Here's the simple math: people who can work longer hours move up. Those that can't generally don't. Responsible parents these days cannot work longer hours on an ongoing basis. Therefore, parents aren't moving up in the workforce as easily as non-parents. Parents that do move up are usually those willing to kiss their kid's foreheads at 11pm every night instead of actually raise them.
I've seen a zippy little blonde receptionist work her way up to VP and then crash as she had kids and shed her husband. I've seen female execs with kids working 11 hour days on a regular basis who don't see their kids more than 20 hours a week. I've seen men, who seem to have the best deal of all, saddling their stay-at-home wives with all the responsibilities as they work long into the night whilst oggling their female co-workers. And the question I have is this:
Why does it have to be one or the other?
American parents have two very fundamental responsibilities at war with each other every single day. Those who've chosen the path that goes up the ladder appear to have chosen not to be parents. Those who've chosen the path that leads to the diaper bin have chosen not to move up.
Employers, it seems, don't especially like parents. According to the Chamber of Commerce in North Carolina, "The cost to employers of increased absenteeism, lower productivity, higher turn-over rates and retraining resulting from workers trying to manage both their family and their work responsibilities is significant." They go on to claim that Families and Work Institute estimates that a quarter of all employees with children under the age of 12 take eight or more days off work each year because of child care issues and that companies lose billions of dollars each year from this. One study they cite estimated up to $29 billion was lost in America due to lost productivity from parents and other kinds of care-givers.
Every December, my family has a "cousins lunch" where all us cousins (there are around 15 or so) get together and share a holiday moment. I remember last year looking around the table and realizing that only a couple of us still worked for the man. The rest were self-employed and doing very well.
That may be the only way for parents to really move the needle on income these days.