Taking a look at the "Mommy Penalty" for women MBA's

The New York Times recently posted an article discussing the “mommy penalty” faced by professional women in today’s workforce.  Women MBA's may wish to pay special attention to this study: “The study found that female MBA’s who have taken off 18 months from their career to raise children suffered a severe income penalty, leaving them earning 41% less on average than male MBA’s.  Regarding other female professionals who took 18 months off, the study found female Ph.D.’s earn 33% less than male Ph.D.’s, female lawyers earn 29% less than male lawyers, and female M.D.’s earn 16% less than male doctors.”

Income disparities between the sexes are frustrating.  In an ideal world, there would be no such thing as the “mommy penalty.”  Certainly there are those women who are making the conscious choice to remain at home with their children or cut hours from their work schedules after having children.  Those who decide to remain in the workforce are faced with difficult choices and decisions for the duration of childcare.  I don’t begrudge women who choose to leave the corporate world to remain at home with their kids.  I detest the income penalty mentioned previously, but ultimately know that it always comes down to a personal choice as to what parents decide for their families and what’s best for their lives.

This quandary reminded me of an ABC Nightline story I read.  In Sweden, it’s the norm to find more daddies pushing strollers and hanging out at the jungle gym than it is to find mommies.  New mothers and fathers in Sweden can split 14 months of parental leave, with 80% of their salaries paid by the government!  Fathers are required to spend two months at home with the baby on their own or they forfeit the pay and the time off.

It’s my wish that the US will change its attitudes toward paternity leave and follow more closely the example of Sweden.  How wonderful it would be for women to have this option when it came to taking leave once they’d given birth.  I’d never wish to discourage our women candidates from getting an MBA, but certainly these income penalty statistics need much consideration.  Parents, and in the US it seems women in particular, need to make serious choices when it comes to balancing their “work world” and their “at home world.”  To say that it’s unfortunate and unfair that parents face this predicament is an understatement.

How does this situation affect you?  To those of our readers who are parents, how are you choosing to balance child care and work schedules?  Let us hear from you.