Maternal Bias & Parenting Penalty

Maternal Bias

Maternal bias starts early: as soon as a woman gets engaged, the assumption is made that she is going to want to start having children. Even the women who have decided against having children are penalized, as the assumption has already been made. All genders fall into bias traps, but maternal bias towards women can intensify their negative experiences within the workplace, and add to the structural oppression most working women already face. As a result of this, mothers are given fewer opportunities. It has been documented that mothers already in a job role are 50% less likely to be promoted as a result of this assumption, and are offered an average of $11,000 less in salary if applying for a new job.

In a recent article published in The Riveter, writer Hannah Fairbanks states that Women lose an average of four per cent of hourly earnings for each child they have. This stems from assumptions by colleagues and superiors that being mothers makes them less able to perform and less dedicated to their position”. Motherhood triggers the assumption that women are less committed to progressing in their career. As a result of this, women aren’t offered as many opportunities in the workplace compared to their ‘single’ colleagues, and so are penalized in terms of growth and promotional encouragement. In a video hosted by Lean In entitled, What is Maternal Bias? host Mary Noble-Tolla shares with her audience the notion that because society assumes mothers are less committed, they are more likely to be penalized for making minor mistakes or oversights.

Parenting Penalty

Noble-Tolla quoted a study that showed that if a woman was to add the job title Parent Teacher Association coordinator to their resume, they are 79% less likely to be hired. Maternal bias is the strongest kind of gender bias, and bias against parents even applies to fathers, as studies have shown that fathers who take time off for family-related events receive a lower performance rating and experience steeper reductions in future earnings compared to others. According to Lean In, if fathers were to take more time off for their families, then women would feel less judgement when doing the same. It has also been documented that workplaces offering a longer maternity and paternity leave have a happier and more productive workforce, compared to those that don’t.

Team Activities

  • In your next team meeting or all hands. Ask folks to reflect on the current benefits and policies outlined for parents. Have an open conversation about planning for the future, not just where children are concerned but all dependents e.g. disabled or elderly parents. Create space for folks to open up about what their dealing with at home.
  • Re-framing constructive feedback through the lens of bias. Think of any conversations you have overheard, or been a part of, at work that discussed maternal leave, paternal leave or anyone who was recently engaged, married or expecting children. What assumptions were made in that conversation?
  • In your next candidate evaluation written response. Consider how you think about and talk about people on your team who are engaged, married, expecting children or existing parents. In what ways do you judge their performance or make assumptions about their ambitions differently to the rest of the team?

New Habits to Make a Difference

  • Start a new past time in your team where you share headlines you find in the news that are founded on negative assumptions about women and parenthood.
  • Expand the definition of “family” within your community: get everyone talking about who in their life depends on them from pets to plants to parents.
  • Challenge assumption based narratives about women and engagement or women and marriage or even women and children wherever you see them within books, magazines and TV shows – spark conversations with your friends and family about maternal bias and why it continues to exist.

Got a Question?


You start with the foundation training which consists of one 30 minute video, followed by 6 bite size videos. You can then do the intermediate training which is made up of 18 bite size videos. Finally, you can do the advanced training which is made up of 8 longer videos.

You can access each module from the homepage via the buttons that say foundation, intermediate and advanced.

No. All our modules are self paced so you can take as long as you like. 

You need to complete each training module and submit your google worksheet which can be found on the individual module page. Once submitted, our team will review your worksheet and issue out a certificate if you have passed. If you have passed, you will receive a graduation pack which contains a certificate, social imagery so you can show off to your colleagues and connections on LinkedIn plus some other goodies.


You can submit your Google form worksheet via the module page.

No. Only the worksheet is reviewed and marked. 

You can use the cheat sheet to get a better understanding of the different types of biases people face in the workplace, but also IRL.

We will share an overview of how many people have enrolled and completed the course, but we will never share private information such as names, titles or email addresses.

Yes! Each module has its own worksheet which is a Google form. 

We will send you detailed instructions along with suggested social copy and imagery which can be used on LinkedIn and Instagram. This will be sent to you in an email from our team once you have passed the foundation module.

If you fail, you will have the option of submitting your worksheet again until all the answers are correct. Don’t worry, you can take the course again for free and resubmit your worksheets.


Please email and a member of the team will get back to you within 72 hours.