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The E4W Blog

Even Serena Williams Is Penalized for Motherhood


The organizers of the French Open announced last week they would not seed Serena Williams even though Williams was ranked No.1 when she left the tour on maternity leave in January 2017.*  Instead she has to return at No. 453.  Sadly this reflects what most women face when returning to work from maternity leave.

Regardless of how much time a new mother takes off, it is a tough, uphill battle returning to work and continuing to move ahead in a career after maternity leave.  Assumptions surround mothers - new and those with older children - about their inability to be committed to work, handle major responsibilities and deliver results even though studies have proven mothers are highly productive.

The financial toll is significant.  Let's assume a woman takes 12 weeks of maternity leave after having a baby.  In many cases much of this time is unpaid.  That can be up to a 23% reduction in her pay for that time.  And then let's assume she works part-time at a 70% schedule for the first 12 weeks she returns to work - a benefit many do not even have.  That's another 30% reduction in her pay for that time.  At a time when financial, emotional and physical stress are at a peak, she will make only ~70% of her take home pay that year.  And if she has another baby this happens all over again.

This is all compounded when a mother is viewed as "less than" and her career progression slows down.  Missed or delayed promotions mean an even bigger financial hit over the course of a career.  Comparing a man and woman at the same rate of earning, with the same career trajectory, shows the financial penalty is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of her career for a woman who takes maternity leave.

We need to stop penalizing women for starting a family and refocus the conversation on supporting for the family in total.

*Source: Fortune.com 5/22/2018