We began this study prior to the news of COVID-19 and the global initiatives to protect our families, friends, colleagues, and communities. While supporting remote work has always been core to the Owl Labs mission, no one could ever predict an event like this — one that requires more education, guidance, and compassion than we’ve ever needed before.
Men and women everywhere are now working from home, many of them for the first time in their careers. While we hope for a speedy resolution to this difficult climate, perhaps this unexpected experience will also help cultivate long-term empathy and improved collaboration with those who will continue working from home when the masses return to the office.
Equal Pay Day is a symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness and improving the gender pay gap between men and women around the world. It is acknowledged annually by calculating how far into the new year women have to work in order to earn the same amount of money men earned in the previous year. In 2020, Equal Pay Day lands on March 31, two days earlier than 2019.
As part of our annual Equal Pay for Equal Work (From Home) report, we wanted to understand the state of equal pay between genders when it comes to remote workers in the United States, this year with a specialized focus on parenting.
The life of a parent can be an intricate juggling act. In addition to being explicit about one's schedule and parental obligations with your employer, remote work can be an incredible option to help parents find success in both their working and family lives. Many employers who offer remote work, either full-time or part-time, also allow schedule flexibility that helps parents balance their work and personal responsibilities.
However, is there a pay gap between mothers and fathers among those who choose to work remotely?
The answer is yes — in fact, the widest pay gap exists between fathers and mothers who work remotely full-time. Specifically, fathers who work remotely full-time are 3X more likely to earn salaries of $100,000 or more than full-time remote mothers.
This pay gap exists among all remote work frequencies. For example, among those who sometimes work remotely, fathers are 65% more likely to earn $100,000 than mothers. The gap is even larger for full-time remote workers: Fathers who work remotely full-time are 233% more likely to earn $100,000 than full-time remote mothers.
This year’s findings support last year’s hypothesis — that women who choose to work remotely may be subjected to the “motherhood penalty,” wherein some businesses assume that mothers who choose to work from home or take time off more frequently are de-prioritizing their work in favor of their family.
So, could this gap be triggered by mothers taking advantage of remote work more often than fathers? Perhaps not.
We were curious to understand how parenthood was impacting the frequency each gender chooses to work remotely, whether that be through full-time remote work or occasional working from home.
The data found that fathers and men without children sometimes work remotely at nearly identical rates. Specifically, fathers are only 1% more likely to sometimes work remotely than men without children.
Interestingly, the inverse was true among women: Mothers were 8% less likely to sometimes work remotely than women without children.
What might be happening here? This data could indicate that mothers are aware, consciously or subconsciously, of the motherhood penalty and its impact on their career, and thus are more cautious about working from home. Perhaps mothers are choosing remote and flexible work options less frequently in order to avoid this bias, while fathers are less at risk.
However, this pattern flipped when looking at full-time remote work. Mothers are 10% more likely to work remotely full-time than women without children, and fathers are 6% more likely to work remotely full-time than men without children.
To help us understand, we then need to understand why each gender is choosing to work remotely.
When breaking out the findings between parents and non-parents, work-life balance persisted as the number one reason for working remotely. However, secondary benefits like reducing stress and saving money were more important to parents working remotely than non-parents working remotely.
Specifically, mothers are 230% more likely to report saving money/financial reasons as their primary reason for working remotely than women without children. This was even more prominent among fathers, who are 288% more likely to cite this reason than their non-parent counterparts.
We dug into pay disparities among men and women as it relates to remote work. Next, we wanted to understand if all workers have equal access to remote working opportunities in the first place.
Our data found that high earners are working remotely more often. For example, those who work remotely full-time (regardless of gender) are 21% more likely to earn salaries of $100,000 or more than those who never work remotely, and those who sometimes work remotely are 135% more likely to earn salaries of $100,000 or greater than those who never work remotely.
This likely indicates that companies are willing to pay top dollar and be flexible on location in order to hire a top employee. This data also likely means that occasional remote work is more often made available for those who are already valued and established in their roles.
It’s unclear what could have driven this substantial increase, and it’s one in which we should continue to keep a close eye in order to combat our unconscious bias, whether it relates to gender, motherhood penalty, or otherwise.
We surveyed 1,598 U.S.-based respondents who are employed full-time using Google Surveys and asked them questions about their salary, career growth, parenting status, and how often they work remotely.
We at Owl Labs believe that gender, parenthood, or any other conscious or unconscious bias shouldn't play a role in compensation. Unfortunately, inequality persists, and so we must lean into the data and learn in order to reveal these disparities and do our best to correct them. With transparency will come progress.