stop being superwoman. Working moms have to be more adamant about sharing domestic chores. That means letting go of the idea that only you can do an acceptable job as a parent, housekeeper and grocery shopper. Hand over the sponge, as financial coach Mikelann Valterra wrote.

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  • Bring it up with your boss. "Employers need to be educated about the way their beliefs about mothers and work might be leading them to see mothers as less productive than they actually are," Correll says. How? I understand why women lie about family responsibilities, but it perpetuates stereotypes that work against us. By fibbing instead of arranging for flex time, we're not signaling that anything needs to change. Level with your manager about your need for flex time, and demonstrate that even when you leave the office early you don't drop the ball.

Next, call a family meeting about those chores.

Published April 6, 2010

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