These Single Women Say They Face a Workplace Penalty, Too
While it’s well-documented that women with children face a “motherhood penalty” in their careers, researchers are now beginning to study the obstacles facing another group: women who are single and don’t have children.
The pandemic underscored the career challenges of working moms: Millions dropped out of the workforce, and many felt burned out or stalled in their careers while struggling to manage housework, home schooling and child care.
But sociologists recently found that even early in their careers, well-educated women without families are also disadvantaged because they are more often stereotyped as lacking leadership abilities. These women were often seen as too “masculine” for leadership when the same traits benefited single men. They also lacked the “communal, relational” leadership traits expected of women who were coupled and raising children.
“There’s this very strong narrative that all of gender inequality is based on motherhood, and that is happening and [that] is real, but there’s this other thing that’s happening with gender expectations, regardless of whether you choose to get married or not, and have kids or not,” said Jennifer Merluzzi, a professor at George Washington University’s School of Business and one of the authors of a recent study on the early career advancement of young, single women professionals.