Motherhood penalty

Workplaces across the country aren’t providing working mothers with the support packages, pay-rises and promotions they need – according to an extensive new survey of 6,000 UK professionals.

The survey from specialist recruitment firm Robert Walters found that the odds are truly stacked against working mothers – both those living with their partners and those living alone/without a partner


Strides have been made but sadly not far or fast enough, with almost two-thirds of working mothers (56%) saying that they are yet to be given a promotion from their current employer, despite the fact they felt they’d earned it – a 14% difference compared to working fathers who have said the same.

In fact, over a quarter of working mothers (27%) stated that they aren’t even aware of the route to a promotion - 10% more than their male counterparts answering the same question. A fifth of working mothers (18%) surveyed stated that they wanted more support from management to understand how to get a promotion. 


Pay falling short

When it comes to pay, we see a similar story – just under a quarter of working mothers in white-collar roles earn £42,000 compared to 53% of working fathers who earn this or above; an unacceptable statistic.

The difference is even more pronounced when you move further up the pay bracket – with just 6% of working mothers earning £75,000 or above as opposed to 21% of working fathers who take home this level of pay.

Cost of living inequality

The difficulties continue at home with just 10% of single* mothers saying that they are able to ‘live comfortably’ on their salary – with almost a quarter (22%) relying on additional income streams such as credit cards, pay day loans, or side hustles. This figure is twice as much as single fathers, and three times as much as cohabiting parents.

Meanwhile, fathers who cohabit with their partner reported feeling the least impacted by cost of living– 35% stated they live comfortably with a disposable income (vs 28% of single fathers and 23% of cohabiting mothers who said the same).

Coral Bamgboye, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Robert Walters commented, “The data highlights how working mothers are not only losing out on guidance and support for promotions, but they are also finding it significantly harder to reach the higher echelons of pay, which still seem to be dominated by men.

“This is having knock-on effects to how comfortably they can live day-to-day – hitting single mothers especially hard, with almost a quarter having to rely on credit cards and payday loans to get by.”

Inadequate support from employers

The survey also drew a stark line under the lack of support that working mothers receive from their employers, with 36% stating that balancing work with personal commitments is a key roadblock to work. As well as a lack of support, one in five single mothers report experiencing active discrimination against their personal circumstance in the office, almost double the number that was reported by single fathers. 


Confidence dwindling

All of these factors contribute to an overall lack of confidence. 27% of working mothers claim they lack the confidence to highlight their own wins. This lack of confidence in women at work appears to have a direct correlation with the success rate of negotiating pay, with 19% of single working mothers reporting that they haven’t received a pay rise after negotiation, compared to just 5%
of single fathers who said the same.

Coral adds, “In some parts, we have managed to shift the dial on the experiences for women in the workplace and progress has and continues to be made. However, what is concerning is this small cohort within this group – the working mother – whose experiences are largely going unrecognised. Working mothers feel they are stuck when it comes to progression, pay and support from employers – and more needs to be done to address this, particularly in this cost-of-living crisis.

To help address these inequalities companies can:

• Organise more inclusive conversations from senior figures around career progression and pay-rise opportunities
• Offer adaptable flexible working options such as late starts or early finishes to coincide with school times
• Childcare support options to allow working parents more time to focus on important projects.

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