The motherhood penalty is real—but you can overcome it. Here's how.
We all want to be successful and help others succeed, but there are many sources of bias that make it harder for women to get ahead.
Mothers in particular face discrimination, including assumptions that they’re less competent—even though studies show that having children can make women more effective at work.
Our friends at Lean In have some amazing tips for managers who want to help make a difference for all the working mamas of the world.
Change the 'likability penalty.'
Strong, confident women are often perceived negatively by their peers, while studies show that strong men... well, they’re just seen as confident. Here’s what Lean In suggests.
When a woman asserts herself—for example, by speaking in a direct style or promoting her ideas—she is often called “aggressive,” “ambitious,” or “out for herself.” When a man does the same, he is seen as “confident” and “strong.”
When you hear biased language—such as “bossy,” “pushy” and “shrill”—request a specific example of what the woman did and then ask, “Would you have the same reaction if a man did the same thing?”
Give women credit.
Studies show that removing gender from decisions improves women’s chances of success. So women are punished simply for being women. That’s got to change. Lean in explains:
Male performance is often overestimated compared to female performance, starting with mothers overestimating boys’ crawling ability and underestimating girls’... Over time, even small deviations in performance evaluation have a significant impact on women’s careers.
Look for opportunities for gender-blind evaluations in hiring. When evaluating performance, make sure managers are aware of gender bias.
Make work work for mothers.
If you’re a manager, it’s important to know that studies show that modern workplaces make all sorts of negative assumptions about working mothers—consciously and unconsciously. Here’s what Lean in suggests.
Many studies show that the pushback (or “maternal wall”) women experience when they have kids is the strongest gender bias. Motherhood triggers assumptions that a woman is less competent and less committed to her career. As a result, she is held to higher standards and presented with fewer opportunities.
Don’t make assumptions about mothers’ willingness to take on challenging assignments or travel. Avoid messages like “I don’t know how you do it,” which signal that good mothers should be at home... If you’re a parent, be vocal about the time you spend away from work with your children; this gives other parents in your organization permission to do the same.
Lean In has lots of tips about what you as a manager can do to make the workplace a more fair environment for women.