Mother’s Day is marked by homemade cards, t-shirts with hand and footprints, popsicle-stick pencil holders, and soggy cereal served in bed. There’s nothing cute, though, about the price tag. Internationally, Mother’s Day is a $20 billion-dollar season.
Interpret it as you may – commercialism or appreciation – it’s clear that mothers matter. And mothers at the workplace are good for business. Start with the fact that 75% of women with children under the age of 18 work full time, and women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40% of households. Of 12 million single-parent families with children under 18, 80% have women as the head of household.
Women are working more, producing more, and spending more – moving our economy. Moreover, women invest more in their families and communities than their male counterparts. Yet some workplace practices continue to limit the role of women (or caregivers), falling back on archaic practices.
How can your organization better support mothers? With just a few simple changes and practices, looking at the long-term benefits of supporting working moms, engagement and production will rise. Here’s how:
1. Make meetings matter . Start, and end, meetings on time. Avoid late afternoon-evening meetings (when it’s pickup time from daycare or after-school programs) and early morning meetings (when it’s time to get kids ready for school). Don’t go past scheduled time or continue meetings when team members have to leave. This leaves them out of what could be significant opportunities. Also, ask why. Sometimes the best meetings are the ones we don’t call.
2. Rescheduling meetings, pushing them back, organizing social events during the evening and other similar things are pretty common in the workplace. Most leaders don’t give them a second thought. But these reschedules can throw a family’s entire schedule and be costly – babysitters, getting across town in time for a pickup and more. Again, think “mom-time” which is maximized during school hours.
3. Flex time is key for working parents and primary caregivers. Kids get sick. They have recitals and presentations and parent-teacher meetings. Society laments parents aren’t involved, but how much does the role of the organization play in limiting that parental involvement? Do you really give flex time? Are you really supporting that work-life balance?
4. Parenting comes in many forms. You might have employees taking care of older family members. Your star salesperson might be taking care of her nieces during the week. Get to know your employees and what’s going on in their personal lives. This will help you determine what benefits would best suit your employees’ needs: subsidizing elder care, savings plans, associations with the local YMCA. This is human. This is smart business.
5. Don’t mistake time for quality. Pre-parenthood, many caregivers spend hours at work burning the midnight oil. Post-parenthood, caregivers work smarter, not longer. Moms are insanely efficient.
6. New parents are tired. So, expect a drop in productivity in those first months returning to work after three months of sleep deprivation (not to mention the sleep deprivation that will continue for the next … oh … 18 years or so). As this Gallup article says, “employees need an authentic work culture that recognizes that the journey to vocational success is often complicated and detour-filled.” Be the organization that continues to support employees, demand accountability, but understand that life happens. Creative problem-solving skills and memory retention are just two things that sleep-deprived employees fall behind on. This is natural.
7. Do you have the basics? Does your health benefits plan include birth control? Does it include access to good gynecologists, annual mammograms, and other women’s health priorities? At work, do you have a quiet, private place for a woman to pump breastmilk? Are you providing opportunities for working moms to advance in the organization?
Gender-diverse workplaces are good for business. But the only way to truly honor and provide opportunities for everybody is recognizing the distinct challenges women, in particular working mothers, face. Create a culture of respect. Define boundaries. Be flexible. Keep communication clear. Provide basic healthcare benefits. Humanize your organization to engage your employees and attract talented women.
Celebrate mothers all year. This is smart business.