“Nearly every mother in Hollywood has a horror story.
There was the time screenwriter and showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna was 8½ months pregnant and a studio executive joked, “I guess today would be a bad day to punch you in the stomach.” There was the time Nisha Ganatra, director of the upcoming Mindy Kaling film “Late Night,” went on a scouting trip to India when she was a new mom and found herself driving around the country in a van “with 15 dudes,” pumping breast milk in “a woodshed in the middle of a desert and an outhouse behind a restaurant.” There was the time a dream job offer fell through for Oscar-nominated “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison because producers panicked that she’d be going back to work a few weeks after giving birth — something she was willing to do to help realize one of the most exciting scripts she had ever read. The experience, she says, “made me acutely aware of the prejudices in this industry, specifically in my line of work.”
Being a working parent in the United States, the only developed nation in the world without a federal paid parental leave policy and where the cost of childcare can consume a single paycheck, is challenging no matter one’s gender or line of work. It is especially hard on mothers, who are more likely to rearrange their work schedules to take care of their families and, according to research, are often hit by a “motherhood penalty” — losing out on raises and job opportunities because they are perceived as less professionally committed than their child-free peers (and men with children). Numbers can vary, but a groundbreaking 2001 study by sociologists Michelle Budig and Paula England found a wage penalty of 5% to 7% (depending on experience) for each child a woman has.
For women in entertainment — an industry where the hours are grueling and unpredictable and travel to faraway locations is the norm — the conflict between work and family can be brutal. While executives at places like Netflix get generous paid leave and many studios have on-lot childcare centers, Hollywood is powered by an army of freelance artists and crew members who do not have reliable access to such perks.”
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