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Supreme Equality Still Elusive

The New York Times recently published an article about the fact that, while the equality gap between men and women in the workplace has narrowed considerably, the gap between men and mothers continues to be unacceptably wide. For illustrative purposes, the reporter, David Leonhardt, points out that while the last three male nominees to the US Supreme Court are married with seven children among them, the last three female nominees have all been single and without children. While job opportunities on the bench of the US Supreme Court are hardly reflective of the general job market, the issue is an interesting symbolic reflection of the limitations that most mothers but few fathers still face in terms of career advancement.  Time off from work or a temporary shift to part-time work is generally seen as the biggest obstacle working mothers have to overcome in order to achieve ultimate equality in the workplace, and it’s the issue the New York Times article mostly explores. But I think there’s more to it than that. I think professional women who are also mothers are perceived to have a different set of priorities and different levels of ambition compared with fathers. Even in the most family-friendly companies there can be a sense that working mothers can be “had for less.”   They will be so grateful for the family-friendly perks, the thinking may go, that we can get a talented mom for a lower salary, lesser position, etc. than we otherwise could. There’s nothing wrong with that in theory, after all those perks are worth real value. Except the same train of thought does not seem to be applied to fathers, at least so far as I can tell. It seems to me that women have achieved huge strides in the workplace, but true equality is still a long way off.

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