It’s Not the ‘Gender Pay Gap’ – It’s the Maternal Income Gap

14552370271_35951d5f37_oIn the news this week: discrimination in pay hits women when they have children and continues for years. Newsflash: most of us knew this already, whether through bitter personal experience or whatever.

However, the focus on the ‘pay gap’ (it features highly in feminist politics) can often feel like a misdirection. If we are talking about the imbalance in the way in which women are treated in, and the value placed on, the work we do, we could look no further than the crucial work of care. When we take that in, an even more skewed picture emerges – one that shows that women are economically penalised for having babies whether we remain in or leave the paid economy. This is a fundamentally feminist issue.

With this in mind, something I discuss in Liberating Motherhood is the need for a rethink of this issue to include not just ‘the pay gap’ but the ‘income gap’ for women. After all, there are many women who continue to work after having children – we have simply become unwaged, unvalued carers in the second, core economy or we work jobs with the second shift on top. Many of us desperately want to care for our children but this ‘income gap’ prevents us from doing so – forcing us out into the workplace; many others are caring for our children happily but struggling by financially in order to do it.

I also agree with Marie Peacock of Mothers at Home Matter who points out the fact that care-work is not only necessary but is important for the future well being of our societies: “It’s time to end all discrimination against caregivers who simply can’t be available for long hours when there are plenty of vital jobs waiting at home. These jobs, albeit invisible and unpaid, are absolutely vital to a well -functioning, healthy society.”

See here for a letter I wrote to The Guardian on the issue:

“…. We have to find ways to ensure that mothers are not penalised in their job, pay and conditions. A restructured economy and workplace, which does not expect “ideal worker” performance, is long overdue – men have to show up at home, not just at work. But the counterpoint to this has to be that we ensure that mothers are not also marginalised when they take time out of the paid workforce. Basic income and the abolition of the family tax penalty in single-earner families would go some way to reduce the income gap for carers. The truth is that it is not a gender pay gap but a maternal income gap. It is not discrimination against women but against mothers.”

P.S. I like this picture attached to this post – the message it speaks to me is ‘what value to place on Care with a capital C’.


Liberating Motherhood out 23 September 2016 from Womancraft Publishing. Available for pre-order now at

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