An end to working mother’s guilt?

Working motherHaving a working mother benefits children, particularly daughters, in the long run, according to a new Harvard University study, lead by Professor Kathleen McGinn. A global study of 50,000 adults in 25 developed countries found daughters of working mothers tended to complete more years of education, to be more likely to find employment in superior roles and to earn higher incomes than those of stay-at-home mothers. In fact, as adults those daughters earned 23% more than the daughters of non-working mothers, equating to an average annual income of $35,474 compared to $28, 894. They were also more likely to be in managerial roles (33% vs. 25%.) As McGinn explained: “There is no single policy or practice that can eliminate gender gaps at work and at home. But being raised by a working mother appears to come very close to that. Women raised by a working mother do better in the workplace, and men raised by a working mother contribute more at home.”

According to a New York Times article ‘Mounting evidence of Advantages for Working Mothers’: ‘The effect was strongest in countries in which there was a bigger divide in opinions about the role of women, like the United States and Israel, and in countries where gender attitudes were more conservative, like Russia and Mexico. It was smallest in countries where there was widespread acceptance of working women, like the Nordic countries.’

The Times explained: “Other researchers are less confident that the data has proved such a large effect, because it is difficult to know whether a mother who worked caused her daughter to work, or whether other factors were more influential. “The problem is we don’t know how these mothers differed,” said Raquel Fernandez, an economics professor at New York University who was not involved with the Harvard study but who has also studied the topic. “Was it really her mother working who did this, or was it her mother getting an education?”

Interestingly, the same trend didn’t apply for the sons of working mothers. However, having a working mother still had a lasting influence on sons, because they did more childcare and housework as adults. Indeed, the survey found sons of working mothers spent 7.5 more hours a week on childcare and 25 more minutes on housework than their male counterparts raised by stay at home mothers. If you’re single, we’d encourage you to partner up with the daughter or son of a working woman. The message is clear; being a working mother benefits your children…and the people they will become.

Pay gap myth: Women earn less because mothers work less

images-1One of the greatest ironies of the pay gap is that men earn more the more children they have, whereas women’s pay goes down with each additional child – or about 7-14% less than women without children. This is partly due to some women’s choice to reduce hours, but it’s also because many jobs don’t compensate them enough to offset childcare costs or allow them enough flexibility to choose to work full time hours. For example, you can easily work 40 hours as a working mother if all 40 don’t have to be continuous or under the nose of your boss. Plus University of New Mexico research found mothers who lose their jobs have a tougher time of finding new work.

As explained by the American Sociological Association:

In a 2010 survey of laid-off workers across the United States, married moms spent more time between jobs and were overall less likely to find new jobs compared with married dads. Once re-employed, married moms experienced a decrease in earnings of $175 more per week compared with married dads.  The results suggest that the recent recession, dubbed the “man-cession” or “he-cession” because more men than women lost jobs, could also be viewed as a “mom-cession” as laid-off married moms had the hardest time finding new jobs.

Clearly, there’s a lot more to it than the old chestnut about working mothers ‘not being committed’ – they commit when companies actually take them.

Female breadwinning likeliest among the youngest women

female-breadwinnersWith Conservatives and a record number of women and ethnic minority MP’s now in power, we’ll wait and see how far up pay equity is on the new political agenda. But research shows equal pay for the next generation, particularly the growing number of young women who are already the main earners is more vital than ever. A recent UK survey, by insurers LV, of more than 2,000 people on the gender pay gap surprisingly shows that 1 in 4 young women (under 24) out-earn their male partners. The study also found that of all age groups, 1 in 5 women is now the family breadwinner. But this isn’t a sign of gender equality, because female earnings: ”begin to dip after the age of 30 – the average age at which a woman gives birth and bringing up young families, while men earn more after the age of 40,” explains Steve Doughty in the DailyMail.

Interestingly, the sexes handle the responsibility differently: 43% of women and just 34% of men were stressed by being the main earner. The reason for the difference is probably twofold: men are more likely to have been raised with the expectation they’d ‘bring home the bacon’; doing so feels like a ‘natural’ responsibility and their ‘manly’ duty. Plus in our experience, women, particularly high achievers, plan ahead. They may be envisioning a future where the arrival of their own children mean they’d like to take a step back; difficult if the money is made by mum, not dad. Plus the rise of in-work poverty means that it takes two incomes to survive for any family – no doubt adding to her stress.

According to, the wage gap is wider between mothers and non-mothers than between women and men in the US – a trend Female Breadwinners feels confident we’d see in Europe as well. Women without children earn 10% less than men, while mothers earn a staggering 27% less than men. The gap is even wider for lesbians and women of colour, and has serious implications for families who rely on her income.  However, to create a more just society, equal wages is the only way to will ensure all workers, male and female can support themselves and their loved ones.

