Wait! For Women Leaders, Delaying Motherhood May Work in Your Favor

Wendy Clark, DDB North America CEO understands the balance of work and motherhood. Here’s news to go well with the eggs benedict from the Mother’s Day brunch, and perhaps some of the moms can pick up the tab.In a study from the Centers for Disease Control, according to Honor Whiteman in Medical News Today, “Researchers found that working women who have their first child over the age of 30 experience a lower loss of income from their employment than those who have their first child earlier or who never have children.”This pierces a hole in the myth that all working mothers and women leaders who are moms are penalized with a larger pay gap.Study coauthor Man Yee Leung, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate at Washington University School of Medicine, and colleagues found this: “Women who had their first child at age 31 or older were found to earn more over their entire careers than those who had no children, while women who had their first child after the age of 37 benefited from an additional 0.5 years’ salary on their lifetime earnings.”Writing about the study in Brit + Co, author Megan Parry says: “Study co-authors Raul Santaeulalia-Llopis, an assistant professor of economics in Arts and Sciences at Washington University, and Fane Groes, an economics professor with the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, analyzed the work experience and birth stats of 1.6 million Danish women ages 25-60 from 1995 through 2009 to figure out the correlation between a women’s lifetime career earnings and the age at which she had her first child.“What they found also upheld the older mother benefit.According to Parry: “Children do not kill careers, but the earlier children arrive, the more their mother’s income suffers. There is a clear incentive for delaying,” said Santaeulalia-Llopis. “Our main result is that mothers lose between two and two-and-a-half years of their labor income if they have their first children before the age of 25.”A new study from the United Kingdom’s Trades Union Congress agrees with those findings and notes that daddies get a fatherhood bonus at work and mommies get penalized with lower pay—unless that working mother is over 33 years old. Then she gets a wage bonus for motherhood. Tim Worstell quotes the study in Forbes: “The UK has a large gender pay gap, with women earning a fifth less than men on average, and a tenth less for those in full-time work. We find that parenthood has a distinct wage ‘penalty’ for women, and a wage ‘bonus’ for men.”The study continues,”We find that mothers who are working full-time experience a wage ‘penalty’, earning 11 per cent less than women without children who are working full-time at age 42. The motherhood wage penalty is entirely associated with mothers who had their first child when they were under 33. These mothers earned 15 per cent less than similar childless women at age 42.“By contrast, mothers whose first birth was at 33 or older experience a wage ‘bonus’ of 12 per cent compared to similar women who hadn’t had children. Conversely, fathers who work full time experience a wage ‘bonus’, earning 22 per cent more than similar men without children who are working full-time at age 42.”All working parents are concerned universally about parental leave. Another new UK new study shows the results of shared parental leave—mother and father time off—following the one year anniversary of the Shared Parental Leave initiative there.Researchers for My Family Care and the Women’s Business Council “found that just 1 percent of men (that is, all men, not just eligible men, based on our HR respondents’ feedback on take up percentage) have so far taken up the opportunity to share their partner’s parental leave while 55 percnt of women say they wouldn’t want to share their maternity leave.Commenting on the study of 200 employers, My Family Care director Ben Black writes: The key thing for businesses is to help their employees combine work and family, by providing them with choices and enabling them to carry on with their careers while having a family. More and more we’re going to hear fantastic stories of fathers, at senior levels, who have taken Shared Parental Leave, and once these stories filter through, and the notion of sharing leave in this way becomes ‘normal’, then it will be accepted practice and that 1% will gradually increase. Of course, all change takes time and while it hasn’t so far been the cultural change that many were clamoring for, I suspect with many companies enhancing paternity leave, momentum will grow.“Employers in the U.S. have a lot to learn from other countries about parental leave, as San Francisco recently became the first city in this country to adopt mandatory parental leave. Sam Levin writes in The Guardian: “The US is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity or parental leave to workers. San Francisco’s legislation is an important step forward in a long campaign to bring the country up to speed with all other industrialized nations that have paid leave laws, which experts say carry tremendous health benefits for parents and children.”[bctt tweet=“With more working mothers who are women leaders than ever the impact of issues such as paid leave and repurcussions for time off in a career grow in importance.”]The new law requires that by 2017 companies with more than 50 employees to grant workers six-weeks paid leave earning 45 percent of salary. This is a big deal for women leaders who are moms, but not the first time measures for parental leave have been attempted.Levin writes: “In 2009, New Jersey adopted a six-week paid leave policy and Rhode Island passed a four-week measure in 2014. Washington state also has a similar law, but hasn’t implemented it. Last week, New York signed into law legislation hailed as the most far-reaching in America, with a mandated 12 weeks paid time off, though the reforms will be phased in and initially will only cover 50% of a worker’s average pay.”With more working mothers who are women leaders than ever, or 61 percent of mothers working outside the home, the impact of issues such as paid leave and repurcussions for time off in a career grow in importance. Even the role models of possibility working mothers demonstrate for their own children leaves an imprint on the next generation.DDB North America CEO Wendy Clark tells Lisa Granatstein of ADWEEK in its women’s issue celebrating four key women leaders in marketing: “I have two daughters and I have a son. Each of them has the same genetic makeup and the same education, and yet my son looks out and sees 44 examples that tell him he could be president of this country one day. And my daughters see none.”Clark addds, “I firmly believe that you can’t be what you can’t see, and given that we have a candidate that is so capable and is a woman, that is a double check for me. I think it would materially change just as we’ve seen some of the change that came around from President Obama the gender discussion in business, in our country, in our schools and in all of our institutions.”Mindful of the role models of women leaders as working mothers she has had and also cognizant of herself as a role model, Laurie Barry, wealth adviser and former president of the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago, tells FW magazine: “All the women ahead of me are the ones who have inspired me most professionally—those who have been strong and committed to a career or a passion and have continued to follow their dreams. I really feel there are lots of roadblocks and everyday distractions for women, as mothers, sisters, partners, caregivers.”Barry adds, “A woman has so many roles she takes on and she’s usually the one that cares the most. Caring takes time and emotion. If you can do all that and stay true to your career passion, that not only equals success but also happiness in life.”Nina Leykind, founder of Eyeko Cosmetics, tells Laura Dunn of Huffington Post that motherhood and a booming career are not always easy to accomplish at once.“Maintaining a healthy work/life balance is no easy fete,” Leykind says. One reason she did succeed is that childcare was not a big problem.“Max and I would not have been able to do it without our parents, particularly my mother who is always on hand to babysit. Working for ourselves, we’ve been fortunate enough to work around our children’s schedules so we have never needed a nanny. Now they’re 8 and 12 so in some respects it’s easier as they’re more independent, and although I know they see plenty of us, it’s never enough time – they grow up too fast.”According to Leykind, called the Mascara Queen, “I think that’s why there’s a rise in female entrepreneurs – mompreneurs – where women can take control of their careers instead of facing tough choices like swapping career progression for flexible work hours.”