- Working mothers are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, as many are increasingly leaving their jobs to deal with demands at home.
- A new report from US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force in September compared to only 216,000 men.
- Rosanna Durruthy, a mother and LinkedIn’s vice president of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, believes senior leaders need to step up and support working moms and their challenges, or risk setting back years of progress in the workplace.
- Durruthy says connecting working parents across the company through groups and programming can help them feel less guilty about balancing work and home.
- Many mothers find it difficult to come back to work after taking time off, so it’s critical for companies to establish readily accessible return-to-work channels and career growth opportunities.
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One of the greatest gifts in life is becoming a parent. Parenthood unimaginably transforms your life — believe me, it changed mine completely — and the transition from employee to mother to working mother can be significant, rewarding, and challenging.
These challenges will continue to grow during the pandemic, with many being forced to leave work or take on part-time roles as schools and daycares remain closed.
This is especially trying for single mothers, and Black and Latino communities who have been largely impacted by the pandemic and are facing evictions at an alarming rate.
With women disproportionately affected by layoffs and mothers increasingly leaving jobs due to demands at home, we’re at risk of setting back years of progress in creating an equal work environment.
As a mother and leader of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at LinkedIn, I recognize the ongoing challenges working parents are dealing with today. Businesses can and must play a leading role in driving meaningful progress and change to how we operate our workforces today to ensure mothers have the flexibility and opportunities to continue in their careers under our new normal.
1. Have senior leadership acknowledge opportunities for flexibility
According to a new survey from LinkedIn, the biggest concern for one-third (34%) of parents caring for children is that working from home will prevent them from doing their job efficiently as they’re trying to balance childcare, chores, or other distractions.
It’s unreasonable for companies to think that parents caring for children at home can also sit at a desk for eight hours uninterrupted.
Mothers with school-age kids have to pay constant attention to children who are now homeschooled and mothers with infants and toddlers are struggling with giving their babies the kind of interaction they require at such a young and formidable age.
Having managers and company leaders that recognize the challenges working mothers are facing is critical.
As a leader, you can foster an environment and culture where moms are supported by offering flexibility such as moving away from traditional 9-to-5 work hours and encouraging transparency and regular check-in between colleagues on work schedules and availability.
It’s also critical that organizations understand the challenges & barriers of returning to work.
A LinkedIn study found 30% of working professionals with school-aged children at home right now feel they do not have the necessary childcare available to return to work. And 60% of workers say their employers have not made accommodations to their work schedules to help with parenting duties.
As companies look to reopen, they must address these concerns of parents.
2. Create moments for connection
The New York Times reports that limited social contact and social distancing have underscored the important role connection plays in our lives.
Humans thrive on connection and knowing that we’re not alone — feeling the support from others dealing with similar situations — can be incredibly impactful. The significance of connection has skyrocketed as we’re searching for ways to maintain our sense of culture and community.
We must provide ways for employees to stay connected and feel supported. For example, companies can create employee resource groups for parents to come together or provide experiences to help entertain kids at home.
At LinkedIn, our Parents at LinkedIn employee resource group has hosted virtual storytelling sessions with parents and kids and has become a space where parents can share helpful resources and advice for balancing childcare and work responsibilities.
Other companies have also created programs to help keep kids occupied while their parents are working. For example, Twitter launched a free, eight-week virtual camp for kids of employees this summer inclusive of activities like cooking lessons, yoga classes, and music sessions. Microsoft in April announced its offer of up to three-months-paid parental leave to employees facing school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As this pandemic forces a blending work and home life, groups like these often remove some of the potential guilt parents and working mothers may feel trying to balance work and home life successfully.
ERGs encourage parents to share their personal lives in a way that fosters connection and resonance with others. In the process, teams have had the opportunity to bond and create stronger connections.
3. Remove the stigma of returning from a career break
For working mothers who’ve had to exit the workforce due to the consequences of COVID-19, leaders must make it easier for them to return to work when they’re ready through established and accessible return-to-work channels post-pandemic.
Even prior to COVID-19, many working mothers on career breaks struggled to re-enter the workforce. In fact, prior to the pandemic we found that 60% of working mothers say that it was challenging to re-enter the workforce and 63% of hiring managers recognize there are unnecessary obstacles that make it difficult for mothers to advance in their careers.
These obstacles include stigmas attached to taking time off, inflexible work schedules, lack of career growth opportunities, and more.
Too often, when women focus on family time, commitment to the workplace is questioned and as leaders, we must override this way of thinking. Putting your family first is never a professional disadvantage, if anything, it’s an opportunity for working mothers to build more skills.
When it comes to nurturing talent, fostering an environment where employees feel empowered to bring their full selves to work is critical, and it’s often up to managers and leadership to create this culture of belonging in the workplace.
At LinkedIn, our working moms report again and again that the most important element is having a manager that supports, recognizes and celebrates the job parents have outside the office, and our research found that over 30% of working mothers acknowledge the importance of having executives who are outspoken leaders on the importance of parental obligations and/or policies that support working parents.
As this pandemic persists, working parents continue to juggle many hats. Support from employers is key for long-term success as parents try to find ways to maintain productivity while continuing to do their most important job, raising their children.
We’ve come far as a society in our mission to create gender equality, but there’s still much more to do to create equity with an intersectional lens. In August, we celebrated Black Women’s Equal Pay Day and Women’s Equality Day, and we’ll soon recognize Latina Equal Pay Day in October. With this, we are reminded of how far we’ve come and how much we still need to do to reach true gender equity worldwide.
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