According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the mommy track is a career path that allows a mother flexible or reduced work hours but tends to slow or block opportunities for advancement.
When mothers choose this track, they often forgo opportunities to make partner, receive promotions, participate in incentives or receive interesting work assignments. In some situations, the opportunities still exist, but it can take much longer to obtain the results.
Is embarking on this career track a choice that working mothers make or is it gender discrimination? Are there assumptions made about the ability of a mother to handle her workload after she has a child? Are the same assumptions made about fathers? How often does a woman choose the mommy track instead of having it forced upon her by the expectations of others?
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, “Will Working Mothers Take Your Company to Court?” the authors discuss research finding that “Many caregivers are happy to step back and put family responsibilities before professional growth.” But most cases involve women who “wanted to remain in their jobs and on their career paths. They chose to continue working—not to get on the mommy track. Their careers stalled nonetheless.”
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee by, among other things, gender. The Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and numerous New York state laws make it also unlawful to discriminate against a pregnant woman in the workplace. It is also unlawful in NY to discriminate against anyone because of their family status or status as a caregiver.
The authors of the Harvard article suggest that for women who want to remain on their steady and full career path, the road is difficult and fraught with bias which sometimes results in discrimination. When the mommy track is imposed instead of chosen, it is important that look further in order to determine if something unlawful is taking place.
“Recent research…shows that even when women maintain their professional ambitions, motherhood often triggers strong and blatant workplace bias.”
In an experiment conducted by Amy Cuddy, Susan Fiske, and Peter Glick, researchers found that regardless of a mother’s chosen path, there are strong biases that exist and shape peoples’ perceptions of women with children. In this experiment, participants were asked to imagine that they were clients of a consulting firm and were evaluating consultants based on several factors. Two variable factors were gender and whether or not the candidate had a child. The experiment concluded that “When identified as a mother as opposed to a father or a woman or man whose parental status wasn’t mentioned, the consultant was judged to be significantly less competent and was least likely to be hired or promoted by the participants. The mere mention of a child led people to see the mother as less competent, and this perception did her in.”
Some evidence of these perceptions includes thing such as:
When an employer acts on assumptions such as the ones above, it may result in sex, pregnancy or caregiver discrimination. If your employer began treating you differently after your child was born, consider speaking with an experienced New York sex harassment attorney at Leeds Brown. If, after becoming a mother, your pay structure changes upon your return to work, your work assignments change, or you experience sudden criticism and ridicule, call the sex discrimination lawyers at Leeds Brown to find out how to enforce your rights.
If your status as a mother or caregiver has resulted in differential treatment, contact Leeds Brown at 1-800-585-4658 to find out the best way to proceed. You may be entitled to receive monetary compensation for sex discrimination.