Public reaction to catcalls speaks louder than the words themselves

Capture d’écran 2015-04-30 à 10.52.19Poppy Smart, the 23 year-old, who has been catcalled by the same group of builders every morning for a month before reporting them to the police, has been a hot topic in the press. The real story isn’t that she or other women see this type of behaviour as a common occurrence, but in the violent reaction Poppy had for having the ‘audacity’ to report it to the police. Highly ironic timing, given mid-April was International Anti Street Harassment Week.

As detailed by Laura Bates in her Guardian piece, ’Wolf-whistling is not the story here – our reaction to sexual harassment is’ : when ‘the case hit the headlines, sparking a wide range of responses. Though many later spoke out in support of Smart’s decision, the initial response on social media seemed to be predominantly ridiculing or criticising her.’ Comments from both men and women focused on Smart ‘wasting’ police time to personal attacks on her looks, questioning if she was even ‘worthy’ of the wolf-whistles to which she was subjected. As Bates explained: ‘Some news outlets used pictures that seemed to have been taken from Smart’s social media accounts, showing her posing for selfies wearing a low-cut top – a decision it’s difficult not to interpret as a snide suggestion that she might have somehow been “asking for it”. What all this seems to suggest is that, as a society, we are more concerned about, and outraged by, a young woman’s audacity in standing up to sexual harassment than we are about the month-long, everyday campaign of verbal abuse she endured on her walk to work.’

Sexual harassment remains a neglected issue and is accepted as a cultural norm. For proof ’A police spokesperson confirmed they had followed up Poppy’s complaint but had not taken further action’. A recent online survey on the newspaper Metronews shows that 71% of people who voted think that Wolf-whistle shouldn’t be a criminal offence. Most girls see street harassment as a daily occurrence and men may view it as a way of maintaining their power whilst give a ‘compliment’. But as Poppy and anyone else who has been followed, stopped or leered at can attest: it’s not flattering – it’s degrading and intimidating. Cat-calling is even more common in France with 100% of women surveyed saying they’d endured sexual harassment on public transport, most by the time they were 18 according to the High Council for Equality between Women & Men.

Female Breadwinners recognises most men don’t street harass, but if they accept it in others, it silently condones the behaviour. It you remind them the ‘everywoman on the street’ is someone’s  daughter,  mother or sister – it can stop the behaviour. You can see more on why this is vital in ‘6 Cool Things Guys can Do to Stop Street Harassment’.

How one mother ‘de-sexualised’ her daughter’s dolls and sparked a movement

'de-sexualised' dollsWhen Australian mum Sonia Singh began giving second-hand Bratz dolls a new lease on life after being made redundant from her job, she didn’t anticipate the movement she’d start. With a nail polish remover and a new paint, she repurposed 12 dolls, initially for her own entertainment, but now counts more than 350K likes on her Facebook page and exports dolls all over the world. Her work has been a viral sensation – and one we are delighted to see.

Singh’s approach was simply to remove the dolls’ heavy make-up, remove their high heels and give them age appropriate clothes. Her goal? She wanted natural-looking dolls with whom young girls could actually identify. It was a simple aim but Singh accidentally tapped into the wider debate about hyper-sexualized products aimed at children. It was never her intent to be controversial; in fact her supportive husband remarked he’d been the bigger feminist between the two of them.

We at Female Breadwinners love her initiative, as described in Reshareworthy’s blog and video: ‘Mom Takes Secondhand Dolls And Transforms Them Into Ones Girls Love‘: ‘…young girls prefer them over the old ones because they actually look like them!’ We hope this inspires toys manufacturers to rethink their traditional stock of disproportionately skinny, sexily dressed and heavily made-up children’s toys that primarily teach girls a sexy image is their ultimate goal. These dolls make a great gift for any child. We hope they give Barbie a high-heeled run for her money.

Wilma Mankiller or Harriet Tubman: Who’s your pick for the US Currency Cover Star?

0326toonwasserman copyThe nonprofit group Woman on 20s is running a U.S. campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill. This reminds us of the recent UK controversy when the Bank of England decided to replace Charles Darwin with Jane Austen on the £10 note. It’s disappointing that women and ethnic minorities still haven’t featured on currency in either country – other than the Queen, who is only ‘entitled’ to the honour because she holds a hereditary title.  This campaign highlights a great opportunity as the US will soon be marking the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

At Female Breadwinners, our vote in the US is for Wilma Mankiller, first female Cherokee chief. Her name alone sends a strong message! It would be poetic justice for her to replace Andrew Jackson, who sponsored  the Indian Removal Act which led to massive Native American genocide. Harriet Tubman would also be a fantastic choice, as one of the earliest American heroes who led escaped slaves to their freedom – under the nose of Abraham Lincoln administration, who sits comfortably on the $5 bill.

So far, being a ‘currency cover star’ has been a ‘boy’s club’, most often politicians. At Female Breadwinners, we applaud this latest campaign but ask: Why should we be satisfied with just one woman? Wouldn’t banknotes featuring more women and ethnic minorities reflect the diversity in each country better? Get involved and vote as every woman on the list is worthy of being celebrated.

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