Working Moms Would Choose Pay Equity Over a Year Off Work

By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

According to new research by Working Mother Magazine and Chase Card Services, working mothers say that, given the choice, they would rather have a 20 percent raise than a year’s vacation from the workforce.

Jennifer Owens, Editor at Working Mother Magazine and Director of the Working Mother Research Institute, suggested two possibilities for this. “I think that a lot of it is fueled by the economy. Many people have an incredible debt load or maybe a partner with job issues, or they’re thinking about future renovations to their home, or saving for their kids’ education.”

The other part, she continued, may have to do with the difficulties many women face getting back into the workforce after taking time out. “They’re thinking, ‘If I went away for a year and tried to get back in, that’s hard!’”

It’s also worth noting that a 20 percent raise is almost the amount it would take to bring women’s paychecks up to the same grade as their male peers. That’s right – working moms would rather achieve equal pay than get a year’s vacation. How’s that for a fair trade-off?

Ambition and Balance

The Working Mother / Chase poll of over 800 working moms asked respondents to rank their priorities for 2013 – and topping that list was finding a better balance for work and family. This may mean reframing the way we think about balance, Owens remarked. “It’s my biggest goal too – but I think that we should not think of it as balance. I like to think of it in terms of satisfaction.”

“Take a moment to think about what’s important to you,” she explained. “Ambition gets more complex as you get older than when you first get out of college. It encompasses your quality of life, your power and position, your salary. For working moms, ambition relates to all of those factors. To me, success is defined by how satisfied you are and where your career fits into your life.”

Owens also suggested taking a long-view approach to balance – in your career, sometimes you may dial up your work and dial back your home responsibilities, but in the long term, things will even out. “For instance, accountants have a very busy time of year with tax season, but they may be able to take time off during the summer,” she explained. “My job is a lot more even, and that works for me.”

She also encouraged women to think long and hard about the job they have – if it’s not right for you and your priorities, don’t be afraid to start looking for something new.

“Cut yourself a break – you’re doing great,” she added. “Perfection never gets anyone anywhere.”

Money Goals

In terms of 2013 financial goals, more than half of the respondents (56 percent) said they plan to save more than last year and 54 percent said they hope to make more money this year.

How they plan to go about this is unclear – only 23 percent said they plan on getting a raise, 16 percent said they plan on getting a new job with better pay and more responsibilities, and 13 percent said they plan on getting a promotion.

Owens chalked this uncertainty up to the economy as well. “The working moms we talked to seemed more optimistic about 2013, but they are all still a little cautious about demanding too much right now. They want what financial stability and security they can get today. In terms of what you can get when the economy is red hot, we’ve all dialed that back a bit,” she said with a laugh.

Finally, Owens said she was intrigued by the focus on financial literacy that the survey revealed. Almost all of the women surveyed (94 percent) say it’s extremely important or important to teach their kids about managing money.

This included teaching children to bargain hunt (64 percent), teaching them age-appropriate math and investment techniques (50 percent), and teaching them about budgeting (49 percent). “I have it too,” she said. “I talk a lot about money and savings with my kids. But teaching kids how to bargain hunt? That was surprising. In fourth grade, they’re learning they can get a better value for their dollar.”