The Motherhood Penalty: Wage Gap Mother Edition

Juggling kids and a career during the pandemic wasn’t an option for many mothers. The responsibilities of a caregiver increased drastically and pushed many to leave the workforce. It especially affected women with children younger than six as only 65% were in the labor force last year. Thus, now more than ever the Motherhood Penalty is vital to overcome in the next few years. 

What is the Motherhood Penalty?

The Motherhood Penalty is when a decrease in salary occurs because a woman becomes a mother. It is simply discrimination against mothers targeting their wallets. It’s due to years of antiquated social norms in which the man is the breadwinner, and the woman the caregiver. Executives believe after a woman gives birth, she is less likely to return to the office so they will pass over her for promotions, bonuses, mentorship, and more. 

While the PDA, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, protects mothers against most workplace discrimination, employers still find legal loopholes to justify paying less. One example is keeping a salary low based on an individual’s wage history, or employees not comparing salaries with one another. 

Wage Gap Break Down

For every dollar a white, non-Hispanic father earns:

  • Mothers earn 74 cents 
  • Black mothers earn 52 cents
  • Native Americans earn 49 cents
  • Latina mothers earn 47 cents

*Breakdown provided by the National Women’s Law Center

What Can You Do?

Ask for more

Salary transparency can be a huge first step to finding out what your paycheck is missing. Ask all of your coworkers to get a better understanding of who is being paid more. If they perform the same job but are paid more, it’s time to start asking why. Here are some IAW blogs to help you ask for more money aligned with your worth and not your gender:

Learn how to negotiate your salary here

How to close the gap as a freelancer here

How to ask for a salary increase if they give you more work without the pay here

Help Pass Acts that Enforce Gender Equality

Participate in democracy by signing petitions, calling representatives, and contacting senators to pass acts, like the Paycheck Fairness Act, to help push laws that legally enforce gender equity. It is a free, quick two-minute way to be an activist for women’s rights!

Click here to help pass an act


What nonprofits need the most are the funds to keep going. The pandemic hit every industry, including social activists, and the easiest way to help support a cause is by donating what you can. Here are a few organizations to get you started:

Global Fund For Women

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

UN Women USA

Womankind Worldwide

Equality Now


Give your time and energy to help close the gender gap. Find local opportunities in your neighborhood, or look online for larger events you can volunteer at. Many are family-friendly, so consider bringing your kids along with you to inspire their activism too. 

Sponsor an organization

Partner with IAW to help promote women’s equality all over the globe. Our partnerships and ERG solutions will help you stand out as an employer of choice for women. Learn more here:

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