June 10, 2013
“Progress at Work, but Mothers still Pay a Price”
In this essay for the New York Times, family historian Stephanie Coontz reminds us of the old riddle about a boy who was rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery after being in a car crash that killed his father. But after one look, the surgeon said, “I can’t operate on this patient. He’s my son.” Coontz points out that this riddle that stumped many people in the 1960s and 1970s still stumps many today (but also results in some answers that wouldn’t likely have been considered when it was originally presented decades ago). Coontz talks not only about internalized ideas about gender that continue to show up in workforce attitudes but also points out some positive signs of progress toward greater gender equality. Yet, the same time, there is a “motherhood penalty,” as well as inequality among women themselves, leading her to conclude that “we need to not just hammer against the glass ceiling but also to raise the bottom floor on which so many low-income women remain stuck.” An article well worth reading and thinking about.