Category Archives: Assumptions about Mothers

A Woman’s Work on Economic Equality is Never Done

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival!

A divorced janitor, a 27-year employee and the mother of a seventeen-year old son with the mental capacity of an 18-month old, fails to report for mandatory overtime one Saturday when her son’s caregiver could not work because of a sick child. She calls twice and leaves a message for her manager. She gets fired.

As I read about this woman in Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter by Joan Williams, I wondered what this mother’s take would be on Jonah Goldberg’s proclamation in the Los Angeles Times this spring that “Feminism as a ‘movement’ in America is largely played out. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Current News & Events, Economy, Gender Issues, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, stereotypes, Work-Life Fit, Workplace and Employment

6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make

Tonight I’ll be leading the chapter meeting for our local Mothers & More chapter on “The 6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make.” Join us and bring a long a new or gently used purse for our donation to Elizabeth house! Here are the “mistakes” I’ll be discussing with moms tonight.

1. Making “To Work or Not To Work” Decisions Based Solely on Short-Term Family Budget

When mothers wrestle with questions about whether to stay employed or not, or whether to scale back employment to make room for family, the conversation usually centers on whether the current family budget can afford those changes. Can we still pay the mortgage or rent? Could we trim expenses to make up for lost income?

Too often, all the longer-term implications are left out. How will this decision impact my ability to save for retirement? My Social Security benefits? How will this decision impact my future earning potential?

Whenever faced with an employment or financial decision, ask yourself:

How will this decision affect the short- AND long-term finances of my family?

How will this decision affect my own short- AND long-term financial security?

2. Falling Into the “Can I make enough to pay for childcare?” Trap

When our daughter was born, my husband had just started his second year at a law firm and I had just been laid off from a part-time job. We sat down together to decide whether I should look for a new job or not. Estimating the income we thought I could make in a job with reasonable hours, we subtracted taxes, childcare, and work expenses. There wasn’t much left. Working for pay didn’t pay much. So we decided I wouldn’t, because we could afford for me not to.

Three different things lead many mothers into this trap. Continue reading

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A Woman’s Work on Pay Equity is Never Done

Photo by Ian Britton at Freefoto.com

A divorced janitor, a 27-year employee and the mother of a seventeen-year old son with the mental capacity of an 18-month old, fails to report for mandatory overtime one Saturday when her son’s caregiver could not work because of a sick child. She calls twice and leaves a message for her manager. She gets fired.

As I read about this woman in Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter by Joan Williams, I wondered what this mother’s take would be on Jonah Goldberg’s recent proclamation in the Los Angeles Times that “Feminism as a ‘movement’ in America is largely played out. The work here is mostly done.” In a piece titled, “Taking feminism overseas” Goldberg goes on to declare that “Even the fight for “pay equity” is an argument about statistics, lagging cultural indicators and the actual choices liberated women make — to take time away from paid jobs to raise their kids (never-married women without kids earn more than men) or to work in occupations like the nonprofit sector that pay less.”

The only reason Goldberg and others can make this “choices” claim with a straight face is because the bias against women is no longer as overt as it once was– no more separate salary schedules for men and women. Much of the bias has gone underground, way underground, into our subconscious and into the unquestioned structure of our workplaces around the way men have typically worked in the past. Jobs are designed for a man who has a wife to care for family; 50-hour workweeks, mandatory overtime, inflexible schedules that can change at the last minute, and little or no sick time.

When mothers, who do still shoulder most of the responsibility for family care, find it impossible to fit this mold the resulting stories don’t sound much like “choices liberated women make.” They sound like discrimination. In fact, Williams and her colleagues at the WorkLife Law Center have documented a 400% increase in lawsuits involving family responsibilities discrimination “showing how mothers and other caregivers are pushed out of jobs they want – and need.” Continue reading

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Stay-At-Home Moms SHOULD Be Mad at the Fed

Today a guest post from my good friend and a tireless advocate for women, Debra Levy. Here she explains why a largely unnoticed new regulation reinforces the old “he who earns it owns it” assumption rather than the remodeled “family income and wealth are the result of joint work—both family work and employment—so they are owned jointly by both spouses” – with chilling effect on mothers’ financial well-being.

 

 

MSNBC was onto something the other day in their piece Why Stay-At-Home Moms are Mad at the Fed.

Our regulators seem unaware of how families divide tasks or how women work, or even what they earn compared to men, and a new move by them may penalize women and erode progress on women’s access to personal credit.

From MSNBC

It happens all the time. You go to a store whose merchandise you value, like and trust to make a family purchase, nothing for yourself. Jeans for your son. Underwear for your daughter, or loads of flooring for a home construction project at your area large box hardware store. You wait in line at the register and tick off the errands still on your list, that work email you have to fire off as soon as you leave the store.

You whip out your wallet to pay for your purchases and then the inevitable questions: debit or credit? Then, would you like to sign up for our [insert brand name] credit card and save 25% on today’s purchases?

I’ve done this once or twice. Store affinity cards can yield fabulous yearly discounts, exclusive to its members-debtors. Such cards are “marketing in a heart beat” for retailers, and sometimes they make our spending easier and more affordable.

Raise your hands, women and men of America, if you ever have opened a credit card account at a  point of sale transaction? Now, think back. When you did this, did you list “household income,” or “personal” or “independent income?” Continue reading

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Test for Stereotypes About Mothers

Given the recent article on Amy Cuddy from Harvard and subconscious stereotypes, I thought I’d share this excerpt from my book on how researchers identify these stereotypes (The Implicit Association Test) and the conflicting stereotypes that apply to mothers.

