As we continue to explore all of the segments of diversity that deserve our attention, let me add another one to the ever-growing list. If you couldn’t tell by the title – the segment I am speaking about is: Moms. Some of women are fortunate enough to be employed by an employer who understands that there is much more that can be done for women returning to work than what FMLA provides. Those women are in the minority. The larger chunk of this segment is betrothed to companies who either don’t care or aren’t creative enough to create opportunities and pathways for mothers returning to work after starting their families.
Did you know?
The U.S. is one of three countries along with Oman and Papua New Guinea that does not offer paid maternity leave. This is a clear indication that we are not only lackluster in support of women before they become mothers, but that we neglect them on the other side of motherhood as well. As such, “off-ramping” or leaving career tracks for women is not just an option but a decision made under the duress of the stigma placed upon women who decide to have a family.
According to the Center For Talent Innovation’s 2005 study, 37% percent of professional women in the U.S. left their career track at some point. 66% opted for flex-time, temp and part-time work instead of completely off-ramping. According to a 2015 Huffington Post Women article by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the numbers had not changed much when they revisited the 2005 study in 2010. Shocking!
Let’s be honest… let’s be real.
Women should be able to start a family whenever they choose. It isn’t a decision that requires the ever-popular buy-in of line managers and the C-Suite. That said, when a woman makes that decision- it shouldn’t be the case that she has to bid adieu to her career aspirations, upward mobility and financial security.
Unfortunately, women are hindered. There’s a stigma around pregnancy and being a parent in many companies. While I choose to focus in on women for the sake of this piece, the stigma extends to any person – who has to put familial obligations before their work at some point.
I can remember so many days working for previous employers – where my need to leave at 5pm was met with grimaces and rolling eyes. I recall many days that one of my children were sick and I had to hear the long sighs and pauses directly after letting my immediate supervisor know I would be taking the day to care for them.
From where I sat, starting a family was seen as an affront to what the company needed to accomplish. How dare you set them back like this? You want to take longer than FMLA will allow, we can’t guarantee your job because you need more time. “Good luck and best wishes” is how they say: “You were great until you decided to have this family, good luck being hired again, but we are moving on.”
Leaning-in for the win or not.
There isn’t enough leaning-in in the world that can change an archaic mindset. If companies believe a woman who has family obligations is worth less than one who can sit behind a desk for 12 hours a day and then again from home neglecting their personal wants and needs – I would say they are insane. One isn’t better than the other – it’s just different. We need to stop alienating women because they choose to have a family. More importantly, we need to welcome them back whether it is after a short or long hiatus- offering different options for either scenario.
Here are three reasons why companies need to provide a pathway for women back to work after starting a family:
1) A 2013 Pew Research Center Survey indicated that 40% of households with children under the age of 18 have mothers who are either the primary or sole providers of income for the household. By eliminating the pathway for women to return to work, you are very likely creating economic disparities for not only women, but for families on the whole. Washington Post reported last year that 47% of Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 expense. Already strained household budgets, plus unpaid maternity leaves, coupled with women out of work due to lack of opportunity is very likely a financial burden/nightmare for many families in the U.S.
2) Can you afford to lose another segment of the workforce? KPMG published their 2016 Top Global Market Trends last month. One of the five takeaways from this report was that: “Talent shortages are still top-of-mind for many leaders and they see it as the new norm.” I’ve mentioned in other articles that I think the talent shortage is more perceived than actual. How can we claim talent shortages when we are willfully turning away women from the workforce? Realistically, no organization can afford to lose this segment; which is why it makes sense to create circumstances that favor them staying.
3) It’s the right thing to do. How much more volume do women’s issues need for the parity and double-standards to stop? Every person deserves to be able to sustain themselves and their families by way of gainful employment. Women owned-businesses are on the rise and they are likely to rival establishment businesses and their archaic thinking. The true talent shortage is when women push out the big guys and focus on all of the items that were off the table like: paid maternity leave, flex-work arrangements, backup daycare, eldercare options, paternity leave, phase-back programs etc.
I covered this topic in further detail on my show: Ask Czarina Live ™ Unbothered: Moms Returning To Work. Check out the episode below.