Most people believe having children hampers women’s careers and chances of promotion

The 'motherhood penalty' can impact a woman’s earning potential and threaten their financial security. Stock image: Getty

Anne-Marie Walsh

Most people believe having children hampers women’s careers, according to a new survey.

New research on ageism and maternal bias found 67pc of people believe becoming a parent has a negative impact on female workers’ professional progress.

Of those, 57pc said taking maternity leave can impede careers.

However, less than half – 43pc – said women are still considered the main carers in households.

The annual workplace equality survey by Matrix Recruitment found over a third of those surveyed believe employers question a mother’s ability to meet the demands of their role.

A similar number felt employers still have an unconscious bias towards women who may be thinking about starting a family.

The survey also found that ageism is on the rise in workplaces.

A total of 77pc people in the survey of over 2,700 people said workplace ageism is a problem, an increase of 13pc on the previous year’s findings.

“There is no reason why a woman should not be able to move up the career ladder while raising a family,” said Breda Dooley of Matrix Recruitment.

“However, our survey findings indicate that a women’s promotional prospects can be impacted negatively by her family status.

"The fact that employees perceive that bosses question a mother’s ability to meet the demands of her professional role is worrying.”

She said this unconscious bias, known as the motherhood penalty, can impact a woman’s earning potential and threaten their financial security.

Ms Dooley said it feeds into the larger issue of the gender pay gap and the so-called “glass ceiling”, which refers to invisible barriers to success that prevent women from being promoted. “Businesses, government and society need to work together to address these problems if we are going to make headway in this area,” she said.

But the findings show some positive change compared with the recruiter’s survey in 2021. There has been a 44pc fall in the number of people who said women were still considered the primary carers, which stood at 77pc in 2021.

A total of 35pc said employers have an unconscious bias towards women who intend to start a family, compared with 68pc in 2021.

However, those without children also claim they face discrimination.

A total of 22pc said they were expected to work out of hours because they have no children.

Those who claimed they faced this type of discrimination were evenly split between men and women.

The survey found most people have experienced discrimination of some sort in the workplace.

Almost a quarter said they were excluded from activities because of their age.

Nearly half said workers over 50 have fewer promotional opportunities compared with younger colleagues.

When asked what age it might be difficult to move job, 26pc said the over-50s would struggle.

Four out of five people said workers over 50 have as much to contribute as those under 40.

Of these, 51pc said mature workers are more reliable. However, 21pc said they have less to contribute, with half claiming they do not understand new ways of communicating.

Almost half of them claimed younger people have more energy to bring to a job.