Career women suffer ‘motherhood penalty’

THE vast majority of mothers believe there is a “motherhood penalty”, with their careers taking a nosedive after they have children while fathers escape unscathed.

Family-friendly firms are still a rarity. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto
Family-friendly firms are still a rarity. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto

Ninety-one per cent of women said they believed mothers’ jobs were affected by having babies – contributing to the gap in workplace pay and seniority between the sexes.

A survey by Mumsnet found six out of ten mothers felt having children had had a negative effect on their career, with only 10 per cent saying they believed having a child had had a positive effect on their professional life.

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However, three-quarters of mothers said they believed parenthood had had no impact on their male partner’s career.

Justine Roberts, chief executive of Mumsnet, which has launched a new jobs site to showcase family-friendly job opportunities, said: “In 2015, we’re still seeing most mothers – but relatively few fathers – suffer professionally when they have children. It’s a multifaceted problem, but one way forward is for women to vote with their feet and take their skills and experience to forward-thinking employers.”

Family-friendly policies such as flexible working and being able to work close to home were cited as important factors in allowing women to balance work and children.

A total of 71 per cent of respondents said they prioritised flexible hours when looking for a new job, while 52 per cent cited part-time working as important.

Ms Roberts said: “We’ve launched Mumsnet Jobs to showcase family-friendly jobs at all levels and across all sectors – because women shouldn’t have to accept career penalties as the price of motherhood.”

A third of those who returned to paid work after having children said they had been surprised by how difficult it was to manage the logistics of nursery pick-ups or take time off to look after unwell children.

Meanwhile, 56 per cent said they felt unable to pursue promotion or seniority because they could not commit to long hours, constant availability or travelling away from home.

Tina Woolnough, spokeswoman for the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said: “Things are just as difficult for working women as they ever were. There are a lot of very talented women who have had to put their children before their careers because working just does not fit in with childcare.

“You would think it would be in employers’ interests to tap into this huge wealth of talent.

“We were told that there was going to be this whole home-working revolution, but we’re still waiting for it.”

Earlier this year, a study by statistics agency Eurostat found the UK had the sixth-largest pay gap between men and women in the European Union.