How Equal Parenting Can Help Close the Pay Gap

For centuries, the role of primary parent has fallen to women across the world. Even women who work outside the home are expected to take on the brunt of both child raising and housework. Yes, in addition to their out-of-the-home jobs.

Before I even got pregnant, my husband and I decided that this would not be the way our family operates. We are equal as far as the at-home workload goes, but my husband is the primary parent. And, as the back-up parent, I get a lot of commentary and questions about our “unique” approach to parenting. Surprisingly to me, the far majority are positive. But there are always a few of those thinly veiled insults that only someone with a Southern accent can really pull off. 😉

The other day I got a question that stopped me in my tracks and made me really think: “I’m not a parent. Why should I care?”

My immediately response was, “Everyone should care about women’s equality.” But, after discussing further, this friend felt that since she wasn’t a mom, there were bigger women’s equality fish for her to fry, per se. “Like equal pay,” she said.

I then set out on a mission to explore the relationship between equal parenting and equal pay. Here’s what I found:

There is little difference in median hourly pay for male and female full-time employees aged in their 20s and 30s, but a large gap emerges among full-time employees aged 40 and over. One reason for this is that factors affecting women’s employment and earnings opportunities become more evident among women aged in their 30s and 40s. For example, time spent out of the workplace to care for children or elderly relatives could affect future earnings when a person returns to work. Similarly, the need to balance work with family commitments and the availability of flexible working practices may restrict individuals’ employment options.

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that the pay gap between men and women widens substantially following the birth of their first child. Some of this effect is attributable to mothers spending less time in full-time employment than fathers and more time in part-time employment.

“The gender pay gap,” House of Commons Library, UK Parliament

Data from the United States told a similar story:

[In 2015], women ages 15 to 54 spent more time than men caring for and helping household members, much of which involved providing childcare. Of those ages 25 and older, women spent more time than men doing household activities such as cleaning house, preparing meals, and doing laundry, while men spent more time doing paid work. At all ages, men spent more time than women in leisure and sports activities.

“Women at work,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Okay, okay, enough with the data. Let’s talk about how equal parenting can help close the pay gap:

  • Equal parenting opens men’s eyes to how difficult it is to raise children, which results in them making better decisions for the workforce. Women currently hold only 5.8% of CEO positions at the companies featured in the 2019 S&P 500 index. Therefore, whether we like it or not, men are making the majority of workforce decisions. If they are equally involved in child rearing, then they will understand the need for flexible schedules, parental leave — and yes, equal pay.
  • Equal parenting helps moms feel like they *can* work if they want to. I talk to a lot of moms who didn’t want to give up their full-time jobs, but felt there was no other option — either because of how expensive childcare is, or because it was just too overwhelming to work full-time at work and then go home to work full-time there, too. (This affects the pay gap because it gets more women back into the workforce after having kids.)
  • Equal parenting leads to children who will grow up and shatter the patriarchy. Okay, so this one is long play — but it still matters! Kids who see their moms and dads work and parent equally will become leaders who take a stand against gender stereotypes and double standards like the pay gap.

Equal parenting is a women’s rights issue, and it’s an important one that can have a lasting impact on the movement as a whole — for all women, regardless of whether or not they’re moms.

What do you think? How else can we help close the pay gap? Leave a comment below if you want to discuss!

Two of my favorite dads and two of my favorite kids!

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