The “motherhood penalty” is worse than you think

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Image: AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru
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A new paper from the US National Bureau of Economic Research (not yet peer reviewed) finds that a national policy of generous paid parental leave isn’t enough to combat the “motherhood penalty”—the gap in men’s and women’s wages that opens once a woman has a child.

The researchers found that even in family-friendly Denmark, where both men and women are entitled to paid parental leave, the appearance of a child has an immediate and lasting impact on the mother’s wage and career trajectory—but not the father’s.

Quartz’s Dan Kopf charted the data and found that the impact of motherhood on Danish women’s careers is striking no matter how you look at it. They earn far less than women without children, and men whether fathers or not:

Women with children also are less likely to become managers:

And the penalties just grow with every subsequent child.

No matter how you look at it, the motherhood penalty is ugly.

This story is part of How We’ll Win, a project exploring the fight for gender equality at work. Read more stories here.