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Although federal law prohibits employers from demoting or firing women due to pregnancy, allegations of such conduct are common. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The push for paid maternity leave has traditionally been cast as a way to support women’s ability to raise families and pursue careers. But even the most generous maternity leave policies don’t completely eliminate the challenge that motherhood poses to a woman’s career. In some cases, they may even exacerbate them.

In Denmark, for instance, research shows that women’s earnings match men up until childbirth, after which a sharp disparity emerges. The country’s current leave policy provides mothers with 18 weeks of paid leave and fathers with two weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child. Parents are allowed to split the remaining 32 weeks of paid leave as they wish. In the great majority of families, it’s the mother who takes most of that leave.

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