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How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter

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Monday, March 26, 2007

stepping way up

I just signed up to join a hike up Mt. Tamalpais on April 14, as part of the national demonstrations to call for our government to take sensible action to confront climate change. And bringing the kids. Check out http://www.stepitup2007.org

Saturday, March 17, 2007

biased brains

There is so much work needed to counteract the prejudice against moms in the workplace -- so thank goodness Shelley Correll is doing some of it.

In this month's issue of the American Journal of Psychology http://www.press.uillinois.edu/journals/ajp.html , Correll describes pioneering research exploring the "motherhood penalty" -- the reason working moms are still earning just 70 cents to the working man's dollar, compared to 90 cents for childless women.
Correll and colleagues from Cornell Univeristy sent fictitious job applications out, with similar qualifications varying only by parental status, and found the moms received significantly fewer callbacks. Evaluators also rated them less competent.

From what I've researched, this is the first major project to actually test employers' impressions of working moms vs. non-moms.

Here's some of the press release from the University of Chicago, which puts out the journal:

The researchers performed both a laboratory experiment and an audit of real employers. In the laboratory experiment, the researchers had volunteers rate a pair of equally qualified, same gender (either male or female), same race (either African-American or white) fictitious job applicants. The resume for the parent member of the applicant pair listed “Parent-Teacher Association coordinator” under the heading “other relevant activities.”

The evaluation showed significant and substantial penalties for motherhood among both white and African-American women, among them:
- Participants recommended 84% of female nonmothers for hire, compared to only 47% of mothers.- The recommended starting salary for mothers was $11,000 less than that offered nonmothers. - Mothers were rated as less promotable and less committed.- Fathers were offered the highest starting salaries.

“When the resumes for the two applicants were pretested without any parental status manipulations, no significant differences were found in how they were rated,” write the researchers. “Since the applicants being evaluated were equally qualified by experimental design, we conclude that employer discrimination is responsible for the disadvantages we found.”

Over an 18-month period, the researchers also submitted 1,276 resumes and cover letters for entry- and mid-level marketing and business job openings to 638 real employers. Childless women received more than twice as many callbacks as equally qualified mothers. Interestingly, childless women were also significantly more likely to receive a callback from employers compared to childless men, the researchers found.

“As the two studies reported here show, when women “behave as men do,” giving evidence of being a parent, they are discriminated against, while their male counterparts are often advantaged by their parental status,” write the authors. “That parental status disadvantaged only female applicants is strong evidence of discrimination.”

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

2 random thoughts

I am actually drinking "Red Bull" this morning (I hear it's a "well-being" drink) to try to finish 2 stories on deadline but want to share 2 quick observations:

1. Friends in my wonderful writers' group came up with this great idea: Put New Yorkers and other challenging mags in the bathroom so your kids can't help but read them.

2. After a spate of unusually fun and absorbing work, after which I found I have been infinitely more patient and kind to my kids, I remembered interviewing the amazing neuroscientist Marian Diamond for "The Mommy Brain." The one thing she said that so struck with me -- after several minutes of talking about how good kids can be for your brain -- was that the thing her children remember best about her motherhood was how much she complained. These two things can exist at the same time. Women with active brains need to use them in many ways; I would never and have never argued that raising kids can be sufficient alone. It sure isn't for me.