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Discrimination against working mothers is subtle, but rampant

Many working moms in Pennsylvania have probably experienced a moment in the office where a boss or a coworker has expressed concern about their parenting responsibilities. These comments can often seem caring on the surface, but a study from the Harvard Business Review indicates that the perception of working mothers by their coworkers and bosses can also be costly.

In an experiment conducted where participants evaluated hiring a consultant, results showed that women who were pregnant or who had children already were considered to be "significantly less competent" compared to men with children or candidates who did not mention their parental status.

Other studies have shown that employees who are visibly pregnant and who are managers are considered less committed to their jobs, less authoritative and less dependable. Similarly, pregnant women managers are also often viewed as more emotional and irrational than their non-pregnant peers.

This bias translates to lower pay and less promotional opportunities for working mothers. In fact, the study showed that the wage gap between mothers and non-mothers was larger than the gap between men and women.

Anecdotally, female employees who have children or are pregnant say that working relationships can change after a colleague discovers they are a parent. Discussions may change from work-related challenges to focus more on parenting challenges, or questions can arise about work-life balance that never would have been posed before.

For Pennsylvania mothers who think this sounds all too familiar, it's important to know that being passed over for a promotion because they have children is unacceptable. Gender discrimination can take many forms, and although many working mothers have accepted this treatment as a penalty for having a family, the fact is that this is an illegal basis for discrimination and it should not be tolerated.

Source: The Atlantic, "The Pregnancy Penalty: How Working Women Pay for Having Kids," Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Dec. 13, 2012.

Our Pittsburgh law firm assists women who have suffered from workplace discrimination. More information is available on our website.

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