June 29, 2007

Kids or Career: Part 3, Who Would You Hire?

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A young woman graduates at the top of her class at a prestigious engineering school and starts work conducting research at a large engineering firm. After working for three years, she decides to take four years off as her two sons are born. After the youngest is old enough to start pre-school, she applies for a new job, but there is a four-year gap in her resume. Applying for the same job is a bright male engineering student who has just graduated from the same university and who is fresh and ready for the workforce. Which would you hire?

Even without that four year gap, “mothers face disadvantages in getting hired” according to a recent Cornell study. Shelly Correll of the sociology department began this research after economics research showed that “you earn less if you have one child, even less if you have two.” Her research created two identical resumes except one noted that “the applicant was a mother of two” and that she was a PTO officer. Study participants were willing to hire 84 percent of the non-mothers but only 47 percent of the mothers. In addition, mothers were given pay ranges of $11,000 less than non-mothers.

Correll’s conclusion: “cultural ideas of motherhood are seen as pretty incompatible with cultural ideas of the workplace. Since fatherhood is not seen as incompatible with the workplace, employers do not hold fathers to a harsher performance standard.” So you’re a young, ambitious woman who wants to have a family. What are you supposed to do?