happy mom and kid Single mothersare not perceived as less competent or less committed than singlechildless women, and they are not less likely to be hired orpromoted compared to their childless counterparts. (Photo:Shutterstock)

|

While married parents in the workplace often experience eitherthe “motherhood penalty” or the “fatherhoodpremium,” workplace bias doesn't exist either way forsingle moms and dads, according to a research study by University of Arizonasociology doctoral student Jurgita Abromaviciute.

|

In her study, Abromaviciute asked 160 college students toevaluate job application materials — including a resume and notesfrom a human resources interviewer — from fictitiousjob applicants with comparable experience, all applying for anupper management position with a communications company.

|

Related: Parental leave: Employee benefit or employmentdiscrimination?

|

Participants were made aware of the applicants' gender, maritalstatus and parental status. After reviewing the materials, theywere asked to evaluate the applicants through a series ofquestions.

|

The research study found that that single mothers are not perceived as lesscompetent or less committed than single childless women, and theyare not less likely to be hired or promoted compared to theirchildless counterparts. As such, they do not suffer the motherhoodpenalty like married mothers do.

|

“When a woman is known to be single and when she has children,then in addition to being a caregiver, she's also a breadwinner,” she says.“She now also has to provide for her family and she has no one tofall back on.”

|

However, single moms don't get the premium either – but thenagain, neither do single dads. “Single fathers, in addition tobeing breadwinners, are caregivers to their offspring,”Abromaviciute says. “Likely, this triggers an assumption that theyare more focused on their family than a married father might be,which eliminates the fatherhood premium.”

|

Like earlier research, the UA student also found bias formarried parents in her research study, concluding that “maritalstatus operates as a strong status cue that, combined with genderand parenthood status, leads evaluators to make assumptions aboutone's anticipated performance at work.”

|

There's a caveat in her research, Abromaviciute says: thefictitious single parents in the study were applying for upper anmanagement position, and people might feel more bias againstworking-class single moms and dads.

|

“In real-world situations, single mothers often face structuralchallenges — lack of social support, lack of education, lack ofvaluable and relevant workplace experience, as well as limited timefor hobbies and interests presented on resumes used in the study,”she says. “So, these findings likely apply for middle-classapplicants and employees,” but “we don't know what happens inworking-class jobs.”

|

To remedy the motherhood penalty potentially impacting marriedmoms' pay, some employers are conducting pay audits andstandardizing the criteria on which performance reviews are based,according to HR Dive. “Others say employers won't see achange until they give working fathers paid parental leave,” HRDivewrites. “Such a move requires more than a policy change, however;it also requires a change in a workplace's cultural mindset,whereby caregiving is no longer perceived as largely theresponsibility of women.”

|

Such a move may ensure compliance with federal nondiscriminationlaw, too, if an employer offers paid parental leave to women, thepublication adds.

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.