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My maternity leave ends this week and I'm looking forward to getting back to work, but at the same time, I've been reading too many feminist forums and it's messing with me. Because in every discussion about equal pay, the anti-feminist trolls say that the gender wage gap is deserved, fair & justifiable, because women take all this extra time off from their careers to have babies.

So even though I've only taken six weeks off, checked email the whole time, even went in to check on my team, I'm super paranoid that deep down inside there are guys thinking "oh, back from your nice month and a half vacay that none of us get except you, missy? back to keep getting your cut of the profits we generated while you were off baby-gazing?"

I fear that the things anti-feminists say about women are hiding deep in the minds of everybody I work with. somehow. somewhere. unsaid, just... there. In a conservative state, in an almost all-male workplace, how could it not be?

people take medical leave for all sorts of reasons... knee replacements, heart attacks, I see those guys leave and come back and never feel an ounce of guilt.

in the grand scheme of a year, six weeks is really nothing. A lot of projects don't move much at all in that time, both this time and with my first baby immediate coworkers are remarking on how "wow, that was fast. well we're sad to say *this* hasn't changed at all..."

Oh, and can I mention that where I work, if you've been around ten years you get four weeks a year of vacation! There are guys who take off every year from Thanksgiving to New Years... just using time they've earned. no one wonders how it effects their careers or whether it'll come up in the April raise cycles, by then it's forgotten.

If I were in charge of the world both men and women would get the same paid leave, 6-12 weeks, I don't know which. It wouldn't be for any touchy-feely "men deserve it" fairness reason either, it would be for the babies who deserve bonding time with both parents. And for the women recovering from childbirth, who don't deserve to be left alone with a newborn... we don't live on farms with our 18 cousins around to jump in and help anymore. Where's the support? I would give men the same leave I have, in a heartbeat.

But none of that matters, all I hear are the forum trolls telling us that the gender wage gap is totally justified for biological reasons. Women have babies, women take time off, take your 73 cents for every dollar a man makes and stop complaining about it. Equal pay is for equal work and you, ladies, do not do equal work. We don't remember those guys taking vacations or medical leave, but it's fixed in our heads when you take maternity leave, because it's what we use to judge you the way we do. Why can't you understand that this HAS to be a mark against you? You are mothers. We won't look past that to objectively evaluate the work you do, you're lucky to be working at all.

We resent you. there it is. welcome back.

someone talk me down, tell me that's now really how men feel? I work with some really cool ones that I know are cool, but what's "normal"... please tell me the trolls who are assholes about maternity leave are a tiny minority?



( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 15th, 2013 05:20 pm (UTC)
Over here in the UK women get six months paid maternity leave, with the mandatory option of another six months at a reduced rate. No one (as far as I have ever heard) has complained about the amount of time given, although small businesses do complain about the equal opportunities laws that they aren't allowed to hire a man over a woman because they are less likely to go off and have children.

Men get two weeks paid paternity leave.

But the legal minimum for holiday/leave days is also 4 weeks of a year. None of this 'having to have worked in a place ten years' business.

Don't envy you guys your work/life balance.
Jun. 15th, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
^^ I covet this! And I really think offering significant, paid parental leave is worth the benefit to society in healthy young 'uns with secure bonds to less-stressed parents.

As for "you worked less, so of course you end your career less advanced": You, SpaceFem, have and plan to have two kids, at six weeks' leave each. So if you *were* to end your career twelve weeks' advancement behind a non-maternity-leave-taking counterpart, that's, let's see ...
30 years minus 3 months ...
119/120th the work ...
Yeah, a totally negligible difference! We'll round up and call it 1%.</p>

Now, in my case, I've taken three years so far out of the workforce, and I expect to take another two or so, until Baby #2 is two. And I think it's fair that I need to expect to either work a few more years before retiring or accept that my lifetime wages will be less than those of someone who didn't take this much time off. (Not that I would have been bringing home a full salary in this time anyhow: about one third of my best-case wages would have been going to pay someone else to watch just the one kid.)

Jun. 15th, 2013 05:43 pm (UTC)
I am totally pro maternity leave. I am totally pro paternity leave. (I don't think anyone should have kids, but if you are going to, I think the kid deserves the best possible start in life, and that means at least two parents. Plus, it is absolutely never any business of your employer what gender or sex they think you are and it is unconscionable to write policies based on it.)

But your argument above is disngenuous. Every leave you ascribe to men *women also get and take*, but (at least apparently at SpaceFemCorp), only women *also* get maternity leave. (and while I think SpaceFemCorp is morally obligated to give men the same opportunity I have no complaints about them giving it to women).

However, as far as I can tell from the stats, we *ARE* at equal-pay-for-equal-work, within plus or minus delta. The wage gap that exists bewteen men and women only exists if you look at averages across all men and women and is driven solely by the lower penetration of women into the higher end of the job market. That is to say, there are fewer women who work high-paying jobs, but for *any given job*, the women who are there earn the same as the men who are there for the work that they do.

We can talk, certainly, about *why* there are fewer women in high-paying jobs, and there are a lot of possible explanations, and that imbalance might well be a *problem*, but equal-pay-for-equal-work is not something we are missing.

Jun. 16th, 2013 07:47 pm (UTC)
Do you have links to those stats? Everything I've seen indicates there is a wage gap in the vast majority of fields.

From a quick google search:


"AAUW took a closer look at the difference between men and women who enter the same occupation. The apples-to-apples comparison found that women still earned about 7% less than their male counterparts. Give their similarities, this pay gap is unexplained, and gender discrimination is one potential factor, the study says."


"In management professions, men earn $1,328 each week while women earn $951—a 71.6% gap. In financial professions it’s 74% and in legal occupations an abysmal 53.7%. These men and women, surely, achieved the same level of education, chose the same career path and dedicate similar full-time hours to their fields, don’t they Sabrina?"

Jun. 16th, 2013 11:56 pm (UTC)
I think an occupation controlled comparison is really the only legitimate way to make this comparison. What's funny is that the 7% delta you reference above is *less* than the 11.5% of a year that a new mother would be taking off (6 weeks out of 52). So I don't think maternity leave is a trivial amount of time to be gone in a given year. What would be really interesting would be a study on childless women versus men: I am not planning to have kids but still get paid less than some of my male counterparts (including my husband when we were working at the same company).

As for management professions, your statement above is inaccurate. It's not a 71.6% GAP, the women's pay figure is 71.6% of the men's pay figure. It's a 29.4% gap. That said, those particular fields (management and law) have a ridiculously disproportionately lower representation of women than a lot of other professions, especially when you start getting into executive level management. When you get into that level of sampling disparity I'm not sure the numbers mean as much as you're implying...

I myself don't believe that companies should be forced (by regulation) to subsidize people's family choices or personal situations though a . When you're not there, the company's remaining employees have to fill your gap for a non-trivial amount of time, or hire and train a temporary replacement. I think it's super awesome that your job is guaranteed for a certain period of time (FMLA) but I don't see why a company should have to pay you over and above your standard vacation time when you're not there doing work, i.e. contributing to the company making money. Now if companies want to do that as a benefit to their employees for retention and quality of life reasons, that's fine, but I don't think the government should mandate that sort of thing. Take some personal responsibility: you have 9 months to save up and prepare for bringing the baby home and even longer than that to make yourself financially stable for life in general. It's not the company's (or the government's) responsibility to give you additional compensation because you decided to have a kid, just like it's not their responsibility to pay me extra for time off for any other elective medical event.
Jun. 17th, 2013 12:29 am (UTC)
FMLA just states they can't fire you, not that they have to pay you during that time. For what it's worth.
Jun. 17th, 2013 01:44 am (UTC)
Right, that's what I said. "I think it's super awesome that your job is guaranteed for a certain period of time (FMLA)..." The other government mandated stuff is in reference to other countries whose governments do mandate paid maternity/paternity leave for many, many weeks.
Jul. 4th, 2013 02:43 am (UTC)
I don't have a link handy, sorry, but I will try to dig up the study that I can. Occupation-controlled is an improvement over anything else, but it is still inadequate. You must also control for skill level and seniority. My understanding is that when this is done the numbers are essentially equal. (I would even call a 7% delta pretty damned close.)
Jun. 15th, 2013 06:15 pm (UTC)
Men already have the option to take FMLA for 6-12 weeks after a baby arrives.

I don't think anyone who has ever had children thinks those first 6 weeks after a baby is born is just a nice vacation. For most new parents, they're a time of sleep deprivation and major adjustments. All without pay for most people. My husband has never expressed an ounce of resentment towards women who take time off to have a baby - and after having 2 of our own he's of the opinion that a lot more time off is needed and both parents should be able to take time the first few weeks. We're expecting our third in the next 6 weeks, and we can't afford for him to take more than a week or so off work, but he'd love to take more if he could.
Jun. 15th, 2013 07:26 pm (UTC)
Biological reasons?

Heart disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in this country.

Men have onset of heart disease ten years earlier than women.

I'd say women have 10 extra years on men, time for dozens of maternity leaves.
Jun. 15th, 2013 10:02 pm (UTC)
Ugh, don't read the trolls. They're so wrong...
Jun. 16th, 2013 03:14 am (UTC)
my previous boss thought this way. It was odd, he was the only man in the whole office. And all his managers took maternity leave. His mind changed when his wife had two kids and was the one bringing in more money.

But think they are a minority. I'd like to think so anyway. A working mom friend here (she's American and married to a Swede - where they have the most generous options for both mother and father!) grumbles how people just talk about family values but do nothing about it reflecting in its gov't/company policies.

