27 June 2023

The intersection of sexism and racism mean that often women of colour experience compounded disadvantage. 

A new report from the Fawcett Society, supported by the #EthnicityPayGap Campaign, shows how the ‘Motherhood Pay Penalty’—that mothers with two children take home 26% less income than women without children—impacts on a woman’s income and earning power throughout her working life, and compounds the effects of the ethnicity pay gap.

Today’s report is the first of its kind to break down the pay penalty by not only gender, but also ethnicity, and shows that the motherhood pay penalty is affecting the lifetime income of Black and minoritised women.

Read The Ethnicity Motherhood Pay Penalty report

The biggest driver of the motherhood pay penalty is reduction in hours worked, which is often associated with poor-quality part-time work. This report shows that the options for picking up more hours after having children are limited for Black and minoritised women because of the dual impacts of sexism and racism, with many dropping out of the workforce entirely. The research shows that:

  • While mothers of all ethnicities move into part-time work at similar rates, there are stark differences by ethnicity in the number of mothers who leave the workforce completely
  • The employment rate of white mothers is 5 percentage points lower than that of white women without children, whilst women of Indian, Black African, and Chinese heritage see penalties of up to 11 percentage points compared with women without children of their own ethnicities
  • 38% of mothers of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage are employed vs 55% of all women in the same ethnic group – this 17-percentage point employment gap is the highest of all ethnicities.

Jemima Olchawski, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:

It is outrageous, though perhaps unsurprising, that Black and minoritised women are so significantly disadvantaged by the motherhood pay penalty. Women must be free to make choices about what works for them and their families, but this becomes nigh-on-impossible when our system is set up to keep women in lower paid jobs, make re-entry to the workforce difficult, and pass over women of colour for promotion and progression. It is so crucial that we understand that mothers and women are not one homogenous group, and that the pay penalty is just one example of an issue compounded by racism and discrimination.

We must urgently reform our system both at business and government level to ensure that motherhood does not automatically determine the future of any woman’s working life, with fair and equal parental leave policies, access to affordable and appropriate childcare, flexible work arrangements available by default, and mandatory pay gap reporting against both ethnicity and gender.

Dianne Greyson, #EthnicityPayGap founder, said:

The Ethnicity Motherhood Pay Penalty identifies that Black and minoritised women are challenged when it comes to returning back to work after pregnancy, much more than their white counterparts. Also the report evidences that part-time work that isn’t low paying and restrictive was of great concern. You can almost say that this report identifies that things are stacked up against Black and other minoritised women, preventing them having fair pay, which is a disgrace.

There is enough evidence in the research report for the government to act on making the Ethnicity Pay Gap mandatory to report. There is also enough evidence for organisations to work harder to improve the lives of working mothers, in particular those who are Black and minoritised.

Fawcett calls on the government to:

  • Legislate for affordable, appropriate, and culturally sensitive education and childcare; international evidence indicates that cultural inclusivity is central to both widening access and high-quality care
  • Make flexible work the default via an advertising duty
  • Make ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory for employers with 100+ employees 

Fawcett calls on employers to:

  • Ensure flexible work is viewed as the the default working practice, with advertisements including flexible work options such as compressed hours, job sharing and working from home
  • Report on ethnicity and gender pay gaps
  • Give employees the right to know outcomes of pay gap reviews
  • Create action plans to address any gaps raised in the reports

Help us close the pay gap for good.