bump.jpgWhenever a woman is named to a key leadership position the first thing I do is find out if they have children.

I know, it’s sort of sexist since I don’t do the same when male leaders are named. But having a guy get a top post in government or a corporation isn’t a big deal given their dominance in running most things in this country. And men just don’t typically take on the same responsibilities as women do when it comes to caring for children. That’s just the reality.

So, I was a bit disheartened when I read that Obama’s pick for Supreme Court justice, Elena Kagan, now US Solicitor General, had no kids. His last pick, Sonia Sotomayor, also had no children.

I’m sure the president isn’t bypassing moms on purpose, but often women in power don’t have children. I found that with the many women CEOs I’ve interviewed over the years.

Maybe the big seats are just too much for us.

I really don’t think women with kids can’t cut it in the boardroom. I think they can. But it’s hard to get too excited about women advancing when often the women are childless.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great when the corporate and government system that’s biased toward women allows some women in. But we need more mommies!

When we complain about women not advancing and constantly hitting their heads up against the glass ceiling, maybe we need to look at it more as a mommy glass ceiling.

This is from an a Women for Hire interview with Douglas Branson, professor of business law at the University of Pittsburgh, and author of “Last Male Bastion – Gender and the CEO Suite at America’s Public Companies.”

Motherhood, or the price of motherhood, is not the only reason women may face a glass ceiling but it certainly is a big one. Women still bear all the child birth and most of the child rearing duties in families, although males bear a greater load than they did in the 50s, 60s or 70s. If women take any time off other than a minimum maternity leave, have additional children, or otherwise go on the mummy track, despite returning to work, at age 40 they will earn only 60% of what comparable males make. So the price of motherhood is not only too high – it is ridiculously high. Anticipating the high cost, many qualified women opt out in their mid 30s, never returning to their chosen career path.

Working moms can’t get a break at all. Just today the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee released a report entitled, “Understanding the Economy: Working Mothers in the Great Recession,” and it’s not good news folks.

* One-third of working mothers—7.5 million—were the sole job-holders in their family, either because their spouse was unemployed or out of the labor force, or because they were heads of household.

* Married-couple families where the mother was the only job-holder rose 2.5 percentage points between 2007 and 2009, from 4.9 percent of married-couple families to 7.4 percent. More than ever, families depend on mothers’ work.

* For single mothers in the labor force, unemployment increased dramatically during the recession. Between 2007 and 2009, the unemployment rate of single mothers increased from 8.0 percent to 13.6 percent.

* Many women, including mothers, have been unable to find full-time employment because of the weak labor market. In 2009, 3.3 million women worked part-time for economic reasons, meaning that either their employer cut back their hours or that they searched for full-time work but could only find a part-time job. Some of those part-time workers usually worked part-time but would have preferred to move to full-time work, likely because of economic hardship such as a spouse’s job loss.

“As the economy begins to recover, women are still facing high levels of unemployment and under-employment. More families are relying on women as breadwinners, and it is imperative that we get more women back to work while we strive to close the earnings gap that still exists,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the committee.

And women as baby makers is a big reason why females have not climbed the ladder in any large numbers. That could be the fault of women who check out of the work world more often than men, or it could just be plain old mommy bias.

Before pregnancy discrimination was against the law, employers openly fired or didn’t hire women because they got pregnant, or a hiring manager thought they might get pregnant.

Just because such bias is illegal now doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. (Pregnancy bias charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have been hovering over the 6,000 mark, up from less than 4,000 in 1997.)

It’s great that Kagan has been nominated for the Supreme Court opening, and Obama can get kudos for choosing a woman. But the big boon for women will be when more of them with kids take on leadership roles, right? Can we sing, “we have overcome bias” without that?

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