Gender Bias Learning Project

A zany brainy look at a serious subject

A project of the Center for WorkLife Law UC Hastings College of the Law

Maternal Wall

When women encounter severe bias once they have children

Maternal Wall is the strongest and most open form of gender bias. It stems from
stereotypes that link motherhood with lack of competence and commitment. The leading
study on maternal wall stereotypes found that, compared to women with identical
resumes but no children, mothers were:

  • 79% less likely to be hired
  • 100% less likely to be promoted
  • Offered $11,000 less in salary for the same position
  • Held to higher performance and punctuality standards

Bias against mothers stems not only from assumptions about what mothers are like,
but also from assumptions about how mothers should behave. Even today, women often
encounter statements indicating that mothers don’t belong in the workplace. Such
statements can either be hostile (“Mothers belong at home”) or benevolent, (“I assumed
she didn’t want the fellowship because she just had a baby).”


These scenarios illustrate the Maternal Wall stereotype bias (or lack of it). These
scenarios are based on information from surveys and focus groups of faculty women.

Subtle bias

Severe bias

No bias

Sure, I Get It! – Pop Quiz

After learning about all four gender bias patterns, take our Gender Bias Quiz to
see how much you’ve learned. Click here.

Expert Videos


Watch experts describe the Maternal Wall bias.
click here

Survival Strategies

Watch experts suggest how to survive the Maternal Wall bias.
click here