Women in the Law

Women Pay ‘Steep Price’ for Time Off Work; Supreme Court Nominations Are Example

The last three women nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court—Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Harriet Miers—have more than one thing in common. They are all single and childless.

The last three male nominees, in contrast, were all married with children. The New York Times uses the example to illustrate a problem facing American women in the job market. “Our economy exacts a terribly steep price for any time away from work—in both pay and promotions,” the Times reports. “People often cannot just pick up where they have left off. Entire career paths are closed off. The hit to earnings is permanent.”

In the legal field, a 2008 study of University of Michigan law grads found that fathers enjoyed a “daddy bonus” in salaries that were 15 percent to 20 percent higher than childless men. Mothers, on the other hand, earned 10 percent to 15 percent less than childless women, and 25 percent to 35 percent less than fathers.

The Times notes that only 15 Fortune 500 companies have a female chief executive, and full-time female workers make 23 percent less on average than their male counterparts. According to the story, “Most parents are simply not able to have it all, regardless of where they are on the income spectrum.”

The story suggests some solutions: universal preschool programs, paid parental leave and a right to request part-time or flexible schedules.

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