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The motherhood penalty

Complex factors have led to the gender pay gap and to barriers for women reaching their career potential. Recent studies suggest that unequal parenting and working from home are adversely impacting women in the workplace. 1LV aims to start the change from within organisations with the launch of its Gender Balance Benchmark

Unequal parenting has a profound impact on women in the workplace. According to the Government-backed FTSE Women Leaders Review (FWLR) some 75% of the gender pay gap can be attributed to what it calls the motherhood penalty. For women over 40, compared with those under 40, the gender gap is three times higher.


FWLR, the independent business-led framework, sets recommendations to improve the representation of women on the boards and leadership teams of some of the largest quoted and unquoted UK companies. It is shining a light on the impact of unequal parenting at the launch of its next report at the end of February, where it will update on the progress made in achieving gender balance.


Launching the 1LV Gender Balance Benchmark


The FWLR report comes as One Loud Voice (1LV) is putting in place its Gender Balance Benchmark to help companies measure equality in the workplace. The Benchmark, which will be launched in Spring 2024, will cover seven key areas that include Ending Unconscious Bias in Recruitment and Selection, Genuine Partnership Approach Between Genders, Resolving Structural Issues Around Working Patterns, and Ending the Pay Gap. ‘Equal parental leave is one of the key measures in overcoming structural barriers for women in work,’ says Anna Sofat, 1LV Chair.


Evidence supports this. In 2021 Taiwan made changes to the rate of parental leave for all parents, from 60 percent of their insured salary to 80 percent over a six-month parental leave period. Flexibility is also offered, so parents are allowed to take a month off at a time rather that six-months at once. The policy change resulted in an immediate increase of over seven per cent in fathers taking leave – in 2022, 25,100 fathers took advantage of parental leave. The policy suggests that the change to parental leave is normalising it for both parents, and not just for women.


But as FWLR and Anna Sofat point out, there is a notable distinction between Shared and Equal Parental Leave. In the UK some 80 organisations are already experiencing positive outcomes in retention, recruitment, engagement, and gender equality as a result of their progressive Equal Parental Leave policies. This distinction is a focus for Elliott Rae, founder of MusicFootballFatherhood, who advocates for Equal Parental Leave as a catalyst for gender equality and as a significant benefit for fathers. He will be a panellist at the launch of the upcoming FTSE Women Leaders Review report, where he will discuss the advantages of ‘parenting loudly’.


Women are unhappy in the office

Unequal parenting more broadly is adversely impacting women in all areas of gender equality. Randstad, the recruiter, polled 12,000 people and found that women are unhappier in offices than every other group of men regardless of where they work. The data revealed that women with caring responsibilities averaged fulfilment of just 6.66 out of 10 compared with men at 6.90 out of 10.


Why does this matter? ‘It matters because the physical place of work is where all the key interactions and communications happen,’ explains Anna. ‘Not being present can impact career prospects for anyone – regardless of gender. But it impacts women particularly hard because the caring burden – often parenting – tends to fall on them.’



For the latest updates about the 1LV Gender Balance Benchmark please follow One Loud Voice on LinkedIn

Click to register for the FTSE Women Leaders Report launch

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