The Motherhood Penalty is A Real Thing

The Motherhood Penalty

Let’s talk about The Motherhood Penalty and how this further affects women in tech, who are already at a disadvantage when it comes to equal pay. Today, working moms are the primary or sole earner in 40% of U.S. households with children. The Motherhood Penalty refers to the fact that in the workplace, working mothers encounter systemic disadvantages in pay, perceived competence, and benefits relative to childless women.

Fathers, on the other hand, benefit from a fatherhood bonus by being rewarded with higher pay than non-fathers. In addition, fathers are seen as having higher perceived competence and commitment to the company more than non-fathers.

There’s a ton of research online demonstrating how real this is. Here are a few infuriating stats according to the Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program:

  • Competency ratings were 10% lower for mothers compared to non-mothers among otherwise equal candidates.
  • Mothers were considered to be 12.1 percentage points less committed to their jobs than non-mothers, while fathers were perceived as being 5 percentages points MORE committed than non-fathers.
  • Mothers were 6 times less likely than childless women and 3.35% less likely than childless men to be recommended for hire.
  • Childless women are 8.2 times more likely to be recommended for a promotion that mothers.
  • Mothers were recommended a 7.9% lower starting salary than non-mothers ($139k compared to $151k respectively), which is 8.6% lower than the recommended starting salary for fathers. Among men, this trend is reversed, and fathers were offered a significantly higher starting salary than childless men.

Let’s switch to a few different sources and see their take on the Motherhood Penalty:

  • “The Motherhood Penalty certainly exists – it’s a well-documented fact that women take, on average, a 4% pay cut for every child that they have and are often perceived as less committed to their jobs once they have children,” says Georgene Huang, CEO and Co-Founder at Fairygodboss


It’s reasons like this that moms in tech face an even more difficult battle to grow their careers. We’re building a community to help lift each other up in our careers, offer acknowledgment for how hard this is, and work through these barriers together.

Will you join us?

We provide you with resources to help navigate motherhood and a career in tech.