Working mothers are most underrepresented in the animal sciences, journalism and the performing arts — gigs that are often mostly male, a new study finds.
The gender gap isn’t the only worrisome workplace disparity. Turns out, working mothers are also underrepresented in several fields compared to women without children.
One-sixth of all employed workers are mothers with kids at home. And while the share of employed prime working-age women (ages 25 to 54) with kids under 18 (69%) is comparable to that of working women the same age without kids (75%), a new Indeed Hiring Lab report finds that they’re not always hired in the same places.
The study released on Tuesday analyzed data from the Census American Community Survey, and found that in male-dominated occupations such as extraction (mining and similar occupations) and military-specific occupations, mothers are 19% less likely to be employed than women without kids. Mothers were also notably less represented in the creative sector (arts, design, entertainment, sports, media) and the sciences, compared to childless women.
And within those fields, the industries less likely to employ mothers compared to other women include journalism, with editors, news analysts, reporters and correspondents on the most-underrepresented list. Mothers were also scarce among announcers, camera operators and sound technicians, as well.
Moms were also much less likely to work in the arts; it was particularly hard to find them among producers, directors, artists, actors and dancers, according to the Indeed report. And fewer mothers worked with animals in jobs like veterinary assistants, animal trainers, animal control workers and nonfarm animal caretakers, compared to other women.
While the study doesn’t conclude why some sectors and specific jobs would employ more or fewer working mothers, Indeed chief economist Jed Kolko told Moneyish that the explanation could be as benign as some women who became moms already having been drawn to fields like education — where mothers are 53% more likely to be teacher assistants, 34% more likely to be preschool and kindergarten teachers, and 21% more likely to be childcare workers — than women without kids. And several health-related jobs such as dentists, occupational therapists, medical assistants and nurse practitioners also counted more moms.
But considering male-dominated occupations composed of 80% men employed the fewest mothers, Kolko theorized that “it’s possible that occupations where women are the majority would be more likely to have policies and cultures in place that are friendlier to working moms.” For example, they may offer paid maternity leave and sick leave, a flexible work schedule and the ability to work from home, health insurance and access to child care.
Parental leave and child care are vital for working mothers, especially considering that U.S. law only guarantees workers 12 weeks of protected job leave — and unpaid, at that — for parents. And only 12% of Americans have access to the paid parental leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Journalism is also notorious for long, unpredictable hours that wreak havoc on work-life balance, for example, and a 2015 University of Kansas study found female journalists suffered burnout and planned to leave the industry at higher rates than male journalists, largely because they felt less support from their organizations. Working mothers in the sciences and academics have told Moneyish that they often have to skip conferences — which are key networking opportunities to get hired and advance their careers — due to child-care issues.
The rising cost of child care is dictating where (and if) mothers can work. The average cost of U.S. daycare is $11,666 per year (or $972 a month), according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, Fairygodboss reports, spiking 70% since the 1980s, a trend that has caused the number of working mothers in the U.S. labor force to drop 13%. This was a key metric in SmartAsset’s recent top 10 cities for working parents report, which praised Midwestern and Western cities such as Ames and Iowa City, Iowa, and Provo, Orem and Saint George, Utah for offering both low-cost housing and child care.
Kolko added that he hopes the Indeed report encourages the industries and gigs in which mothers are underrepresented to “take a closer look as to why, and really examine whether the reasons are benign, or whether this is something about the policies or benefits or culture that is making it harder for working mothers in those fields.”
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