A Facebook exec explains how the company is trying to fix a major workplace bias

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

"That is a fact — there is a bias against motherhood," said Maxine Williams, Facebook's global director of diversity, during a recent Facebook Live chat with PowerToFly's Katharine Zaleski.

Williams points to research out of Cornell that found employers tended to discriminate against mothers.

As part of the study, researchers sent employers fake, almost identical résumés with one major difference: some résumés indicated that the job applicant was part of a parent-teacher association.

While male job candidates whose résumés mentioned the parent-teacher association were called back more often than men whose résumés didn't, women who alluded to parenthood in this way were half as likely to get called back than women who didn't.

The study participants also rated mothers as the least desirable job candidates and deemed them less competent and committed than women without children or men. At the same time, applicants who were fathers were rated significantly more committed to their job than non-fathers and were allowed to be late to work significantly more times than non-fathers.

Why does this bias exist? "It goes all the way back to biology, my understanding is," Williams said, noting the traditional differentiation of work and responsibilities between genders.

Discover the gender pay gap across the US:

53 PHOTOS
Gender pay gap state to state ranking
See Gallery
Gender pay gap state to state ranking

51. Louisiana 

Gender pay gap: 34.7%

(Ian Dagnall / Alamy)

50. Utah 

Gender pay gap: 32.4%

(CountyLemonade/Flickr)

49. Wyoming 

Gender pay gap: 31.2% 

(Philip Scalia / Alamy)

48. West Virginia

Gender pay gap: 30%

(J. Stephen Conn/Flickr)

47. North Dakota

Gender pay gap: 28.7%

(Tim Evanson/Flickr)

46. Alabama

Gender pay gap: 27.4%

(Danny Hooks / Alamy)

45. Idaho

Gender pay gap: 27.2%

(Philip Scalia / Alamy)

44. Oklahoma

Gender pay gap: 26.5%

(thefixer/Flickr)

43. Montana

Gender pay gap: 25.8%

(John Elk III / Alamy)

42. Michigan

Gender pay gap: 25.5%

(curiousjohn/Flickr)

41. Indiana

Gender pay gap: 24.8%

(ellenm1/Flickr)

40. New Hampshire

Gender pay gap: 24.3%

(cmh2315fl/Flickr)

39. South Dakota

Gender pay gap: 23.8%

(SuperStock / Alamy)

38. Mississippi

Gender pay gap: 23%

(Don Smetzer / Alamy)

37. Kansas

Gender pay gap: 23%

(Jim West / Alamy)

36. Washington

Gender pay gap: 23%

(ASSOCIATED PRESS/NOAA)

35. Iowa

Gender pay gap: 22.7%

(Ellen Isaacs / Alamy) 

34. Missouri

Gender pay gap: 22.6%

(L. Allen Brewer/Flickr)

33. Ohio

Gender pay gap: 22.2%

(sailwings/Flickr)

32. New Mexico

Gender pay gap: 21.9%

(Patrick Ray Dunn / Alamy)

31. Arkansas

Gender pay gap: 21.8%

(Buddy Mays / Alamy)

30. Texas

Gender pay gap: 21.2%

(Ian Dagnall / Alamy)

29.  Maine

Gender pay gap: 21.2%

(PHOTOPHANATIC1/Flickr)

28. Nebraska

Gender pay gap: 21.1%

(Ian G Dagnall / Alamy)

27. Wisconsin 

Gender pay gap: 21.1%

(Jeff Greenberg 5 / Alamy)

26. Illinois

Gender pay gap: 20.9%

(incamerastock / Alamy)

25. Pennsylvania

Gender pay gap: 20.8%

(dannyfowler/Flickr)

24. Kentucky

Gender pay gap: 20.1%

(toddmundt/Flickr)

23. Virginia

Gender pay gap: 19.8%

(JoeDuck/Flickr)

22. South Carolina

Gender pay gap: 19.8%

(Ellisphotos / Alamy)

21. New Jersey 

Gender pay gap: 19.7%

(Robert Quinlan / Alamy)

20. Alaska

Gender pay gap: 19.2%

(retro traveler/Flickr)

19. Delaware

Gender pay gap: 19.0%

(J. Stephen Conn/Flickr)

18. Tennessee

Gender pay gap: 18.5%

(Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits/Flickr)

17. Minnesota

Gender pay gap: 18.4%

(kla4067/Flickr)

