Mothers (& Others) Need Not Apply


Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and ABC News has a compelling and interesting article on maternal profiling. You’ve heard that term before, right? Maternal profiling is the bias that some mothers feel in the workforce.

  • …according to a recent study in the American Journal of Sociology, women with children are half as likely to be called back by an employer than childless women with the same qualifications. It’s a practice women’s rights groups like “Moms Rising” refer to as “maternal profiling.”

As a Human Resources professional, I’ve seen this bias in the workforce and counseled against it; however, I’m not sure if it’s a bias against mothers or if it’s a bias against anyone who has the audacity to claim relatedness to something other than a corporation (or a job).

The amateur HR professional (*like me, circa 1997*) can find herself accepting this bias (*however unwittingly*) in an effort to help executives & leaders identify talented individuals in the workforce. It’s so easy for unskilled HR generalists and recruiters to sanitize & secularize the workforce — removing all trace of identity & diversity — to ensure a level playing field.

The amateur HR generalist operates from a default assumption that everyone should work hard and give 110% to the company. Anything less than a total & complete commitment to the organization is unacceptable.

Looking back, I can see the culpability of HR (and my own culpability) in some very flawed talent review discussions. There are HR & business leaders who demonstrate an almost Soviet-socialistic mindset when it comes to ‘working hard’ and dedicating oneself to an organization. How committed are you, some have asked in my presence, if you take time off for your family and work from home on Fridays?

When this kind of mindset emerges from management, it’s a teachable moment. When it comes from HR, it’s toxic.

It took me years to hone my skills and ensure that I’m not overlooking speed, savvy & creativity. Working hard, working smart, working fast, and working efficiently — it’s not the same things as being in the office and working 80 hours/week. My goal, over the past several years, has been to ensure that colleagues who find a healthy work/life balance are accepted and lauded in the workforce.

Unfortunately, bias and poor management skills still remain prevalent in Corporate America.

Could it be as simple as a bias against paying people what they’re worth unless the colleagues give their blood, sweat & tears to the corporation?

If HR can do anything, it’s imperative that we work to change the expectations of how people should work. We can also counsel leaders on when it’s appropriate (if ever) for a company to pass judgment on an employee. We can also advise employers to make money on smarter, better, and more efficient products & services — and not attempt to expand the profit margins by participating in unfair, unethical and/or illegal compensation practices.


THIS JUST IN: Dan McCarthy @ Great Leadership makes the case that being a committed parent can enhance managerial capability. Go here to check it out!

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