How Does Single Parenthood Impact Gender Equity in the Workplace

How Does Single Parenthood Impact Gender Equity in the Workplace

Society has been trying to fight gender inequality since what seems like the beginning of time. Even the Bible did not believe in gender equity. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11–12, New International Version). More recently, in 2009 when President Barack Obama was still in office, the very first piece of legislation that he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This act made it easier for people to challenge unequal pay. From the Bible to modern day politics, the issue of gender inequality has been at the forefront. Many factors contribute to gender inequality; however, single parenthood impacts gender equity in the work place more.

Steven Netcoh, a Postdoctoral Associate with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at The University of Vermont states that, “HCT is a framework that examines the relationships between education, economic growth, and social well-being. It is an extension of the capital concept and posits that expenditures on education, job training, and health are capital investments that will yield economic and social returns at the individual and societal levels.” If people were valued based on the Human Capital Theory, women alone would have the advantage because women are able to produce life and nurture a living being from inception to birth and beyond.  Despite women’s selfless contributions to humanity, society continues to assign limiting gender roles to them. Some of these roles include that of a  caretaker, wife, cleaner , teacher, and counselor. Women are to be nurturing, they are to take care of the household. Women are expected to cook, to clean, and to look beautiful while doing it. 

Women are also often assigned roles that require unpaid emotional labor. Women are to have a balanced and calm temperament and should seek the role of counselor or mediator. When a situation arises where feelings are involved, women are often volunteered to “fix” the problem. In the workplace, when someone is having an emotional issue, it is often the woman who is sent to nurture and “mother” the person. When the dynamics in a work setting are challenged, a woman is usually set to diffuse the situation. These are all instances that are commonplace and expected of women.    

Women are also expected to take care of the family and run the household. Household chore’s are devalued and seen as “women’s work”. Women are expected to work full time at home and full time at the workplace. Magnusson, Charlotta, and Magnus Nermo authors of “Gender, Parenthood and Wage Differences: The Importance of Time-Consuming Job Characteristics” state that  “In other words, it is reasonable to assume that women’s greater family responsibilities have a stronger negative effect on wages and career opportunities in high-prestigious positions than in low-prestigious occupations. Thus, to obtain the best possible wage growth in high-prestige occupations, the employee must be constantly available to the employer to work extra hours and to take part in activities outside normal working hours (e.g., Blair-Loy 2003).” A woman who takes on a high prestigious occupation will be expected to work longer hours. If a woman also has a family she then would be expected to some how manage childcare. Typically, child care is only available during normal working hours. If a woman is working longer hours she is then penalized by needing child care for after hours and charged a higher child care rate. Common everyday tasks such as cleaning and cooking will still need to be addressed and usually it is the woman who has already been working long hours who has to provide a meal for her family.   

The Fatherhood Premium is a term used to indicate that when a single childless male in the work place becomes a father he is then viewed as a more competent worker. This fatherhood premium applies to males because they are seen as more responsible and trustworthy. The opposite is true for women. There is no motherhood premium for women. Especially, if they are unmarried and with children.  Their human capital actually decreases because now their familial obligation at home as increased and they are less likely to be as productive in the work place due to time constraints. They will not be able to work long hours and their loyalty will shift from their job to their family.

Being able to balance great familial responsibilities and a career is not viewed as being an asset. Unfortunately, society still see single mothers as a liability in the workforce. Single mothers need to take extra time off of work for child care issues, extra sick days for taking care of sick children, and extra time off to attend school events. Single mothers are denied equal pay and equal advancement due to the sexism that is cultivated in our culture today.  Single fathers are embraced with the Fatherhood Premium and are deemed worthy, responsible, and trustworthy. They are not passed up for promotions or raises.  It is important for society to acknowledge the double standard and make an effort to create change in the work place.

Works Cited
Magnusson, Charlotta, and Magnus Nermo. “Gender, Parenthood and Wage Differences: The Importance of Time-Consuming Job Characteristics.” Social Indicators Research, vol. 131, no. 2, 2016, pp. 797–816., doi:10.1007/s11205-016-1271-z.
Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2017.
Netcoh, Steven. “The Strengths and Limitations of Human Capital Theory in Educational Research and Policymaking.” Crosscutting Conversations in Education, 19 Jan. 2016,


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