“That is a fact — there is a bias against motherhood,” said Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity, during a recent Facebook Live chat with PowerToFly’s Katharine Zaleski.
Williams points to research out of Cornell that found employers tended to discriminate against mothers.
As part of the study, researchers sent employers fake, almost identical résumés with one major difference: some résumés indicated that the job applicant was part of a parent-teacher association.
While male job candidates whose résumés mentioned the parent-teacher association were called back more often than men whose résumés didn’t, women who alluded to parenthood in this way were half as likely to get called back than women who didn’t.
The study participants also rated mothers as the least desirable job candidates and deemed them less competent and committed than women without children or men. At the same time, applicants who were fathers were rated significantly more committed to their job than non-fathers and were allowed to be late to work significantly more times than non-fathers.
Why does this bias exist? “It goes all the way back to biology, my understanding is,” Williams said, noting the traditional differentiation of work and responsibilities between genders.
“I think the more important thing is, why haven’t we done more to turn that back — to make people understand we are whole people who can deliver, who are responsible, who are hardworking — that being a mother is perhaps not the defining thing to determine whether you are also going to be a good worker or not,” she added.
Williams said that Facebook has worked “deliberately” to shift its culture away from one that accepts traditional gender roles to one that challenges unconscious bias against women.
One of the most important ways the company does this is through its parental leave policy: Facebook offers four months of paid leave, regardless of gender or birthing means, to new parents within the first year of birth or placement.
Experts say that not offering equal benefits leads to discrimination against women, and the best policies for helping working families are the ones that are gender-neutral.
In fact, as The New York Times previously reported, studies have shown that when a company’s policy mandates that women take longer leaves than men, the same companies are more inclined to hire men over women and are less likely to promote women to high-powered positions.
“By implementing equal leave to both parties, you’re really creating a great example, and you’re eliminating a potential in the system to favour one over the other,” Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of the ads and pages team, previously told Business Insider.
“We deliberately encourage our male leaders to take just as much leave to make it clear that this thing about parenting is not something that women own,” Williams said.
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