You wouldn’t think the glass ceiling still exists, but it’s alive and well – and more accurately called the glass cliff. And part of the issue is the “motherhood penalty” or the disadvantage of working mothers in pay, perceived confidence, and benefits in comparison to females who don’t have any kids. So when CEO Audrey Gelman graced the cover of Inc. magazine’s Female Founders issue with her pregnant tummy showing in all its glory, I was one of the people cheering! Today Kate guest posts with the details about this momentous moment.
Who is Audrey Gelman?
Gelman is the founder and CEO of The Wing, a growing community of women across the nation and globe. She co-founded it with Lauren Kassan.
Her prodigious baby bump marks a remarkable milestone because even in modern times, women lose money when they decide to start a family. Society needs more reminders that women can enjoy both a satisfying personal life and a rewarding career.
The Wing: Taking a stand for women
The Wing is a co-working space started in New York City to combat gender bias. The organization now has facilities in many major cities across the U.S. and recently expanded into Canada.
While the idea is relatively recent, it draws its roots from earlier women’s clubs. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, elite women came together to lend each other support and advocate for social change.
Prominent women of color likewise organized societies to advance their causes. Given the difficulties females continue to face in regards to reaching equality, it’s time to revive this sense of community.
Women supporting women can make a positive difference!
On the other hand, The Wing has come under criticism for discriminating against men with its policy of only allowing membership to those who identify as female. After coming under fire, the organization amended its membership policy to allow anyone to join, with the focus continuing to be to promote women.
The Wing lives its mission by making connections with nonprofits to advance opportunities for disadvantaged girls. They offer a scholarship program to encourage young entrepreneurs to obtain the education they need to follow their dreams.
The team consists of women from all career paths – from construction to food service, and from finance to technology.
Challenges to gender equality in the workplace
Why does Inc.’s selection of Audrey Gelman matter to so many? Because women continue to face roadblocks when it comes to enjoying both career and family.
When a man has a family, his income increases, on average. Meanwhile, when a woman gives birth, her income typically declines; first-time moms experience a 30% drop in pay, on average, while dads make about 20% more than childless men.
This discrepancy in income adds up over the year. It translates to a loss of $16,000 annually for ladies, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
When you combine this disturbing statistic with the way women earn less overall when compared to their male colleagues, the economic disadvantage of females becomes clear.
On average, women earn $.79 for every $1 a man takes home. Women of color experience an even bigger gender pay divide, with Hispanic women making little more than half of their white male peers.
One reason for the discrepancy is that females typically select lower-paying career paths. Women dominate the fields of teaching and social work, two fields that historically pay modestly
Moreover, having a baby costs a pretty penny. Even if you have insurance coverage, it costs well over $1,000 to give birth in California, for example. If you lack health coverage, it can cost $10,000 or more — and that’s assuming no complications occur.
All of which adds to moms getting less pay after giving birth, as mentioned earlier.
Why does this happen, anyway? It’s not as if all men go out and win the bread while the woman raises the children.
However, inherent biases persist without images to the contrary. That’s why Gelman’s magazine photoshoot matters so much.
People can’t imagine what they don’t see. By displaying images of women who successfully balance motherhood with a rewarding career, publications tell society at large, “This is normal.”
Society needs more women in leadership
Displaying more women in leadership positions creates a ripple effect throughout the nation. It could provide a much-needed seismic shift in the way society structures work and career.
The current patriarchy separates home and professional life into distinct factions. This disparate structure worked in the past when men paid little, if any, attention to domestic matters and focused only on their careers.
However, society has changed. Today, few families can survive on one income.
US employers no longer extend benefits packages to cover spouses and children. More people work longer and harder, regardless of their gender. The changing dynamics have increasingly blurred the lines between work and family.
As such, society needs female leaders to address the realities of this changing dynamic. Women-led corporations often institute measures such as on-site childcare and paid family leave, valuable benefits for working mothers.
As healthcare costs continue climbing, they can demand the government allocate tax dollars to expand coverage. Doing so encourages entrepreneurship, as many women remain with their current employers to maintain their insurance plans.
Final word on Audrey Gelman and magazines
People tend to become what they see. When more publications normalize images of women as both mothers and business leaders, glass ceilings will continue to shatter!
About today’s writer
Kate Harveston is a lifestyle and wellness journalist from Pennsylvania. She particularly enjoys writing about topics related to women’s health and well-being. If you like her work, you can subscribe to her blog, So Well, So Woman.
Top photo credit: The lorax, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Creative Commons, modified. Audrey Gelman at NYC fundraiser.