The gender pay gap in the UK is currently at 18.1% – lower than previous years, but still an indefensible difference in men and women’s average earnings.
Among the many contributing factors, having children is one of the biggest; a 2016 report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that the gap widens significantly as women get older, and concluded that “differences in career patterns stemming from the birth of children have a key role to play in explaining the evolution of the gender wage gap across the life cycle.”
And it’s not simply the immediate fact of parental leave usually being taken by the mother; the study showed the gap continued to rise until the child was 12. The IFS concluded that the average woman is more likely to be tasked with ongoing childcare than the average man, which affects her career.
Average earnings aside, on a personal level it can feel daunting returning to the workplace with a childcare gap in your CV, however long the career break.
But in the US, one innovative campaign hopes to change negative connotations of maternity leave by encouraging women to rebrand the ‘time off’ as a job – pointing out that looking after a small human rarely involves putting your feet up.
LinkedIn users can list the job title of ‘Mom’ working at The Pregnancy Pause for the duration of their career break – “whether 12 weeks or 12 years” – and any prospective employers clicking on the company will be taken to a page explaining that maternity leave “isn’t a vacation”.
A video states that the campaign aims to provide “an official job title for motherhood” and remove the taboos around telling employers why there’s a stretch of seemingly empty time on a mother’s CV.
It’s particularly focused on those looking for new jobs rather than those returning to companies they worked for before as in the US, companies of more than 50 employees are only required to provide 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave (something that can only be taken if the employee has worked there for a year).
“New mothers in the US often feel forced to quit their jobs due to a lack of adequate maternity leave policies, which leaves them penalized for the subsequent gaps in their résumé,” Corinna Falusi, chief creative offier of Mother New York – the agency that developed the campaign – said in a statement. “We wanted to give working mothers everywhere a simple tool for this problem, and make it easy for them to own maternity leave as the full-time job it truly is.”
The Pregnancy Pause website offers a downloadable ‘toolkit’ on how to update a CV, which includes a phone number for employers to ring.
A prerecorded message states: “You must be calling about a candidate’s résumé that has mentioned her time spent here. While here, she spent innumerable hours raising a child, which has surely offered her invaluable experience as a prospective employee […] remember, maternity leave is a full-time job.”
The LinkedIn page also provides suggestions for the description of the ‘Mom’ job, such as “designer of human life” and “hands-on experience in development”, while the company is listed as specialising in “Biotechnology, Human Resources, Internal Affairs, Nutrition, Negotiation, Healthcare, Package and Freight Delivery, Systems Management, Product Development, Leadership”.