When you're sitting across from a female job applicant and she reveals that she has children - say young children - does that in any way influence your decision to hire her? Do you believe that, because she's a mother, she'll give less effort to her job than a father?
Not me. When I meet a mother with young children I don't just feel like just giving her a job. I feel like giving her a bottle of Jack Daniels and some Xanax. But apparently, other employers aren't as sympathetic. That's the conclusion from a new survey published by child care provider Bright Horizons Family Solutions.
Survey respondents, which included 2,000 working Americans over the age of 18 and was about equally split between parents and non-parents, said that working fathers are "more dedicated" to their careers than working moms by a margin of 75 to 59 percent. 77 percent of the respondents also believe that dads are better able to manage their responsibilities without being stretched, and two-thirds of them said that is easier for men to manage working parent responsibilities than women.
And you know what? I get it. You can make the case that things have improved for women in the workplace since the days of Don Draper patting his secretary on the bottom and you're right. But even in today's "advanced" society, women still get the short end of the stick when it comes to their professional life.
They still seem to be the ones who take the kids to the dentist, meet with the teacher or have to sacrifice their jobs over their husbands when family duty calls. Working women still get the stink eye from stay-at-home moms who silently accuse them of choosing their jobs over their children. They may be contributing to the family income, but they're still expected to also pick up lion’s share of the household duties as well. Don't believe me? Then why do so many commercials promoting cleaning products and childcare services still feature women as the prominent customer? Madison Avenue does its research. They know who their intended customers (still) are: women.
“We’d like to think that as a culture we’ve evolved, but for so many women that clearly isn’t the case,” Maribeth Bearfield, Chief Human Resources Officer for Bright Horizons told Working Mother in an email. “As women grow into leadership positions and contemplate motherhood, they’re seeing the experience of those around them and it can be a stark reality.”
Of course, this bias is ridiculous. If you've got a candidate sitting across from you that person's gender should make no difference in your hiring and pay decisions. If the candidate says they can do the job, and they're qualified, then who cares if she has kids or not? But unfortunately the bias is real. Some see this as a problem. But you know what? I think it's an opportunity for the smart employer.
Those employers don't run away from female candidates just because they have kids. They embrace the fact. They realize that, by adapting to their needs and providing better benefits, pay and an environment more suitable to working mothers they can take advantage of these employees' brains and talents and profit from them. As more and more women are becoming choosier over the types of employers they work for they will gravitate more towards employers who are more accepting of their choices...and in turn those employers will gain.
The data also supports this. Bright Horizon's study found that the vast majority of respondents said that being a mother helps women prepare for the challenges they'll face as business leaders and that moms are better listeners, are calmer in crisis, more diplomatic and better team players as compared to working fathers or employers without children. Anyone who has spent a day with a five-year-old would agree with this.
"Research finds that these women are overlooked when it comes to career-advancing opportunities, holding them back from the work experience they need to move into leadership roles," the study stated. "And when organizations don’t have many working mothers at the top, it keeps them from realizing their full potential, as well."
As an employer, are you nervous about employing a "working mom?" Do you think, like so many others, that she'll be "less devoted" to her job than a working dad? Don't believe it. Instead, take advantage of that bias held by others and hire her. Chances are your business will be better off for it over the long run.