The motherhood penalty has remained the same for over 40 years, but now the International Labor Organization provides proof worldwide. And in America, Peggy Young is looking to change gender discrimination.
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On Friday, December 5, the International Labor Organization released its annual Globe Wage Report for 2014 and 2015. The report focuses on wage and income inequality throughout the world, as well as explaining how to offer an equal view on how to balance both parental and employment roles.
Statistically, one of the largest groups affected by the lack of wage equality are women. Among the women surveyed, mothers and non-mothers were separated in order to find and eliminate specific discrepancies.
However, the ILO notes that the motherhood wage gap is often impossible to fully collect since many nations do not collect the data.
What can be distinguished is the fact the gap grows with the number of children in the household. For Europe, mothers do not face as high of a gap with one child versus two or more. Developing countries may see more fluctuation based on the gender ratio of children. Daughters are more likely to help balance the domestic responsibilities with working mothers versus sons.
Economically, bosses may defend the statement that a woman must lose time in order to deliver and care for the children (i.e., children sick days, school vacations). However, according to Grimshaw and Rubery, there are easy ways to erase the wage gap. Many first-world nations offer some form of job-protected, paid parental leave and a social safety net for health care and tax benefits. Doing so allows parents to balance economic responsibilities with familial roles.
Eliminating discrimination based on child birth would eradicate parts of the wage gap by acknowledging parental rights. Women are paid less than men, so any economic downturn is a direct hit to quality of life for mother and child(ren).
Motherhood wage gap is a critical topic in the United States right now as Peggy Young’s case against United Postal Service (UPS) is currently being heard in the U.S. Supreme Court. Young claims the company violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, where businesses are required to offer pregnant workers the equivalent to non-pregnant workers facing medical limitations must be implemented.
Young vs. United Postal Service will set records, no matter the verdict.
According to the SCOTUS filing, Young claims UPS ignored the legalities of the act in 2006.
The PDA amended Title VII by adding the following subsection to the Act’s “Definitions” section: The terms “because of sex” or “on the basis of sex” include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work, and nothing in section 2000e-2(h) of this title shall be interpreted to permit otherwise.
Young was granted an absence of work in order to pursue in vitro fertilization in 2006. Once a viable pregnancy began, her physician required that she “should not lift more than twenty pounds for the first twenty weeks of her pregnancy and not more than ten pounds thereafter” in order to safely deliver her child. Her supervisor later stated that she would not be allowed to return to work until her physician signed off on full duty.
The driver pointed out that rarely did delivered packages even meet the 20-pound requirement to begin with. When a union collective bargaining agreement session did not work, Young pursued other methods within the company. Ultimately, UPS occupational health manager Carol Martin refused to any light-duty activity due to a lack of injury on job, eligibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or loss of Department of Transportation (DOT) certification.
For decades, women have faced a “glass ceiling,” or a lack of advancement based on gender discrimination. Young’s case may help place concrete standards for what is considered reasonable by a company for pregnant workers. The 1978 Act does not specific limitations and that is worrisome for women, especially in the current political climate of ‘right to work.’
Grimshaw and Rubery’s outlines of better working conditions highlight the need for international standards for female employees. Equality should not be a strange phenomenon in the workplace. Survey polls often cite female workers claiming businesses saying that businesses require an either/or decision on pregnancy that male colleagues never face.
If Young manages to win the case, which won’t be announced until June 2015, many women across the United States will have the ability to fight against pregnancy- and motherhood-based discrimination. If Young does not win the case, the ILO will inevitably document more motherhood wage gap discrepancies.
According to the ILO organization, the goal is to promote social equality and is "responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standard." Working as a United Nations agency to bring together all levels of employment and labor and to further advance inclusive policies and programs means that women should be given more consideration.
But as the government pushes for less representation for workers over big business, women face choices on motherhood that may not offer a viable, conscionable answer. After all, the PDA specifically says businesses are not obligated to pay for care after an abortion, but the businesses turn around and punish the woman for giving birth through wage discrepancy anyway.
The world is no longer parochial. Globalization happened and is the foundation to the current economic system. Now the governments must enforce codes that allow women the same rights as men when it comes to the right to work. And that includes eliminating penalties if a working mother chooses to have a child.
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