I took a royal kicking on the internet the other day, which is never comfortable but is often instructive. The piece was this one, and the kicking was in the comments, as data-geeks swarmed all over the figures quoted by the Fawcett Society on the gender pay-gap in the UK. The consensus was that there is no significant gender pay-gap (outside a couple of industries, notably pharmacy and IT) until you move into the post-30 age group. At this point, you’re talking not so much about a pay-gap as a motherhood gap.
There are a few possible explanations for this, but it seems to me it largely comes down to one thing: employers. Employers who think that mothers are unreliable, that flexi-time is unworkable, that job-sharing is inefficient, and that mothers who have taken time out have become de-skilled.
A report by Regus finds that mothers seeking work this year are going to find it tougher than ever, as the proportion of companies ‘planning’ to hire mothers drops to just 26% (43% of companies were planning to hire at all). So roughly 40% of companies expecting to recruit this year would simply not consider an application from a mother. As Regus points out, given that many of the public sector employees losing their jobs this year are women, the outlook is pretty crappy for anyone who has been idiotic enough to reproduce, and still expects employers to take her seriously.
I had a conversation with the excellent women at Maternity Action recently (the site is a marvellous resource of legal information and advice), and one of the problems we have here is a lack of data about pregnant women and mothers who are facing renewed discrimination in this recession. So – acknowledging that this is going to be more anecdotal than stats-driven – it would be great if you could use the comments section on this post to describe your experiences of workplace or recruitment discrimination. If you’ve recently been told (or suspect) that your job’s going because you’re pregnant, or have been passed over for promotion because you’re about to go on maternity leave, or been asked at interview about your childcare arrangements, I’d love to hear from you.