It’s that time of year again, one of flower bouquets, homemade macaroni necklaces, and colorful handmade cards. So many cards. According to Hallmark, Mother’s Day is the third largest card-sending holiday in the United States. Yet, when it comes to the world of work, mothers consistently earn less, have fewer opportunities to advance, and are afraid that taking time off will completely take them out of the game.
Here are some eye-opening, and sobering, statistics from AAUW about the world of work for women.
- In 2019, 72.3% of the labor force was comprised of mothers with children under 18 years. For divorced, widowed, and single moms, this percentage was 77.6%.
- 40% more mothers report that having children harmed their careers.
- Women re-entering the workplace after taking time off make, on average, 39% less than those who never took time off. This is called the motherhood penalty.
2020 took over five million women out of the workforce, yet hiring and promoting mothers can be the smartest business move your organization can make. If you need someone who is efficient, who is a master negotiator, who can multi-task, who is a master of time management and productivity, who brings a different, down-to-earth, perspective to the table, you need a mom.
Here are 7 meaningful actions can you implement to increase employee engagement and improve your workplace for working mothers. Walk the talk, and show moms that they matter.
1. Know your demographics. Identify where most mothers are in your organization. How many are in leadership roles? Where do they stop advancing? What obstacles are holding them back? Analyze retention rates of parents (both mothers and fathers). What patterns emerge? Take the time to understand your organization before implementing policies.
2. Benefits that count. Childcare is one of the top stressors of working mothers. Consider a benefits package the includes discounted childcare, associations with after school programs, even an on-site childcare facility. Likewise, provide women in your organization with meaningful healthcare benefits, like access to annual pap smears, mammograms, birth control, and mental health programs.
3. Stop the motherhood penalty (gap-year bias). Welcome midcareer professionals back to the workforce with a meaningful returnship program. (This isn’t exclusive for mothers). A returnship is similar to an internship but with a higher level of responsibility and is almost always a paid position. It’s an opportunity for women (and men) who have taken time off to hone skills and get back to work. Don’t penalize people for resume gaps, instead capitalize on the soft skills these future-hires have to enrich your organization culture.
4. Value paternity. Be an organization that supports paternity leave. According to a 2018 study of 9,000 families, paternity leave helped bridge the wage gap as well as provided working mothers more opportunities to advance at work.
5. Stop telling stories. The work/family narrative of having to sacrifice work for family continues to be pervasive in corporate culture. Not only is it wrong – the narrative doesn’t match the data – but it is also a story that perpetuates the idea that mothers aren’t cut out for the job because, “if she thought it was important, she’d be here.”
6. High-impact, low-cost flex time strategies. This is one of the easiest, least expensive, policies to implement, providing working parents opportunities to manage their time. Consider adopting hybrid schedules, compressed workdays (or weeks), offer part-time schedules and unpaid leave. Implement policies that focus on goals, accountability, deadlines, and autonomy, not ones that punch a timecard.
7. Recruit differently. Look into organizations like The Mom Project, Apres Group, In Her Sight and more to recruit your next hire. They specialize in connecting organizations with qualified professionals who are ready to get back into the workforce.
Recognize and value what working moms bring to the table by making space for them. Your organization will benefit from their focus, abilities, skills, and determination.
As Sara Blakely, American entrepreneur, says, “This struggle is real. The juggle is real. That’s why everyone should hire working mothers. They are put in crazy situations all the time and are forced to problem-solve. They are some of my most resourceful employees.”