Are babies career-killers for women? for men?

I’m female. I’m a student. I’m in science. I want a professional career. I think I also want a baby or two in a decade, when I’m in my mid-thirties.

But, the question then looms: will I be professionally derailed by motherhood, like everyone says? I’m thinking right now, the answer is yes, but not because of work/life balance.


I found some articles, and they bring up really good points:


“ex-Cornell University researchers Shelley J. Correll, Stephen Benard, and In Paik found this:

In a 2007 study, they found a pervasive and significant bias against mothers in the workplace, no matter how qualified or productive they are. First the authors had participants rate equally qualified female job candidates—some mothers, some childless—on the basis of fake résumés that contained clues about their status. They found that the mothers were perceived to be less competent and committed to their jobs than the single women, and the mothers were less likely to be hired. Those mothers who were hired were offered salaries far lower than single female candidates with the same qualifications. The authors also had the participants rate equally qualified male candidates. The fathers were rated as significantly more committed to their jobs than the single men. Fathers were offered much higher pay than non-dads, too. “


What the heck…


and more importantly, this article made some good points:

“In a study with kindred results, subjects were asked to read files of fictitious applicants for positions as an attorney. Among the male applicants, fathers were held to lower standards than non-fathers…

Fathers could get hired and promoted, in other words, even when their performance was worse than that of men without children. (Kathleen Fuegen, Monica Biernat, Elizabeth Haines, and Kay Deaux. 2004. Mothers and Fathers in the Workplace: How Gender and Parental Status Influence Judgments of Job-Related Competence. Journal of Social Issues.)

In another study in which subjects rate files of fictitious applicants, the benefits of fatherhood were many. (Shelley J. Correll, Stephen Benard, and In Paik. 2007. Getting a job: Is there a Motherhood PenaltyAmerican Journal of Sociology.)

Applicants who were fathers were rated significantly more committed to their job than non-fathers. Fathers were allowed to be late to work significantly more times than non-fathers. Finally, they were offered significantly higher salaries than non-fathers.

Why do fathers get ahead?

Does fatherhood bring out the traits we value in a good colleague? At the very least, it seems that fatherhood enhances the perception of highly valued social skills. This is what Stephen Benard and Shelley J. Correll report in their article Normative discrimination and the motherhood penalty from Gender & Society 2010.

Compared to men without children, highly successful fathers are perceived as significantly less hostile, as more likable, and warmer. Parenthood enhances the perceived interpersonal qualities of male but not female applicants. Fatherhood is a signal of positive interpersonal qualities.”


And the major points that I think are rational and look at things far more analytically:


“As we learn about the enhanced careers of fathers, we realize that a difference work/life balance cannot possibly be the explanation for slower careers for mothers. Fathers have a different work/life balance than their childless male peers. Yet that doesn’t slow them down.

Even if mothers spend more time on childcare than fathers, fathers nonetheless spend more time on childcare than non-fathers. If women are slowed down in their careers by the actual effect parenthood has on their daily lives, then we would expect to see the same effect slowing down fathers as compared to non-fathers. But we don’t.”



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