Maternal wall

The maternal wall is a term referring to stereotypes and various forms of discrimination . Women hit the maternal wall when they encounter discrimination because of past, present, or future pregnancies because they have taken one or more maternity leaves. [1] Women may also be discriminated against when they opt for part-time or flexible work schedules. [1] Maternal wall discrimination is not limited to childcare responsibilities. [2] Both men and women with caregiving responsibilities, such as taking care of a sick parents or spouse, may also result in maternal wall discrimination.[2] As such, maternal wall discrimination is also described as family responsibilities discrimination . [3] [4] [5] Research suggests that the maternal wall is made up of employing stereotypes and gender expectations.


The first major maternal wall case, Phillips c. Martin Marietta Corp. , published before the United States Supreme Court in 1971. [6] Since then, the number of Family Responsibilities Discrimination Lawsuits increased steadily, with a steep jump in the 1990s. This coincides with the growing wage disparity between mothers and non-mothers. To explain this phenomenon, the term “maternal wall” emerged from the academy in the 1990s. [6]


Psychological theories

Expectation states theory

Expectation states theory says that categorical distinctions made between individuals become more common and more common. [7] [8] According to expectation states theory, they will be categorized as mothers when they give certain behavioral indicators that they are a primary caretaker, such as become pregnant. [9]Additionally, since the mother of one’s mother and mother, the mother and daughter of the mother, the indicator can be something as simple as their gender. A woman’s status as a mother will be in conflict with the image of an ideal worker (dedication to her children vs. committed to the job) and her motherhood will be judged as a status characteristic of the worker’s job performance . A worker’s role as a mother will be biased towards expectations of their competence compared to nonmothers. [8]

Role congruity theory

Eagly and Karau (2002), which is a social group. [10] Role incongruity , the degree to which stereotypes do not match one’s perception, can result in discrimination. With respect to the workplace, employees are expected to take on the role of the “ideal worker,” an employee who is available and dedicated to their job 24/7. [3] Mothers and individuals with caregiving responsibilities do not fit the “ideal worker” schema.

Stereotype content model

The stereotype content model (SCM) is a psychological theory that differentiates stereotypes among two dimensions: warmth and competence. [11] Stereotyped groups can be evaluated in four different ways. The combination of these dimensions will be different types of emotions from others. [12] According to the SCM, mothers are stereotyped as high in warmth, but low in competence. Groups who are viewed as high in warmth, but low in proficiency. [11]

Economic theories

Economic theories suggest that occupational and lifestyle choices explain the motherhood penalty . [3] The maternal wall is considered to be a self-imposed barrier, where women expecting their motherhood and self-selection into occupations that require lower levels of skill and education because they anticipate participation in the labor force over their lifetime. Furthermore, women who choose “home-time” and choose to take over from the workforce are statistically less likely to achieve higher-earning professional and managerial positions. [13] The argument follows that women are not fully committed to the labor force, thus explaining wage differentials. Similarly, this lack of commitment may explain the motherhood penalty in terms of performance. EconomistGary Becker follows a “work-effort” hypothesis, which suggests that mothers do not do so because of their choices, as they do so. [14]Alternatively, the use of statistical discrimination, in which the employer uses an estimate of productivity to predict the productivity of certain groups. As such, mothers may receive lower wages due to lower estimates of productivity. [15] Other economic perspectives include the taste model, in which employers may find it distasteful to employ mothers. [15]

Relationship with other concepts

Mommy track and motherhood penalty

The mommy track can be the result of maternal wall discrimination. For example, when employees are fired for motherhood, they are forced into the mommy track. The mommy track, motherhood penalty, and the maternal wall have similar discriminatory effects; However, the maternal wall is also applicable to individuals who are discriminated against due to caregiving responsibilities.

Work-life balance

Work-life balance describes the priority of work and life responsibilities. The maternal wall can manifest itself when work-life balance results in conflict. For example, increasing family responsibilities can limit employment opportunities. [2] There is a lack of proportionality in the proportion of paid-for-care workers, as they have much less control and flexibility over their schedules compared to white-collar workers. [2] For people with care-taking responsibilities, work-life balance is difficult to achieve, resulting in an increased likelihood of encountering the maternal wall.


