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Maternal Wall

  • By: D. Lynn O'Brien Hallstein
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

The term maternal wall, coined by Deborah J. Swiss and Judith P. Walker in their 1993 book, Women and the Work/Family Dilemma: How Today's Professional Women Are Confronting the Maternal Wall, is a metaphor to describe the marginalization and disadvantages mothers face at work. Even though the economic and social position of women has improved greatly since the 1960s and 1970s American feminist movement, by the 1990s, many experts were surprised that women continued to earn less than men and were not advancing at higher rates in professional organizations.

The phrase quickly became common in the 1990s among both academics and the popular press as way to explain these ongoing pay and professional inequities, which are rooted in women's responsibilities as primary caregivers of children and ...

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