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On The Job: Who Gets Respect?

In her new movie, The Switch, Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who chooses to be a single mom. Bill O’Reilly criticized that phenomenon—just as Vice President Dan Quayle famously did when he knocked Murphy Brown for doing it back in the 90s.

So Aniston has been thrust in a debate and argued that while it might not be ideal, every woman has the right to be a mom—without necessarily having a husband in the mix. That got us thinking about the workplace battle between employees with families and those who don’t have kids. Employees without children argue that many companies have become too family-friendly and bend over backward for employees with kids. But employees with kids—especially women – argue that when it comes to promotions and clout that they are at a disadvantage and that it’s difficult to compete with non-parents when it comes to long hours or often-brutal travel schedules—without it affecting their families.

What’s your take? Do parents or non-parents have it better in today’s workplace with regard to flexibility and opportunity for advancement?  And then there’s the issue of money.  Women without children earn more in professional roles than their counterparts with kids–a fact we were reminded of during Elena Kagan’s appointment to the Supreme Court.

A modern day national maternity policy, among other shifts in the law and workplace culture, could eliminate the “parenting penalty” when it comes to pay, but in the meantime, what’s your take on how this has played out for you and women you know?


  1. alberta

    I am so grateful that more employers are giving parents flexibilty. For those that are non-parents may also need flexibility because they are taking care of their parents, or because of school. Flexibility should be across the board because sooner or later someone will need it. I remember an old proverbs “It takes a village to raise a child” so parenting should be everyone’s concern. Those who don’t have children and are complaining about those who do should stop and remember that proverb. The younger generation are our future.


  2. BonViv

    I’ve chosen to not have children and am routinely expected to put in longer hours than than those with kids. I get paid the same or less (I once had a boss who claimed that a parent should get more because they had more mouths to feed). I have half a mind to lie at my next job and say I have a kid, just so I won’t get over-worked and under-paid.

  3. While I don’t have children myself, I think it’s great – and necessary – for employers to offer flexibility to those with families. Parents need to be available for their kids and supporting a family on a single income is harder these days.

    That being said, I also think that parents have to realize that this may affect their careers. If I am expected to work longer hours, do more traveling, etc., because I don’t have kids at home, that effort should be recognized and rewarded by my employers.

    When you choose to have a family and put them first, then career is second. And that may mean lower income and fewer promotions. I don’t think that’s unfair.

  4. BN

    When I was single, I used to pick up the slack in the office because mothers get to leave work on time to pick up their children from child-care, activities etc… Took quite a while to get recognized and I earned it.
    Frankly not many single women are as lucky to be rewarded. Often, it is unspoken and expected of the single women. So you either learn to stand up or suck it up!
    Like Barbara Walters said, you made a choice – either as a single or mother. As a mother, you made the right choice to put family first. However, why should the single women, who put in more hours, not deserve their rewards?
    Either way, each made sacrifices for their choice. Each made a conscious decision to be where they are. So why the discrimination?
    I am now married but no children because I married late. Yes, I chose my career then and I don’t blame anyone now that I am past the child-bearing age. Yes, I am aware there are other options to have children but that’s a different discussion.
    That’s life. You choose and then you live with the consequences. Double kudos to those who made both home and job worked!

  5. BN

    And yes, I agree wholeheartedly with everyone on the concept of flexibility. Workplace needs to find their balance bet getting results and setting REALISTIC expectations of their employees.
    It appeared you have to put in super-human hours at work for due recognition – 50-60 hour workweek is not unusual in most industries.
    Though I recognized the time and challenges involved in raising a child, but I have a problem when mothers complained about not getting recognized as much, whilst not reocgnizing the extra effort on the single women’s part. It’s good to start this conversation so that we, single or mothers, can work out a viable solution together and put forward to the workplace.

  6. alberta

    What many individuals fail to realize is that mothers who work an eight hour job are actually working two full time jobs. Regardless if a person have children or not family should always come first. Family will be around even when the jobs are not. The world is so competitive, and I believe that it is time for us women to decide to look out for one another. Because the “Good ole boys” looks out for one another.

  7. Marie

    Another fact that is CONSTANTLY ignored is that women who are NOT in corporate jobs have been passed over for promotion from DAY ONE! These job are field labor, cashier, janitorial, etc. All of these women put in 50-60 hours and their hourly pay is less than half of what corporate women make. In addition, they may LOOSE their jobs if they leave to pick up their children, or stay home when they are sick. The worst issue is that many of these women can’t or are afraid to tell their boss that they are mothers. These types of jobs bring with them internal abuses that most people are not aware. As a single mother who worked 2-3 jobs in order to support myself and my family, I experienced these abuses for nearly 20 years. Our society needs to realize that the title “WORKING WOMEN” should not only apply to women in the corporate arena. It is a title for WOMEN WHO ARE EMPLOYED!

  8. MC

    It doesn’t matter whether you have children or not, but as someone married but childless, it is hard to move up in the “corporate” world. Even though I have an associates degree, I haven’t moved up the ladder of success. All women should have a chance to move up that “corporate” ladder whether they are married without children or with children. As long as we can get up each morning, dress outselves, eat breakfast and get on the train or bus, we should have that chance for employment.

  9. ALR

    As an RN, do you know how many holidays I spent eating in the cafeteria cause I didn’t have children?

