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It’s 2019, and women still make 80 cents for every $1 a man makes.
The gender pay gap is real, and its causes are complex. For one, the pay gap reflects the sexism against women in our society. Their work and contributions simply aren’t valued as highly as those of men.
But while boosting women’s paychecks seems like a relatively easy problem to solve (changing cultural attitudes is a tougher nut to crack), there’s another reason for the gender pay gap that’s not quite so straightforward: the income loss that happens due to motherhood.
Women’s pay increases by 31% between ages 25 and 45; men’s increases by 77%
Once women begin having children in their 20s and 30s, the wage gap expands dramatically. To put some numbers to this problem: the typical man with a college education will see an increase in pay by 77% between the ages of 25 and 45; by contrast, the average woman with a college degree will increase her pay by just 31% during these same years.
Employers are less likely to offer raises and promotions to women with children, perhaps under the assumption that mothers won’t be as committed to their jobs. When of course, the opposite is often true — most working moms need a paycheck and career advancement more than ever to support themselves and their families.
We need longer, paid parental leave and subsidized childcare
We need large-scale solutions to these problems, including longer, paid maternity and paternity leaves and government subsidized child-care so that more parents can afford to return to work if they need and/or want to. This would enable new parents to care for their newborns without sacrificing their jobs or significantly setting back their careers.
These legal and political reforms would also spare many mothers the painful choice between finding childcare for their babies or quitting their jobs to stay home— sometimes because they can’t bear to leave their newborns or haven’t yet recovered from giving birth, and often because the cost of full-time childcare is prohibitively expensive.
But outside of these much-needed changes, another approach could offer a note of hope for new moms: the option to work remotely.
Flexible work arrangements could be a game changer for working parents
If employers become more flexible in the way employees work for them full- and part-time, new parents could create work and childcare schedules that let them find greater work-life balance while still developing their careers.
Remote jobs with flexible schedules allow parents to fit their work around their household responsibilities without halting their professional momentum.
And instead of stressing about a 9 to 5 commute or paying for full-time care, parents can work from home around more flexible childcare options while fitting in breastfeeding, doctor’s appointments, sick days, bedtimes, and the many other demands of family life.
A flexible work schedule allows parents to get that much closer to that holy grail of work-life integration.
Employers benefit from remote work arrangements, too
While flexible, non-traditional hours are one possible solution to the challenges faced by working parents, these arrangements don’t just help parents; employers benefit as well.
By keeping their employees happy and healthy, companies will see greater retainment and a more motivated, loyal, and creative workforce.
A two-year Stanford study, for example, found that remote employees are more productive, have lower attrition, and take fewer days off than their in-office counterparts.
Remote jobs could help close the gender pay gap once and for all
Companies that offer location flexibility might just be on the right side of history, since this could mean new moms don’t have to step back from their careers and lose out on opportunities for promotions and pay raises.
In effect, remote work arrangements won’t just change the way we experience work; they could also be a major step toward pay equality for all.
Rebecca Safier also contributed to this article.