While I was on my run this morning and thinking about Elena Kagan (I was listening to the Slate Political Gabfest), it occurred to me that the two women most recently nominated to the Supreme Court are not parents, while my guess is that all the men on the court are. (I was not sure about Ginsburg, but have since learned she's a mom of two). Anyway, this is surely no coincidence. The simple fact of the matter is that it is much easier for men to reach the highest levels of their chosen profession while simultaneously being a parent than is the case for women. As my mom used to say, "everybody needs a wife." (i.e., in the traditional sense of managing the home so you can focus on work when needed). In short, Kagan's and Sotomayor's success would surely have been less likely were they already raising children, while this is much less the case for Roberts, Alito, etc. Anyway, I get to my office, and what do I see but a very interesting article in the Post entitled, "The Supreme Court needs more moms." It's got quite an interesting discussion of how being a mom may affect the way judges rule from the bench:
"Personal experiences are important, and they shape people's
backgrounds, but there are a range of ways you can inform understanding
without living it," says Deborah Rhode, a Stanford University law
professor and a leading scholar of legal ethics and gender. "Do we want
to suggest that men can't understand . . . the challenges facing working
mothers and related issues?"
Well, no, we don't, certainly not out loud.
The article also linked to a really interesting study that showed how being a mom hurts the earning potential of women. This is a well-established fact, but this study was particularly interesting in that it was an experiment controlling for other factors. Here's the abstract:
Survey research finds that mothers suffer a substantial wage penalty,
although the causal mechanism producing it remains elusive. The authors
employed a laboratory experiment to evaluate the hypothesis that
status?based discrimination plays an important role and an audit study
of actual employers to assess its real?world implications. In both
studies, participants evaluated application materials for a pair of
same?gender equally qualified job candidates who differed on parental
status. The laboratory experiment found that mothers were penalized on a
host of measures, including perceived competence and recommended
starting salary. Men were not penalized for, and sometimes benefited
from, being a parent. The audit study showed that actual employers
discriminate against mothers, but not against fathers.
Not exactly encouraging. We know that moms are more likely to take more time off, work fewer hours, etc., in ways that will affect salary, but this study shows demonstrable evidence for plain and simple discrimination. On the bright side, now I've got two more good readings for my Gender & Politics class this summer.