The gender pay gap is real. And primary caregivers, like moms, often experience a wage penalty whether they take time off or remain in the workforce.
PayScale reports that women make $0.81 for every dollar a man makes in 2020. And women of color experience an even larger wage gap.
Motherhood can often present additional barriers — from getting hired to receiving equal pay to being overlooked for advancement opportunities.
A recent Modern Family Index study found that almost half of employed Americans perceive working moms to be less devoted to their work. And 72% of both working moms and dads agree that women are penalized for starting families, whereas men aren’t.
If you’re a mom yourself, you know this question of devotion is pure fiction. In fact, motherhood unlocks a whole new level of efficiency and drive that you can only understand once you’ve joined the mom inner circle.
So, instead of accepting the status quo, we have to advocate for ourselves in the workplace.
Here are some ways moms can maintain their earning power and best position themselves to close the wage gap.
For Working Moms
Working moms are expected to work like they don’t have children, while also parenting like they don’t have work. But you can change the rules of the game.
Communicate with your employer
Employers may assume that working mothers already have enough on their plate. Which means you could be overlooked for promotions or the chance to take on more responsibility in your current role.
Be up-front about your career goals and priorities. By having direct conversations, you can ensure both parties are on the same page.
Ask for flexibility
Instead of removing yourself from the workforce entirely, ask if your role can be transferred to a remote position. Or maybe you can work an alternative schedule that allows you to be present for school events instead of putting your job in jeopardy by asking off routinely.
Advocate for yourself
If it’s time for a raise, ask and negotiate one. If a promotion is up for grabs, set up a meeting and pitch yourself for the job.
Women often don’t ask for these types of advancement because they may feel uncomfortable or assume that their employer will reward them when it’s time. But that’s simply not the case.
Requesting advancement or more money is just part of doing business. And you better believe your male colleagues are regularly speaking up for themselves.
So be your own advocate. And ask for what you deserve — or more.
Research family-friendly employers
Companies are beginning to acknowledge the power behind supporting women through their transition into motherhood. Many employers have explicit policies that promote work-life balance. For example, Patagonia — an outdoor apparel company — offers paid maternity and paternity leave and access to on-site childcare for employees.
By providing these family-friendly benefits and services, companies can retain talent and increase productivity. So, if you don’t feel supported by your current employer, start exploring other opportunities with more family-friendly workplaces.
For Stay-at-Home Moms
If you choose to become a stay-at-home mom, you can still bring in income and continue to learn new skills that will maintain, or even increase, your earning power.
Build a new career on the side
Create a side hustle during naptime and bedtime. You can build on your past work experiences or venture into a new career. For example, you can offer consulting services related to your expertise or reach out to online entrepreneurs as a virtual assistant.
This can help you stay in touch with your network and prevent gaps in your resume. You may even find that you can make more money as an independent contractor since you have the ability to set your own rates. Which means you can give yourself a raise or time off as needed.
Invest in education or new skills
Taking care of children all day can be both physically and mentally exhausting. But it’s not necessarily the brain workout that you might be used to.
Consider taking online courses or learning relevant skills that will help boost your career later down the road. As a bonus, it can also give you an immediate mental escape from changing diapers and picking up messes all day.
For All Moms
As women, we often feel like we have to do it all. We need to succeed at work, be the best mom possible, prepare healthy meals and keep the home spic-and-span. But that’s just unrealistic. Something has to give.
If you want to maintain your earning power, make being a mom and succeeding at work your top priorities. You can hire out some of the more mundane tasks that are eating away at your time and mental capacity. For example, you can bring someone in to clean your home once or twice a month. Or order meal delivery services to make dinner quick and easy.
By delegating these tasks out, you can focus your energy and efforts on spending quality time with your family and progressing in your career.
Build a support system
Being a mom is hard. But you aren’t alone. Whether you’re a full-time working mom, a stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in between, take time to build relationships with coworkers and other moms in similar stages of their careers and parenthood. This added layer of support can help you both personally and professionally.
Motherhood doesn’t have to derail your career goals. By addressing workplace gender bias head-on and balancing your priorities at home, you can maintain your earning power and continue to advance in your career.