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Motherhood as a Status Characteristic


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Cecilia L. Ridgeway, Department of Sociology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–2047 [e-mail:].


We present evidence that many of the disadvantaging effects that motherhood has on women's workplace outcomes derive from the devalued social status attached to the task of being a primary caregiver. Using expectation states theory, we argue that when motherhood becomes a salient descriptor of a worker it, like other devalued social distinctions including gender, downwardly biases the evaluations of the worker's job competence and suitability for positions of authority. We predict that the biases evoked by the motherhood role will be more strongly discriminatory than those produced by gender alone because the perceived conflicts between the cultural definitions of the good mother and the ideal worker make motherhood seem more directly relevant to workplace performance.