Mindsets not Mothers

6 min read | Samantha Furbush Taraskiewicz

Mother's Day was this past weekend in the United States (and in many other countries as well) and my husband took our kids to the playground in the afternoon so I had few minutes by myself to read the paper - a luxury most parents will understand - when I stumbled upon an opinion piece in the New York Times entitled "The Gender Pay Gap Is Largely Because of Motherhood." This piece, while attempting to highlight the gender pay gap, completely missed the mark.

It isn't necessarily a problem with women prioritizing family, but rather with managers' expectations that they will and companies allowing managers to create unequal pay situations. Manager's mindsets strike again!

Susan Tweet.png

Leading Women's newest team member

Research shows that managers are less likely to approve flextime for women because they have the mindset that women are more likely to use this time for personal rather than professional reasons. Which as a full-time, remote, work-from-home parent, and a woman, I can debunk completely. {Photo Left: Leading Women's newest team member helping mommy map out upcoming blogs}

And how about the recent study which states "well-off" women being less likely to get an interview? It's not because they didn't apply or were not equally qualified for the job, but because hiring managers declined to interview these women because "they believed they were the least committed of any group to work a demanding job." 

But even the most well intentioned manager can fall prey to their entrenched mindsets.  A thought like "She wouldn't want that assignment, she has young kids"  is common and may seem thoughtful and nice, but it is damaging. Did the manager ask the employee if she was up for the assignment? No. Being unaware of the motherhood penalty dynamic (with its underlying unexamined assumptions) controls the decision - not the manager.  As a result, women in general (and mothers in particular) fail to advance at rates equal to men.

A great example of how to adjust mindsets comes from our blog post "Frailty, thy name is woman." In the blog, Leading Women CEO, Susan Colantuono, takes a good look at the latest LeanIn / McKinsey's research and pulls out excerpts from the "Women face an uneven playing field" section. She then takes all of the points attributed to women and swaps them to be attributed to management - the points are the same, but the message changes completely. 

Faults Attributed to Women Same Faults
Attributed to Management
  • Women experience an uneven playing field
  • Management actions create an uneven playing field for women
  • Women are negotiating as often as men, but face push back when they do
  • Managers are less open to women who negotiate than they are to men
  • Women get less access to senior leaders
  • Senior leaders are less likely to informally meet with, mentor or sponsor women and are more likely to give men development opportunities and guidance that lead to senior roles
  • Women ask for feedback as often as men - but are less likely to receive it
  • Managers give women less feedback overall and less effective feedback (focus on "style" rather than substance) than they give men
  • Women are less interested in becoming top executives - and see the pros and cons of senior leadership differently (this is a disputable claim depending on the level of women you survey)
  • Many managers believe that women don't aspire to senior positions, but research indicates that women in senior management positions are as likely to aspire to advancement as men

Our gender dynamics work with executive teams and others makes the relationship between the actions of managers and the unlevel playing field crystal clear. The advantage in doing this is that action-oriented leaders discover that they can do something to close the gap!

If your efforts to close the leadership gender gap would benefit from the support of high-impact and action-oriented education for managers, contact us to discuss Leading Women's unique approach to closing the leadership gender gap.

New Call-to-action


Lead ON!