- Parenthood continues to punish women financially but not men, according to recent studies, The New York Times reports. The pay gap between childless women and men reportedly narrows until the first child is born, then permanently widens, studies conclude. The situation appears to be the same in both the U.S. and Europe, where paid parental leave is considerably more common.
- While discrimination and other conditions contribute to pay disparities, motherhood accounts for much of the inequity, which has worsened over time, according to the Times. In 1980, children accounted for 40% of the wage disparity; today they account for 80%. The primary causes are attributed to the high cost of child daycare, which can absorb 20% of a family's household income, and society's expectation that women should have most of the family's childcare responsibilities. Both causes can force parents, especially women, away from manager positions and out of the workforce entirely.
- With shortages in the labor market (and growing recognition of the issue), more businesses are concerned about losing women workers due to the lack of affordable childcare, according to The Wall Street Journal. Some see employees finding childcare as a barrier to filling vacancies and creating a talent pipeline, and have stepped in themselves to fill the gap.
This problem for working women is not new. Companies recognized decades ago that women were compelled to leave the workplace to take on most of the responsibilities of childcare. Since studies show that the problem seems to have worsened over the years, just as women are gaining pay parity with men, it's clear a disconnect remains over pregnancy and childcare. Forward-thinking employers will have to step up to see it solved.
Providing equal paid leave policies for both mothers and fathers is seen as one way to shirk society's expectation that men must work and women must take time off to care for children. Some men have even sued to see this become a reality.
Other employers have also implemented flexible work policies to enable more caregivers to create a better work/life balance while also maintaining presence at work. Already, one movement has begun asking whether flexible work should simply be the default option for most jobs.
Still other large companies are offering on-site or nearby child daycare services or subsidizing the cost of these services to help working parents. Rather than let the childcare problem worsen, employers might want to find creative ways to make it easier for parents to work and raise their families — especially as the talent market tightens considerably.