by Sarah Bennett-Astesano
Carol Evans is the author of the recently published book, This Is How We Do It, and president of Working Mother magazine.
Working mothers aren't just busy, they also must contend with discriminatory practices and outdated (or nonexistent) social supports. That's the premise of another recent book, The Motherhood Manifesto: What America's Moms Want - And What to Do About It, by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. Using the acronym MOTHER (Maternity leave, Open flexible work, TV we choose and other after-school programs, Healthcare for all kids, Excellent childcare and Realistic and fair wages), the authors advocate for a web of connected government and employer policies to redress the situation, and they invite mothers to join them.
What is a manifesto and why do American mothers need one?
Joan Blades: The best way to take care of kids is to take good care of their parents, and, in particular, in this case we're talking about moms.
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner: We're dusting off known solutions for caring for mothers and children and really getting down to implementing them. The word "manifesto" is the strongest word for clearly stating that it's time to implement solutions.
Can you explain the concept of the maternal wall?
Blades: If you look at board rooms and the halls of power, you still see a huge percentage of men. You look a little more closely and you find that an awful lot of the women that are there don't have children. You put two and two together and see that, when a woman has children, in all too many cases, it just stops her career trajectory short.
A recent study found that with the same resume, mothers were 44 percent less likely to be offered the job than non-mothers, and they were offered $11,000 less for the same job with the same resume. There's a huge bias against mothers in the workplace.
Rowe-Finkbeiner: Mothers take a wage hit, while fathers typically get a wage boost.
Something you point out in the book is that it's legal to pay mothers less.
Rowe-Finkbeiner: Mothers are not a protected group in most states. One study showed that women without children make 90 cents to a man's dollar, women with children make 73 cents to a man's dollar, and single mothers make 56 cents to a man's dollar. Eighty-two percent of women have children in America, and 71 percent of moms are in the workforce. So we're talking about a huge proportion of our population.
Why do you argue that the challenges mothers face should be addressed in a collective, public way?
Blades: Anne Crittenden (author of The Price of Motherhood) poses a great question: Think about the woman who has paid into social security all her life. Then think about the woman who has raised four kids. When they come to the retirement, who has actually put more into social security? Investing in our kids is the way that we have a vibrant future.
Return to feature article: Working Moms
Sarah Bennett-Astesano is the contributing work-and-family editor for United Parenting Publications. She is the working mother of two boys, ages 6 and 9.
- I Don't Know How She Does It, by Allison Pearson, Anchor, 2003. An appealing novel about a woman juggling her job as manager of a hedge fund with her role as the mother of two small children. Humorous, chaotic and popular with readers in the author's native England.
- The Motherhood Manifesto: What America's Moms Want and What to Do About It, by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Nation Books, 2006.
- This Is How We Do It: The Working Mothers' Manifesto, by Carol Evans, Hudson Street Press, 2006.
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