Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Christy Glass


Christy Glass


Amy K. Bailey


Douglas Jackson-Smith


Erin Hofmann


Alison Cook


Recent scholars have identified a phenomenon known as the motherhood wage penalty with research demonstrating that women with children face wage discrepancies beyond those associated with being female. This project adds to our understanding of non-wage-related penalties by investigating two distinct gatekeeping stages: screening and interviewing. I asked do employer hiring practices create barriers to mothers’ access to jobs? To answer this question, I used a novel mixed-methods approach, combining a dual-state audit study with qualitative employer interviews. I framed my study using the status theory of motherhood, which suggests that whenever motherhood is salient in the labor market, mothers will face discrimination. This study is the first of its kind in the field of motherhood and organizational discrimination. In phase one, I completed an audit study in two states: Utah and California. Each week, I applied for 10 jobs in each state using two fictitious applicants for a total of 40 resumes per week. This resulted in 960 applications (480 companies) over a 24-week period. I then randomly selected employers in each state for a total of 27 interviews, allowing me to speak directly with hiring managers regarding their employment practices.

Throughout this project I identified employer bias at both the screening and interviewing stages. This included three key mechanisms: employers’ ideal expectations for their workers, the subjective assessment of both soft skills and family responsibilities, and the employment gap inquiry. Findings also varied by state suggesting that the salience of motherhood may be impacted by larger cultural and policy contexts resulting in varied labor market outcomes.



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