June 29, 2018

The Roundup: Motherhood costs, a C-suite gender pay gap, and thoughts on starting work later in life

In this week’s Roundup, more research on challenges facing women at work, such as leaving the workforce after motherhood, and a gender pay gap in C-suite roles. Perhaps there’s time to get things on the right track, because a Stanford researcher says we should start working full-time at age 40.

The cost of motherhood for working women

Women underestimate the true costs of being a working mother, the Wall Street Journal reports:

“New research suggests that women frequently underestimate the time, money and effort it takes to raise children and have a career at the same time, leading many to invest in their skills and then reluctantly leave the workforce when the true costs of being a working mother become apparent.”

The research the WSJ references is a paper titled “The Mommy Effect: Do Women Anticipate the Employment Effects of Motherhood,” written by economist Jessica Pan, with additional authors/researchers from Princeton and Yale. It was distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Their findings suggest that women expect to combine work and motherhood, and women who want to work don’t often anticipate or plan to leave the workforce.

As per the WSJ, “The ‘Mommy Effect’ researchers offer a provocative explanation: The true costs of motherhood are tough to anticipate.” These costs range from financial expenses to taking time at work to pump milk. Further, and as reported separately by Marketwatch, a recent University of British Columbia study found that there’s a wage gap between working mothers and their colleagues without children.

This perspective points to the fact that while companies are offering more flexibility to their employees, updating their policies or updating benefits offerings, there’s still a way to go towards creating environments that are truly supportive for working mothers.

There’s a gender pay gap in the C-suite, too

Bloomberg reports that while female CEOs at the largest U.S. companies earn as much or more than their male counterparts, that’s not the case for all C-suite jobs.

This finding comes from an analysis of Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) data by ISS Analytics.

There’s some good news: “Women CEOs earn 20% more than men among S&P 100 companies,” Bloomberg reports.

However, in other C-suite roles, the “occupational sorting,” as Bloomberg puts it, means that even in the C-suite, women don’t get paid as much because of the roles they tend to occupy.

Women are more likely to hold head of human resources, general counsel or chief administrative positions, with lower median payouts, while men sit in operational roles, like chief operating officer or chief financial officer, with a higher median compensation.

But the good news is, a Stanford researcher says we should start working at age 40

Laura Cartensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, tells Quartz that people can get everything done – they just need to plan their lives differently.

According to Quartz, “Rather than a four-decade professional sprint that ends abrupty at 65, Cartensen argues, we should be planning for marathon careers that last longer but have more breaks along the way for learning, family needs, and obligations outside the workplace.”

Cartensen adds that we need a new model because the current one doesn’t acknowledge the demands on people’s time that come from every direction. She suggests that education and training could span longer periods of time, while full-time work would start around age 40, and extend well past today’s retirement age into people’s 80s. Financially, this would mean spending more time living on a student budget, but, Quartz argues, “many of us are already making trade-offs under the old model.”

Until there is a new, sustainable and accepted model, progressive companies are making strides towards creating a more balanced work life for their employees. Whether its offering flexible work options, expanding benefits offerings, or providing continuous learning and training, these companies are listening to their employees and providing what they need not only for the present, but for the future as well.

Related: Three strategies to support work-life blending

Danielle Ng-See-Quan

Dani is the Senior Manager, Content Marketing at Ceridian.

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