Wage penalty for motherhood

The wage penalty for motherhood refers to the negative effect of children on wages. Research focus on the wage gap between mothers and non-mothers in the workplace has a 4% penalty for one child and a 12% penalty for two or more children, even after controlling for differences in education, work experience, and full-time versus part-time job status. [16] By 1991, the wage gap between mothers and non-mothers surpassed the wage gap between women and men. [17] In addition , there is a substantial difference between the wages of mothers and fathers: At the age of 30, women earn 90 percent of the wages of men, at least 60 percent of the wages of fathers. [17]In terms of marital status, the motherhood penalty. [17] Research suggests that one third of the mother’s penalty is explained by job experience and seniority, while the remaining two thirds suggest that productivity and discrimination be explained. [15] Overtime, the motherhood penalty may have serious financial consequences. That research suggests mothers are 35% more Likely hjälper Their homes than childless homeowners, [18] and That mothers are 65% more Likely to go bankrupt than nonmothers. [19]

What do you think about living with a family ? [20] In a longitudinal study That Analyzed employed mothers’ wage growth for 7 post-childbirth years, It was found That women Who used work-family policies Such As Reduced working hours, telecommuting , childcare assistance and schedule flexibility HAD Slower wage growth compared to those who did not. [20] Mothers employed in managerial or professional positions and worked reduced hours and / or telecommuted experienced slowest wage growth. Compared to professional / managerial employed mothers who did not work at home, professional / managerial mothers who worked from home averaged 27% lower gain in wages.[20]

Empirical findings

Negative competence assumptions

In Correll, Bernard, and Paik (2007), participants were given the resumes of a parent and non-parent with equivalent qualifications and asked to complete an employee evaluation. [21] Reported that mothers are significantly less competent, less committed, less likely to be recommended for management than non-mothers. [21] In addition , $ 11,000 (7.6%) less than for non-mothers, and only 48% of mothers were recommended for hire, compared to 87% of non-mothers. [21]In addition, the standards for mothers were much stricter; they were given significantly less time for being late, and needed to be significantly higher on the management of non-mothers. [21]

Compared to women without children, working in higher education. [11] However, increased ratings in warmth do not predict greater future opportunities. In an observational study, participants were less willing to hire, promote, or train working mothers compared to other groups such as children and men, and working fathers. [11] additional, for academics, superiors rated working mothers as less likely to advance in their careers compared to working fathers. [22]


Other studies have investigated the effects of pregnancy in the workplace. In a laboratory study by Halpert, Wilson, and Hickman (1993), participants viewed one of two videotapes of a female manager and were asked to rate her performance. [9] The videotape featured the same woman and the same managerial scenarios; however, in one videotape, the woman was pregnant. Performance reviews of the pregnant manager were significantly lower than the non-pregnant manager, indicating a strong pregnancy bias. [9] Another study examined the effect of pregnancy on employment, and found that pregnant women are more likely to be employed. [23]

Short cases

The majority of maternal titles are filed under Title VII , which prohibits sex discrimination in employment. Successful maternal wall cases must not be used because of their sex role, but because of their sex role. [6] As such, they may also be discriminated against when they occupy a caregiving and traditionally female sex role. Maternal wall cases fall under the umbrella of Family Responsibilities Discrimination, which is employment discrimination against workers who have caregiving responsibilities, such as pregnant women, mothers and fathers of young children and employees with aging parents. [2]Family Responsibility Discrimination cases have risen dramatically since the 1970s: In the 1970s, only 8 cases were filed, while 358 cases were filed between 2000 and 2005. [3] Investigations of these lawsuits show that most involve overt discrimination, and that 92% of the plaintiffs are women. [6] The win rate of Family Responsibilities Discrimination lawsuits is more than 50%. [3]

Possible organizational solutions

  • Offering more flexible scheduling accommodations. Organizations could have more flexible scheduling to accommodate workers with responsibilities. Many of the Family Responsibility Discrimination lawsuits were due to indirect discrimination. [6] For example, companies with policies and norms expecting their employees to work long hours; These requirements can not be met by employees with caregiving responsibilities. [6] By incorporating flexible scheduling into company policies, employees would be less likely to encounter maternal wall discrimination.
  • Encouraging men to use family-friendly policies. Even though organizations do provide family-friendly policies, they are more likely to use them than men. [24] However, working mothers may be reluctant to participate in their careers. [25] One way to avoid a backlash against female workers would be to encourage participation in family-friendly policies.
  • Giving women with families Organizations should allow them to work on their skills and ability to succeed in the organization. Access to work-family policies can assist with this. [25]

See also

  • Mommy track
  • Motherhood penalty
  • Work-life balance


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