Author Talks: Joann S. Lublin on lessons for working mothers, their families, and their employers
In this edition of Author Talks, McKinsey Global Publishing’s Raju Narisetti chats with Joann S. Lublin, former management news editor for the Wall Street Journal. In her new book, Power Moms: How Executive Mothers Navigate Work and Life (HarperCollins, February 2021), the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist draws on the experiences of two generations of successful women—boomers and Gen Xers— to measure how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go. An edited version of the conversation follows.
What problem were you trying to solve with this book?
The root problem I was trying to solve was to determine to what extent the “motherhood penalty” still exists. The motherhood penalty takes a lot of forms. It was initially documented back in 2007, when researchers found that if you submitted a resume in which it was clear that the resume was coming from a woman with children, she was much less likely to be called for an interview than either a man with children, or men and women whose resumes made it clear that they had no children.
And that motherhood penalty, from a hiring standpoint and employment standpoint, still persists. In fact, the wage gap between women with children under 18 and dads with children under 18 is about 69 cents earned by the mother for every dollar earned by the dad—a much wider gap than exists between women and men [generally].
So the question that I was trying to explore was, has the motherhood penalty diminished at all as these younger executive mothers, women who were in their 30s and early 40s when I interviewed them, moved into executive roles? And what I found was that it has indeed, to some extent, but that the women still suffer from gendered role expectations.
What surprised you most about writing the book—whether in the research or response?
When interviewing the 86 executive mothers for this book, some of them cried or choked up during the course of the interviews. And they turned tearful for lots of different reasons, sometimes when they were recounting ugly quarrels with their husbands, whom they were separated from.