Despite a 1978 Act meant to protect women from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and childbirth, women are still facing prejudice in the workplace. Professor Misra elaborated, “Before the act, if you told your employer you were pregnant, they could fire you then and there. Now, they can’t do this. But unfortunately, it doesn’t address the idea that employers might think you’re worth less than another worker if you’re pregnant.”
In 2022, women-identifying people aged 25-34 earned 92 cents for every dollar earned by a man-identifying person. However, women aged 35-54 earned just 83 cents. (These statistics are even worse for women of color, with Black women earning 70 cents, and Hispanic women earning 65 cents). This noticeable drop in pay coincides with the ages most mothers are having and raising children. This wage gap persists even when you factor in education, work experience, and hours worked, further indicating that gender discrimination is truly at the heart of this issue.
To further complicate the motherhood penalty, the exorbitant cost of childcare (a 2021 report found that the average cost of center-based childcare is more than public college tuition in 34 states) can make the pay gap even more difficult to navigate. Along with creating financially untenable situations for mothers, these financial downsides are also contributing to parenthood in big ways, with 26% of parents under 40 saying they won’t have more children due to finances, and 44% of non-parents saying they don’t plan on having children at all.