While employment rates for working women have been steadily rising in the majority of developed countries, researchers have uncovered a concerning trend: The percentage of employed women in the U.S. has fallen by almost 7% since the beginning of the decade. Despite a series of high-visibility political and socioeconomic victories for gender equality worldwide, women are still facing systemic roadblocks in their careers.
So what’s causing this decline? One reason may be the plight of the working mother. The same survey found that 61% of women who didn’t work outside the home mentioned that obligations to family were a primary reason for their employment status, compared to just 31% of surveyed men.
This inequality of opportunity, fueled by inflexible work schedules, mismatched gender expectations in the household, and unfair stigmas surrounding work performance is preventing teams from leveraging the unique perspective and expertise of the working mother. Let’s look at what happens when companies start to invest in working moms.
Kids or career? Why moms deserve both
Working mothers are accustomed to facing intense social stigma from employers and even other mothers: A Pew Research survey reported that 41% of surveyed adults believe that society suffers when mothers retain their careers while raising younger children. Another study found that in the eyes of their employers, working mothers traded perceived competence with perceived warmth, aiding them in social situations but making promotions, interviews, and performance reviews a greater challenge.
These perceptions just don’t stack up to reality. The Modern Family Index from Bright Horizons found that working mothers tend to bring out the best in their teams when in leadership roles and are perceived to be better listeners, calmer in crisis, and better team players.
According to a Harvard report, not only are working mothers excellent employees, but the daughters of career-oriented moms are more likely to embark on well-paying careers themselves, dispelling the misplaced guilt that many working mothers feel when choosing to continue their careers post-childbirth. The same study found that working mothers modeled a more equitable division of household responsibilities to their sons, encouraging them to contribute more to child raising and homemaking when they start families of their own.
Another study published in the academic journal Work, Employment and Society replicated these results, and found that the daughters of working mothers were more likely to supervise others at work, spent longer at their jobs, and reported significantly higher incomes. This study also reported no significant association between a mother’s career status and the eventual happiness of her children, proving that working mothers can raise their children just as well as stay-at-home moms.
Empowering moms to power the workforce
These studies prove that motherhood can complement — and even benefit — a successful career, and a successful career can have the same positive effects on the lives of your children.
So how can companies better address the needs of working mothers?
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation study, three-quarters of unemployed mothers surveyed stated that they would consider restarting their careers if their role offered flexible hours or allowed them to work remotely. Benefits that improve work-life balance, including flexible hours, remote work, and asynchronous collaboration tools, are crucial to managing the unpredictability of motherhood.
For more reading on how flexible work can positively impact your team, check out these articles:
- The Collaboration Transformation: How We’ve Changed the Way We Work
- The Pitfall of Perks: What Do Happy Employees Actually Care About?
- Working Remotely, or Remotely Working? Tips for Confident Remote Collaboration
How does your organization uplift and celebrate working mothers? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.