Moms are good for your business

David Leonhardt, New York Times columnist and reporter

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: You do this job long enough, you get a sense for what's going to be news on any given day. OK, it's not just me who can do that. They put out calendars of the big economic announcements.

On Friday, it's going to be all jobs all the time. We'll be treated to the February unemployment report, how many jobs the economy added or not. So far, as we all know, businesses have been slow to hire. Commentator David Leonhardt says when they eventually do, businesses would do well to remember one important demographic.


David Leonhardt: There is a whole group of workers out there who could give your business an immediate boost. They're called moms. Not all moms, of course, but a lot of them.

The fact is, the modern workplace still does not recognize the realities of family life, and the burdens of it still fall mostly on women. Many more women take time off or work part-time. Many more can't get to work early or stay late. And doing any of these things brings a terrible career penalty.

Here's a quiz: How many kids did the last three female Supreme Court nominees have, combined? Zero. How many kids combined did the last three male nominees have? Seven.

That isn't a coincidence. The good news is that there's been a big decline in blatant sexism. Women and men with similar resumes now earn nearly the same amount. But when you look at all women and men, women still earn much, much less.

Why?

Take a look at the University of Chicago's business school graduates from the 1990s. Right after graduation, the women and men had nearly identical incomes. But 15 years later, men were making a whopping 75 percent more. And these patterns aren't true only for MBAs. At Wal-Mart, the store managers are overwhelmingly male.

Now think about what this means. A huge group of women are under-employed. To put it bluntly, many are more talented than the men they work for. They've stepped off the career fast track and have never been able to get back on.

A few professions -- like some branches of medicine -- are smartly making it much easier to work part-time. Assuming you're not in one of those professions, your company has a chance to gain an edge. Create some good new career paths, and a whole new talent pool becomes available. Call me an optimist, but I bet you'd get some talented dads coming to work for you, too.

Ryssdal: David Leonhardt writes The Economic Scene column for The New York Times. We'd love for you to write to us. Give us your feedback.

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