“Researchers from Harvard developed a simple type of computer test revealing that below the level of our awareness, we have associations between certain people and certain traits—a specific type of mental map they call implicit association. We may have a subconscious association between two things, say men and science and another association between women and liberal arts. The computer test asks us to pair words or images in those categories, and we’re supposed to do it so fast that it’s automatic. We hum along pairing male words or images with science words or images. However, if we’re asked to pair the opposites quickly, say women with science and men with liberal arts, it takes us longer—by seconds or fractions of a second. We take just a bit longer to consciously overcome our subconscious associations to give the right answer. The longer it takes us, the stronger the underlying association is. The stronger the underlying association is, the more likely we are to behave in line with that association and not according to what we say we believe.  We’d like to think our beliefs and behavior are totally under our conscious control, but our subconscious beliefs can differ dramatically from what we say we believe when asked. Continue reading

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Tips for Mothers for Busting Subconscious Stereotypes

In a recent post, How Stereotypes About Warmth and Competence Impact Mothers , I talked about the Harvard Magazine profile of social psychologist Amy Cuddy, The Psyche of the Automatic, which highlights decades of research on automatic stereotypes and their impact on many different groups. I promised at the end to share some tips for women and mothers in particular to combat these unconscious stereotypes that seem to leave us in a no win situation.

I best make good on my promise because the other day on the Fast Company blog the post Why Women Should Flirt at Work by Alicia Morga summarized the results of yet another study,  “Women at the Bargaining Table: Pitfalls and Prospects,” which showed that women are in a classic double bind: “women may be perceived as competent but unlikable or as likable but incompetent.”

As the blogger tells it,

“The researchers found that both men AND women negatively evaluate women who do not behave in stereotypically female ways.

The choices then are these–work within the stereotypes or be careful in situations to not activate gender stereotypes.”

So let me offer a third option, bust the stereotypes. Continue reading

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How Stereotypes About Warmth and Competence Impact Mothers

My friend Barbara was at a meeting of her fellow computer geeks. The speaker said to them all, “I’ll try to explain it so my mother could understand it.” It dawned on Barbara that she remembered others making similar remarks in her economics Ph.D. program, and then she said, “It was always clear to me that [the phrase] meant someone untrained, possibly stupid. This was the first time since I became a mom that I’d heard it. I felt kicked in the stomach.”

Barbara had run smack into a deep, common and largely subconscious stereotype  – namely that mothers aren’t very smart.

Why would that be?

A recent Harvard Magazine profile of social psychologist Amy Cuddy, The Psyche of the Automatic, highlights decades of research on automatic stereotypes and their impact on many different groups – including mothers and fathers – and explains what’s behind the “explain it so my mother could understand it” type of stereotype.

  • Warmth and competence are the two critical factors in how we perceive others.
  • It’s really hard to get people to perceive you as both warm AND competent. “People tend to see warmth and competence as inversely related. If there’s a surplus of one trait, they infer a deficit of the other.” (Cuddy quoted in a 2009 Harvard Business Review article, “Just Because I’m Nice, Don’t Assume I’m Dumb.”)
  • Others respond to you in distinctly different ways depending on how they perceive the warmth or competence of a group you belong to according to the grid below.

Continue reading

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Remodeling Corporate Ladders to Lattices

Wandering the gargantuan exhibit hall at the California Women’s Conference in Long Beach ast week I noticed up ahead a sign for Deloitte. Wondering if anyone at the booth might know about the book Mass Career Customization, I dodged the crowd – including Al Roker – to get closer, only to recognize the author herself, Cathleen Benko chatting with a conference attendee.

As she finished her chat, I introduced myself to her colleagues and explained that I’d referenced Mass Career Customization extensively in my own book This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today even getting permission to include the graphic that illustrates the four dimensions along which a job can be customized.

In return, they generously gave me a copy of the new book The Corporate Lattice.

So when I had the chance to chat with Benko, I had a book for her to sign. She wrote:

“If we want to change the result, it’s time to change the model.” Continue reading

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How to Explain Gap in Resume: Caring for Family or…Coma?

When I was pregnant, a friend who didn’t have kids yet dropped of a stack of novels, “I thought you might like to read these once the baby comes and you stop going to work.” Made sense to me in the moment; I would have tons of time on my hands right? Ha! The stack say on our table for months after our daughter arrived and a year later I managed to find the time to return them to my friend, unopened and unread. Where did all that time go I thought I would have?

That time was spent working. I don’t mean employment. I mean the very real work of caring for family that is so often invisible yet takes time, energy and skill of the mothers and fathers who do it every day. I noticed more and more that there seemed to be an hidden, subconscious assumption that “Caring for family isn’t really work, it’s just what mothers do.” One woman went to a workplace meeting a few weeks before her maternity leave ended and a male colleague asked, “So when are you coming back from your baby vacation.”

And then the kicker, Continue reading

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Five Myths About Working Mothers from the Washington Post

Thanks to Becky and Hollee for drawing my attention to this article in the Washington Post –  Five Myths About Working Mothers by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. A great summary of some of the big myths about employed mothers that just won’t die because they’re held up by outdated stereotypes about mothers, fathers, and work.

A few are myths I discuss at length in my book This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today.

“1. Mothers today spend much less time caring for children than did their parents and grandparents.”  False!

“4. Women who work are less likely to have successful marriages.” False!

“5. Parents don’t experience discrimination in the workplace.” False!

And two that I didn’t have a chance to explore in detail.

“2. Women’s jobs interfere with family life more than men’s.” False!

“3. Mothers with college degrees are more likely than other women to opt out of the workforce.” False!

Of course, there are also plenty of myths about mothers who are not employed such as “Mothers who are not employed are dull.” (i.e. the soap opera and bon-bons myth.) Think you know them? Take my Mental Map Matching Quiz and match the real-life scenario to the outdated stereotype about mothers or fathers.

Which myths about mothers and fathers do you confront most often? Which are the most problematic in your life?


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