Mothers who take time off work to raise children lose out on wages once they return to the office, research suggests.
Highly qualified and better paid women suffered more than their peers, according to the study by Paula England, Professor of Sociology at New York University.
White women are also penalised more than black women on their return to work, analysis of US data shows.
Highly qualified and better paid women suffered more than their peers. File image
The study, ‘Do Highly Paid, Highly Skilled Women Experience the Largest Motherhood Penalty?,’ is published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review.
It examined data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which tracked 4,658 women from 1976, when they were between 14 and 21 years old, and 2010, when they were aged between 45 and 52 and largely past childbearing.
Professor England investigated the differences between white and black working mothers, and those with varying skill and wage levels.
She found that highly qualified white women on the largest salaries were the most affected, losing an average of 10 percent in their wage per child.
Meanwhile white women with lower skills and lower paid jobs lost between 4 and 7 per cent of their wage per child, the study showed.
White women are also penalised more than black women on their return to work. File image
The impact on black women was not significantly different between the two skill levels. They were also less affected than their white peers.
Professor England said: ‘Women with the highest total motherhood penalties are in an advantaged group with high skills and high wages; even after they become mothers and suffer the steepest penalty, they are typically affluent because their own earnings are still relatively high, and many of them are married to high-earning men.
‘Given their relative privilege, we might still want to give priority to policies, such as child care subsidies, that help low-income women.
‘But, in an era when there are still few women CEOs and we have yet to elect a woman president, it is important to understand how much motherhood affects the careers of women at the top and to consider how this can be changed.’