How to be an ally: Parent out loud

“When men say, I’ve got to leave, I’ve got to go to my daughter’s soccer game—everyone’s like, Oh my God, he’s such a great guy. When a woman does that, she’s not dedicated to her job.”

-Sheryl Sandberg

Women’s earnings decrease 6% when she has a child. 

Men’s earnings increase 4%. 

It’s a phenomenon called the “Motherhood Penalty” (and alternatively the “Fatherhood Bonus”). 

The Motherhood Penalty

Lisa Kaplowitz on the Motherhood Penalty and Working Women Post-pandemic

The Motherhood Penalty is the experience of women who are penalized at work after they become mothers. Mothers are paid less, considered less competent, and seen as undedicated. 

Women who become mothers are:

  • Rated 10% lower for competency
  • Considered 12% less committed to their jobs
  • 6x less likely than childless women to be recommended for hire
  • Recommended for 7% lower starting salaries   

Men who become fathers, on the other hand, receive financial and social benefits. 

In Sheryl Sandberg’s words, everyone’s like “Oh my God, he’s such a great guy.”

Mothers are less likely to flaunt their parenthood in the office. More likely, they are filtering themselves for fear of not being taken seriously. 

As if it’s impossible to be dedicated to your family and dedicated to your work at the same time. 

Mothers filter their language

New mothers do this too. 

I’ve worked full-time while nursing twice now and both times, I virtually eliminated the words “breastmilk,” “nursing,” and even “pumping” from my vocabulary. 

When I had to use my lunch break to pump I’d just say “I’m busy.” Or make up an ambiguous “meeting.”

Any lie to avoid using the word “pump” in front of a colleague. 

From breast pumping to parent-teacher conferences to soccer games, we need to build supportive workplaces that honor parents in all stages of life.  

Allies at Work: Parent out loud

So what’s one way allies can counteract this?

Be vocal about how being a parent is your most important role.

  • Announce when you’re leaving early for a dance recital. 
  • Let your child sit on your lap during a zoom call. 
  • Step away from slack to spend lunch with your kids. 

The mothers on your team will thank you.

Dedicated parenting, Dedicated employees 

Whenever I’ve seen a man or woman step away from work to be there for a child, I’ve never once thought, “They’re not dedicated to their job.” 

In fact, I appreciate it when they make those conscious choices (and do so in a loud way) because it gives me permission to do the same. 

If my manager heads out early because his daughter has a dance recital, I don’t feel guilty when I leave work for parent-teacher conferences. 

I’m committed to being there for my children—first and foremost—and having a workplace that values that, that’s nonnegotiable for me.  


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