December 27, 2006

Moms Need Not Apply

Sheila Gibbons of Women's eNews takes note of a movement afoot to end workplace discrimination against mothers by making it illegal for employers to ask applicants about their marital or familial status. Only 22 states have such laws on the books. In the rest of the country, it's perfectly kosher to reject a candidate just because she has kids:
But Pennsylvania is one of those many states that says nothing against the practice, which in the absence of a federal prohibition, makes it perfectly OK. In fact, those were usually among the first questions asked, [Kiki Peppard, a single mother,] said, and many hiring managers ended the encounter soon after she honestly answered them.
I'm curious about the extent to which this particular brand of discrimination against mothers plays a role in the "gender wage gap" that's making the news of late. Presumably it's a big one. Last year, Shelley Correll and Stephen Benard, two Cornell researchers, conducted a little experiment, creating resumes and sending them out to a variety of employers. The results: "Mothers were ranked as less competent and committed and least likely to be promoted. And they were offered lower starting salaries." On the other hand, fathers were "most likely to be promoted," even more than childless dudes.

Now, given that men spend vastly less time taking care of the kids, and given the lack of affordable child-care options for most working families, one can see why employers might do this. That hardly excuses the broader state of affairs, though. I'd also note that one of the aims of so-called welfare "reform" was to force single mothers to find jobs. Just a hunch, but I'd imagine that becomes much more difficult when businesses can discriminate against single mothers at will.
-- Brad Plumer 6:06 PM || ||