    And, even though less of them, males nurses tend to get promoted over women.

  10. As a woman working in a professional environment, I understand that all choices and decisions come at a price. I too believe that flexibility is a great thing but organizations are not in business to provide flexibility (though we all need it). Each individual must look at the cost. We make these types of decisions all through life and the workplace is no different. If you want to be married or in a committed relationship, men and women have to make choices as to what they will give up to gain what they want. If you want a career and a family, you will also have to decide what you will sacrifice to have what you want. It is not rocket science. The fact for me is that I, as widow, and still raising a child, must make decisions each day that matter to both family and work. Sometimes I must lean toward the work requirements and sometimes toward the family obligations. The reality of it is that the person putting in the time should get the credit. Woman of the year and Mom of the year both sound good to me. Unfortunately you may not get both awards in the same year 🙂 That’s life.

  11. J.D.

    The sad thing about the debate is really the fact that it is perfectly all right for men to choose what they want–marriage or not, ambitions for a career or not. There is a double standard for women, however. And when we pit ourselves against each other, it is the powers that be who win. The real issue is sound business management. Childless people should not be overworked just because someone else decides that they will have extra time to be at work. Parents deserve equal respect. Their work should not be defined by their family situation but by the overall quality. Promotions and raises should always be about who truly does the job the best. Easier said then done, I know. We could all use a large dose of fairness–particularly employers.

  12. Red18

    The problem in the US is that the benefits, vacation, time-off etc… is archaic and barbaric. Everyone should have the same amount of time off but it should be more than 1 or 2 weeks. That is not enough time for anyone to take a break or rest well enough to work as hard as we do in this country. I am not saying I want to be like another country but most countries around the world do have better benefits than we do when it comes to time off. If companies built in more time off in general then a lot of these problems would not exist.

  13. Vena Love

    Why is it only the Single Woman or the Mother’s responsibility? And, if this is the issue, then the Mother with a husband at home may consider working part time to assit with the home bills because it is definitely difficult for her to compete with the Single Woman that does not have any children. I know because I am a Single Woman with no children working overtime while the Singel Mother leaves early because she has to pick up her children. I sympathize with her, however, I happen to know that she would be the first to go before me because my boss can rely on me during a crunch more than he can rely on her. The fact remains that in business, and during these trying times, competition is hard. And, it is service and more service that businesses are looking for. If the Mother with children is limited then it limits the service that a business is able to provide to it’s clients. SIGNED…SORRY AND SYMPATHY TO SINGLE MOTHERS

  14. BeenThere

    I am single and learned years ago that many corporations don’t view women as having ‘career’ potential while they are of child-bearing age. If you were single there was the possibility you might get married and then have children. You couldn’t win. Then once you pass that hurdle they think you’re too old to get on a career path. I spent my early career years carrying less competent men while being paid far less and, yes, I got the line that ‘he’s married…blah, blah’. I was fortunate to have a man recognize my abilities and bring me into corporate management where I was able to succeed in building a better paying career, BUT, even at that level, I have had to put up with resentful men who don’t like being outperformed on the job by a woman. So women need to band together and accept each other for whatever choices we make and then ensure that all women are treated equally, paid equally, and are given the same opportunities. Some western European countries are far ahead of the USA in this respect and we should learn from them and copy what would make sense in the USA.

  15. Marie

    I’m actually more for a equal treatment of employees across the board. This may come off as overtly blunt but, it is not your employers obligation to provide parents with special accomodations. You are there to work. I lost my job because the other candidate was protected from layoff because she was on a 6-month maternity leave for the 2nd time in 2 years! As far as promotions go for parents vs non-parents, its all in how you present yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be labeled as a “mommy” in the workplace. If something comes up, handle it discretly and keep the nature of it to yourself. That element of mystery can save you in the end. If you’re known as the one who always has a sick kid and making a big deal about rushing off all the time, you’re not going to get that promotion….and yes, I am a parent.

  16. Sabrina

    I agree with Marie; a company is not obligated to give anything to a person with children. You have to be able to perform your job no matter what the situation and if you can not then it is time leave and find an employer that fits your needs. As an employee, you should have to carry your own weight; regardless, of your family situation. To give a single person more work because they chose not to have children is in a way discriminating against them. You assume they have nothing else to do but work.

  17. I think in the mainstream corporate culture mothers have a difficult time moving up because they can’t or don’t want to put in the extra time that the management may want. Her priorities are with her family – as they should be. That’s why we are all doing this right? If we could all be on a permanent vacation with our families- we would. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be with HireBetter. I can work from my home office & still dedicate time to my family. Balance is a core value of ours. We are encouraged to find it- live it- and are rewarded for doing so. Workers are happier & more productive when they are not being pulled from every direction. When each part of their lives is working in sync and not fighting against each other.

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  19. ljn

    I am over 40 and have never married or had children. In my experience, many married with children people will work against people who choose my path. Rather than realizing the effect their choice will have on their career, they wreak havok on those who are different. Sorry, but this is a huge issue that needs looked at. Men who never marry or have children are given more respect than women. Women who never marry or have children are looked at negatively and with extreme suspicion. And, they are also considered selfish and immature if they don’t have children since having children automatically grants a person those qualities…right? (whatever)

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