16. Rhode Island

Gender pay gap: 18.3%

(Dougtone/Flickr)

15. Georgia 

Gender pay gap: 18.2%

(Ian Dagnall Commercial Collection / Alamy)

14. Colorado 

Gender pay gap: 18.1%

(Jesse Varner/Flickr)

13. Massachusetts

Gender pay gap: 18.0%

(Manu_H/Flickr)

12. Oregon

Gender pay gap: 17.8%

(AP)

11. Connecticut

Gender pay gap: 17.4%

(Dougtone/Flickr)

10. Vermont

Gender pay gap: 16.2%

(pthread1981/Flickr)

9.  Arizona

Gender pay gap: 15.9%

(Photoshot Holdings Ltd / Alamy)

8. California

Gender pay gap: 15.8%

(Robert Landau / Alamy)

7. North Carolina

Gender pay gap: 15.3%

(sevenblock/Flickr)

6. Florida

Gender pay gap: 15.1%

(FL Stock / Alamy)

5. Nevada

Gender pay gap: 14.9%

(D-Stanley/Flickr)

4. Maryland

Gender pay gap: 14.6%

(tim caynes/Flickr)

3. Hawaii

Gender pay gap: 14.1%

(Mauro Ladu / Alamy)

2. New York

Gender pay gap: 13.2%

(drpavloff/Flickr)

1. Washington D.C.

Gender pay gap: 10.4%

(Alexandre Deslongchamps via Getty Images)

Puerto Rico has the smallest gender pay gap, and it benefits women. 

Gender pay gap: -4.6% -- Women earn more than men by a small margin

(Fuse via Getty Images)

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"I think the more important thing is, why haven't we done more to turn that back — to make people understand we are whole people who can deliver, who are responsible, who are hardworking — that being a mother is perhaps not the defining thing to determine whether you are also going to be a good worker or not," she added.

Williams said that Facebook has worked "deliberately" to shift its culture away from one that accepts traditional gender roles to one that challenges unconscious bias against women.

One of the most important ways the company does this is through its parental leave policy: Facebook offers four months of paid leave, regardless of gender or birthing means, to new parents within the first year of birth or placement.

It's something the company has done since its early days, and the idea of a gender-neutral policy is beginning to cotton on with other companies including Etsy, Netflix, and Spotify.

Experts say that not offering equal benefits leads to discrimination against women, and the best policies for helping working families are the ones that are gender-neutral.

In fact, as The New York Times previously reported, studies have shown that when a company's policy mandates that women take longer leaves than men, the same companies are more inclined to hire men over women and are less likely to promote women to high-powered positions.

"By implementing equal leave to both parties, you're really creating a great example, and you're eliminating a potential in the system to favor one over the other," Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's vice president of the ads and pages team, previously told Business Insider.

"We deliberately encourage our male leaders to take just as much leave to make it clear that this thing about parenting is not something that women own," Williams said.

Discover the best careers for a healthy work-life balance:

11 PHOTOS
The best jobs for healthy work-life balance
See Gallery
The best jobs for healthy work-life balance

Data Scientist 
Salary: $106,939

Photo credit: Getty 

Social Media Manager
Salary: $107,473

Photo credit: Getty

SEO Manager
Salary: $111,038

Photo credit: Getty
 

Web Designer
Salary: $70,580

Photo credit: Getty 

Content Manager
Salary: $92,583 

Photo credit: Getty

Lab Assistant
Salary: $53,912

Photo credit: Getty

Dietician 
Salary: $56,890

Photo credit: Getty

Elementary School Teacher
Salary: $54,814 

Photo credit: Getty

Human Resources Manager 
Salary: $94,993 

Photo credit: Getty

Civil Engineer 
Salary: $95,550

Photo credit: Getty

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

NOW WATCH: Ivanka Trump says working women are punished for having kids, and her father has a plan to fix it

See Also:
A former Sony exec reveals the challenges of moving from the US to London to run JK Rowling's website
Why you should take advantage of this widely ignored part of Amazon to save money
The one thing you should never say in a salary negotiation

SEE ALSO: Facebook is at the forefront of a radical workplace shift — and every business in America should take notice

DON'T MISS: 9 scientific ways having a child influences your success

Read Full Story

Want more news like this?

Sign up for Finance Report by AOL and get everything from business news to personal finance tips delivered directly to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners