Being a woman is already a barrier to reaching the top of the corporate tree. But being a parent and a woman makes the climb more treacherous still, according to a new piece of research.
For a forthcoming study to be published in the UCLA Women’s Law Journal, three researchers followed the professional fortunes of American women since the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which made gender discrimination in US workplaces illegal.
They found that employers continue to pass over women for leadership positions while promoting men with exactly the same qualifications. They also found that women that did manage to rise did so without children in tow.
“Our results show that in the US, women who have high career attainment also tend to be single and/or without children,” said France Cindy Schipani of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, who co-authored the study with Terry Morehead Dworkin of the Seattle University School of Law and Aarti Ramaswami of the ESSEC Business School.
Predictably, females in leadership positions are hardest to find in male-dominated, higher-paid professions such as technology, finance and the law, the study found.
The findings will lend academic support to the suspicions of working mothers around the world, including in Australia.
A 2014 survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission found one in two mothers had experienced discrimination at work. This ranged from negative attitudes and comments from colleagues and managers, loss of opportunities for training and promotion, reduced pay and conditions, through to redundancy and job loss.
“This discrimination has significant short-term and long-term negative impacts on individuals and their families, including effects on their mental and physical health and long-term career advancement and earning capacity,” the commission reported.