08/10/2010 03:44 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Do Kids Kill Careers?

Last week, The New York Times' David Leonhardt claimed that women who didn't have children and never took time off had careers that "resembled" those of men. The next day, The Atlantic's Daniel Indiviglio argued "women without children are holding their own against men."

Both articles were misleading -- and ignored the latest Catalyst research on inequity.

Gender, not kids, charts career success. Our report, Pipeline's Broken Promise, found that women and men jump off traditional career paths at equal rates -- but only women are penalized for it when they try to get back on track. What's more, women fresh from M.B.A. programs lag behind similarly qualified men in pay and promotions -- and never catch up -- whether or not they have children.

To suggest, as Indiviglio does, that "most men and women in traditional gender roles are perfectly content with the current arrangement" reflects just how entrenched sexism has become. Even among women and men who aspired for CEO and senior executive level positions, women started behind equally skilled men. Women earned $4600 less in their first post M.B.A. job--and this pay gap grew deeper over time.

"Outright sexism is no longer the main barrier to gender equality," wrote Leonhardt. But if parental status isn't the only factor affecting a woman's career path, what else is going on? Study after study has shown that ingrained biases and sexist stereotypes harm the career paths of women. We must eliminate these if we want to move closer to parity. Placing blame on the decision to have children distracts us from the core issue: that sexism is alive and well.