I’m sorry, “Companies choose workers who are likely to be better workers” is not the true headline, which is instead “Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies.” Have the writers never been around new mothers? There are a million essays, some published at the same venue, about how parenting is all-consuming (it is).
Here’s what happens: a lot of women who get pregnant and think they want to return to the workforce discover that doing so is hard. Really fucking hard. They also discover that childcare is obscenely expensive. Often as much as $10,000 per year. A woman making $40,000 per year is probably going to see 15 – 18% of that go away in taxes, leaving $34,000. If another $6,000 goes away in childcare, it goes down to $28,000. Workers typically spend more on meals out, work clothes, etc. You can see where I’m going with this. It often makes little sense to return to work, especially when talking about multiple kids. The woman ends up working, just so she can pay for childcare. Meantime, in a lot of cities it is illegal to build enough space for childcare, so parents get screwed by laws and voters.
Also, ideal circumstances assume a fast recovery from delivery. Not every woman recovers fast. And many women would rather spend time with their kids than grind their way through the corporate machine.
This is obvious to everyone who has worked in a corporate America for any amount of time. There are exceptions, of course, like Sheryl Sandberg and other exceptional achievers. One of my own work mentors was a woman like that (she saw most of her female mentees leave or downshift after having kids). But those achievers usually have very high incomes that they use to buy time through child care, cleaning services, food, etc. For women making six figures, hiring help and returning to work fast can make sense. Only about eight percent of people make over $100,000 per year, men or women. That’s tiny. Half of them are men.
The “child support” (read: woman support) system as it current exists is grotesque in most states, but it does exist that way because most chicks need subsidies to survive through the aftermath of childbirth and having an infant. Kids under the age of six are totally dependent and needy. Parents split labor, with the guy making money and the chick taking care of the kid, because that division of labor makes sense given the needs of the child.
Corporate careers also have arcs. It is hard to disrupt the arc. There is no way to solve this problem. That’s why a lot of smart women who want kids become nurses or teachers. Smart nurses can become Nurse Practitioners and make a lot of money. Both nurses and teachers can leave their careers for a couple years and come back without taking much of a hit. A lot of smart, family-minded women realize this and adjust their life priorities.
From a business side, would a hiring manager prefer someone who is likely to work harder after the kid is born or someone who is going to work less hard? Yes, in the abstract it’s all fine and well to denounce discrimination. In the real world, competitive firms succeed and less competitive ones fail. The biggest companies likely have more slack than smaller companies, but even they must compete. Zero consumers care about the working conditions at the companies they buy from.
I’m now old enough to have seen lots and lots of women go from career-minded to mommy-minded. And that seems like a fine choice to me. Would you rather spend time with your precious children or compete among random strangers for tokens that can be exchanged for goods and services from other random strangers?
It’s like the chicks who write this shit have never had to hire, manage, and promote people before. When you’ve had to do that, things like way different than they do from the gleaming offices of The New York Times.
It turns out that working women often underestimate the costs of motherhood. That is not surprising to anyone who’s been through the wormhole.