We have not seen a gender role revolution

One of the primary arguments on the gender pay gap from the alt right is that women deserve to be paid less because they have children.

It’s part of what independent social research agency NatCen the “incomplete revolution”. Despite female participation in the labour market increasing markedly over the past 30 years and both couple families tending to work, substantial support remains for women having the primary caring role when children are young and it is still women who undertake a disproportionate amount of unpaid labour within the home and are much more likely to view their contribution as being unfair.

This suggests that as yet, the University of Cambridge authors noted, “we have not seen a so-called ‘gender role revolution”.

That is not, however, how Conservative pundit and Breitbart bell-hat Milo Yiannopoulos would have you see it. The outspoken anti-feminist believes that because women are mothers there should be consequences when you get into the workplace, saying: “They have children, what do you expect?”.

He’s not alone in that view. I frequently talk to people who point out that because women take responsibility for children they naturally earn less than men. But therein lies the rub. Women don’t have responsibility for children, couples do, and it’s also the responsibility of society to raise them as a whole for the betterment of society.

That’s why the latest research to be revealed by Université Paris-Saclay is a particularly depressing read. The university found that mothers are paid three per cent less for every child they have compared to their female colleagues who do not have children and compared to fathers, who suffer no such penalty at all.

Lionel Wilner, Director of Graduate Studies at engineering and statistics school ENSAE, founding member of Université Paris-Saclay, studied 16 years of data from organisations in the French private sector between 1995 and 2011 to uncover these disturbing findings. He separated the effect of childbirth from other firm-specific wage determinants, and accounted for full-time and part-time work, to find that the difference between mothers and non-mothers is approximated a three per cent lower hourly wage.

“Gender inequalities persist within households, in terms of the share of domestic work or bargaining power, but they also persist within firms,” says Wilner. “The gender pay gap, occupational gender segregation and the glass ceiling are the most striking examples – but an obvious example of gender inequality is related to childbirth. The motherhood penalty accounts for noticeable hourly wage differences following childbirth.

“This is both unfair and inefficient. It requires further public intervention, including campaigns against discrimination, development of on-the-job childcare, and extension of paternity leave. A paternity leave of the same duration as maternity leave would bring down this gender gap.”

Increasing paternity is one step we could explore, but one of the biggest obstacles is shifting our perception of children as a “woman’s burden” to the shared responsibility of families and society as a whole. It may seem like some Utopian fantasy but it is a crucial step to a well functioning society, and by simply changing the way we talk about child care and gender roles we remove the far-right dribble been peddled by the likes of Milo and take a step towards a well-functioning society.

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