That’s an actual chapter title from the “Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived” report Gallup published in 2016. Sounds harsh, but the truth sometimes does.
Over more than 50 years of studying women in the workplace, Gallup has consistently found that the majority of mothers – even working moms – would prefer to stay home, according to Galllup’s COO Jane Miller, who authored the report’s introduction. But the reality is most mothers need to work … and our businesses and economy need them to work.
If you’re asking, “How can we compete against kids?” The answer is: You can’t. Such is the war for talent.
But what you can do is redesign the work world to be more supportive of today’s workforce … and today’s families. In Miller’s words: “When organizations lack flexibility and use outdated standards to reward and recognize performance, they make staying home and even more attractive option for women.”
Employers have a vested interest in attracting and retaining working moms. Making it easier for this valuable demographic to remain engaged in the workforce strengthens companies, families and our economy. So now the question becomes how to make the necessary changes.
Again, in Miller’s words: “We have to examine, and even overhaul, our organizational policies, strategies, cultures and values to ensure that employees can maximize their full potential in and out of the workplace.”
Now, where to start?
- Understanding Barriers
Although modern dads have stepped up in terms of the amount of time they’re spending on child care, housework and other domestic responsibilities, mothers are still spending considerably more time on household tasks. So it’s no surprise to see that flexibility ranks as a top factor in the employment decisions of women with children.
Gallup asked stay-at-home moms what would be a “major factor” in their employment decisions.
- 53 percent said flexible hours or work schedules
- 40 percent said being able to work from home when needed
- 34 percent said earning enough to pay for child
For women in the workforce, the following were “very important” factors in terms of evaluating job opportunities, according to the Gallup report.
- 66 percent of female employees said finding a job where they can do what they do best
- 60 percent ranked work-life balance and better personal wellbeing
- 52 percent said stability and job security
READ MORE: The Flexibility Without Shame Conversation
- Helping Covering the Cost of Child Care
It’s should come as no surprise that more than a third of stay-at-home moms prioritizing paying for child care in their responses. For many families, child care is the single largest household budget item. At more than $9,000 per year, in-center child care costs about two-thirds of the income of a minimum-wage earner and 18 percent of US median household income. In-home care (a nanny) is even more expensive. There’s an inter-dependency here – families need care to be able to work, and they need to work in order to afford care. Yet employer-provided benefits addressing care remain relatively rare. The most recent National Study of Employers found only about 7 percent of employers provide child care at or near the worksite. And only about 40 percent of civilian workers have access to employer-sponsored dependent care reimbursement accounts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you can help working moms with the cost of child care, it might be harder for them to consider options outside of your company.
- Providing Benefits That Reduce Work-Life Conflict
The theme that connects flexibility and child care is that a barrier for many women in the workforce is the ability to meet their responsibilities at work and home. Increasingly, smart companies are expanding their wellness programs to address work-life conflict. They’re understanding that helping manage responsibilities at home is a key to keeping their teams on track. Whether it’s help hiring a housekeeper, backup care for when school’s closed or the nanny calls in sick or the flexibility to get to the doctor’s office on a weekday afternoon, these little things add up to a big difference for employees whose can’t exactly check their busy lives at the office door.
CHECK OUT: Care@Work is a New Approach to Employee Benefits
- Modernizing Culture
Even when family-friendly benefits are available, research has shown employees can be reluctant to take advantage of benefits like flexible work arrangements and paid leave out of fear they’ll be seen as less committed to their jobs. Oftentimes this perceived stigma is misguided, yet family-friendly benefits, such as backup child care, are only as effective as their utilization. It’s important for organizations to foster a culture and work environment in which employees know they are encouraged to utilize the benefits available to them.
The most effective way to accomplish this is through top-down leadership, where even executives can play an important role. You can send strong signals about that promote a family-friendly culture by doing little things, like avoiding early morning or end-of-day meetings so you don’t conflict with the day-care dash that many parents make. Ultimately, a truly family-friendly culture will include management trainings and review processes that take steps to ensure promotions and evaluations are based on results, not outdated metrics like time in office or time on task, which can unduly penalize employees with caregiving responsibilities.
HR Professionals Also Read
- What It Takes to be a Great Company for Women
- 50 Companies with Great Maternity Leave
- Backup Care Tales from a Care@Work Insider
- Why Millennial Moms are Struggling with Work-Life Balance
- Workplace Wellness - How to Be the Best