Do Women Have to Be Childless to Combat the Wage Gap?


Imagine being in a country where there wasn’t a wage gap. Or what about just being in one where it is the women who out-earn the men?

Well, if you live in Ireland, Australia, Luxembourg, or the Netherlands, that is actually the case. Women there tend to earn 17 percent more than their male counterparts — except when they say “women” they mean those without children. According to new research from OECD, it is childless women in those countries who are reversing the wage gap. Is not having a child the only way for women to reverse the pay gap?

The study shows a staggering bar graph that literally shows the cost of children. When working women have children in the Netherlands they drop down 7 percentage points in their earnings compared to men. In Ireland, women drop down over 30 percentage points when they have children. These are significant numbers, but are we surprised?

In some U.S. cities, single women in their twenties with no children, on average, make more than menand this trend is expected to continue for this sect of women. This data outlook and its impact on society is the subject of Liza Mundy’s new book The Richer Sex. She wrote: “Almost 40 percent of working wives out-earn their husbands” – and this number is rising.

But Mundy focuses on the fact that a lot of these women who will be making more money will not be married and not have children. The greatest changes for women have been their gains in education and in the workforce – which has resulted in people marrying later. According to a 2011 study, “Women in America: Indicators Of Social and Economic Well-Being,” college-educated women on average get married around the age of 30, compared with 26 for women who don’t go to college.

And it seems that many of these childless women are well aware of the impact a child has on a career. In a survey commissioned with the release of the 2012 film I Don’t Know How She Does It, 44 percent of childless women feel sorry for working mothers trying to balance everything. Half of childless women over 30 look at stay-at-home mothers and think it will be difficult for them to get back on the career ladder, and a fifth believe they’ve lost their identity. Meanwhile, 26 percent admit they are fearful of the effect motherhood would have on their career.


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