I know when I go back to work after 4 years gap, I will get paid lower but that's fair. However, taking maternity leave and paying for it, that's just not right!
Jun. 16th, 2013 04:51 am (UTC)
In Canada, we get 50 weeks. I think it works out to 15 weeks of maternity leave and 35 weeks of parental leave. Only the women can take the maternity leave, however either parent can take the parental leave, or split it between them, or however they want to work it.

When we go on leave, we get paid Unemployment (called EI up here) wages, which amounts to a tiny amount, but at least it's something, and it comes from the government, not our employer - all our employer has to do, is hire a one year temp posting. Some employers will top up the EI, to something like 90% of full salary, but most don't.

I believe that in my province, we now have the option of extending our leave by another 6 months, but it's unpaid - it's just that the employer has to guarantee that your position will be there when you return.

I feel for you women in the US. I can't imagine having so little time, and I can't imagine the pressure that workplaces are putting on women. I wish it was easier to show the people in charge that there's another way...
Jun. 16th, 2013 04:14 pm (UTC)
Ah, your post is much more detailed and correct than mine. Oops. :)
Jun. 16th, 2013 04:57 am (UTC)
Gah.. this whole post of yours makes me terribly sad for so many reasons.

To answer your question about those bizarre trolls and men. No, they don't (all) feel that way. There are a bunch of stories you can find here that give examples of working men trying to balance family life in ways similar to how women historically have. http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/05/fraternity-of-paternity-when-men-lean-in.html

And many, many employers offer paternity leave and adoption leave and bereavement leave. And same sex couples are entitled to leave. It's not purely a feminist issue. It's a question of how our culture wants to support young families and the middle class.

If that's truly the culture of your workplace it sounds awful and no where I (as a feminist) would feel comfortable contributing my work.

For me, you have to use your career similarly to how you use your income to "vote" by spending on goods and services you value. Electing to work for an employer is in part a vote of confidence in their workplace practices.

I realize given that we have such a long way to go, that women will constantly continue to need to make compromises and if you follow the Sheryl Sandberg philosophy, you need to assert your expectations along with what you intend to do for your employer. I would be cautious about sending the message that your home job has less value than your work job. You get paid the same either way. If you advance less based on this one measure, see what i said about. There are much better employers.

Business is a two-way relationship and you are entitled to maternity leave. Feel no shame in taking every last day of it. Men would take it and not look back. (6 weeks is two week short of the legal limit for small employers in my state anyway so I'm a little shocked there too.)
Jun. 16th, 2013 09:09 am (UTC)
And for the women recovering from childbirth, who don't deserve to be left alone with a newborn

Hear, hear. I had an easy labor/delivery and still spent pretty much the entire first week in bed.
Jun. 16th, 2013 04:12 pm (UTC)
Coming from Canada, this whole entry is crazy.

[deleted, sharya is more accurate]

I also think your industry is a bit behind on the vacation front. Where I work, they start us at 3 weeks, 4 at 5 years, 5 at 10 years.... but too bad this isn't Europe. :)

Edited at 2013-06-16 04:15 pm (UTC)
Jun. 16th, 2013 07:52 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's her industry so much as the US. Hers actually sounds generous to me. Standard here is 2 weeks/yr straight out of school with 1 week/yr sick leave, and you get more as you work more.

My company right now does 3 weeks of "personal leave" (meaning a combined vacation and sick time pool, so yes you have to use up all of your vacation time before you can go on disability if you are sick). This bumps to 4 weeks at 10 years.

My husband's company starts at 2 weeks/yr of vacation, bumping to 3 weeks at 5 years and 4 weeks at (I think) 10 years. Sick time is not limited as long as you provide a doctor's note for anything over 3 days absent.
Jul. 4th, 2013 02:50 am (UTC)
That is really awful. Where I work the entry-level folks get 3 weeks a year of vacation to start, increasing by one day per year per year to a max of 23 days/year. Plus something like three times that much in sick leave. Exempt-level positions get 24 days/year. All of which I consider totally inadequate.

Edited at 2013-07-04 02:52 am (UTC)
Jun. 16th, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC)

I wish I could tell you that not all men think that way, but honestly, I share your fear. It just sounds so "logical" and "reasonable" when you ignore all other facts. Facts which they are often not in the position to know or have any desire to seek out.

Of course, it's not anything anyone actually TALKS about, and if we did I suspect they would know enough not to admit to it. A drafter once said as much and when I told him that leave was UNPAID, my boss quickly cut the conversation off. So much for hashing THAT out. We've had two women have babies and take maternity leave in the last year with no apparent ill effects, so I'm hanging my hat on that. Of course, I don't really know their situation.
Jun. 19th, 2013 02:31 am (UTC)
According to the latest study released by AAUW examining college graduates one year after graduation, the gap was already existent. This means that the gap has nothing to do with maternity leave or time out of the workforce, as AAUW concludes few 23-year olds are falling behind for that reason.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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