Compared to other workers, mothers face a number of disadvantages, including lower wages, bias in recruitment and promotion, and a greater risk of joblessness. These disadvantages may be more prevalent in professional jobs where ‘ideal worker’ norms are most salient. Professional employers tend to view mothers as less competent and committed than other workers—a major stigma in careers that require around-the-clock dedication.
These biases are so strong that employers often discriminate against mothers irrespective of their experience, skill or job commitment.
Our own research has shown that employers use a variety of strategies to shed, demote and otherwise marginalize professional mothers, including screening mothers out of the recruitment process or channeling them into positions with lower pay, prestige and responsibility.
But little is known about which kinds of professional jobs are better—or worse—for working mothers.
What role does job context play in shaping professional mothers’ access to highly skilled professional jobs? In a recent study we sought to answer this question. Our analysis drew on 51 in-depth interviews with employers in two professional sectors in Hungary: finance and business services. These two sectors allowed us to compare the ways job context shapes recruitment and hiring norms and practices.