Motherhood penalty highlighted in report to parliament

A study by business experts has found that women suffer a ‘motherhood penalty’ which leaves them with poorer pay and lesser job prospects for decades after taking maternity leave.

The report by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) was given as part of the Gender Pay Gap enquiry by parliament, and also found that returning to work part-time had a negative impact on the rest of a woman’s career.

The CMI told the enquiry that the gender pay gap in full-time management and professional roles goes up as women get older - from 6 per cent for 26 to 35-year-olds, to 20 per cent for 36 to 45-year-olds. For women in senior roles the pay gap has increased over the last decade, rising from 16 per cent for 45 to 49-year-olds and 26 per cent for 50 to 54-year-olds in 2005, to 35 per cent for 46 to 60-year-olds this year.

Older women were described as being particular victims of the ‘motherhood penalty’, with employers seeing returning mothers as being of lesser value, and therefore offering them less pay, fewer promotions and part-time work instead of flexible hours.

The report highlighted that professional women are earning an average of 22 per cent less than men this year – the equivalent of working 57 days a year for nothing.

CMI chief executive Ann Francke said the problems facing both working mothers and non-mothers needed to be addressed.

‘In 2005 the pay gap for senior women was less than it is today, which may be very surprising to hear,’ she said. ‘The reasons for that are cultural. There are far too few women in senior positions. We talk a lot about the motherhood penalty, but I think we need to look broader than that ... it affects non-mothers as well as mothers.

‘It’s about the culture of success, about how we define who is successful, it’s about long hours, presenteeism, not fitting work around the modern lifestyle.’

If you’ve been unfairly treated at work due to your sex, pregnancy or maternity leave, please contact Ashley Hunt, Vaishali Thakerar, Carrie-Ann Randall or Alex Reid at Lawson-West on 0116 212 1000.

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