Following the pandemic, many working mothers are now in a position where they can potentially return to the office and the workforce. However, the challenges facing working parents aren’t over. Below, we discuss the true impacts of the ‘she-cession’ and how companies need to adapt to ensure that working mothers don’t get left behind once again.
The ‘She-Cession’: Is It Truly Over?
The pandemic saw millions of women across America downsizing their careers or leaving the workforce entirely to prioritize caring for their families. This period in the United States’ labor market has been officially coined the ‘she-cession’ by economists. While it does look like the U.S. government is intending to increase investment in child care services to jumpstart the post-pandemic recovery, the ‘she-cession’ may not truly be over until employers do their part.
Unfortunately, working mothers have always been the portion of the labor market that has faced a disproportionate amount of challenges and obstacles in the workforce. Yes, the pandemic did shine a spotlight on these issues but that doesn’t excuse the fact that they’ve always been there in some shape or form.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many working mothers found themselves pushed out of the workforce due to a lack of access to affordable childcare and inadequate parental leave policies. Now, the damages caused by the pandemic are set to jeopardize women’s involvement in the labor market. It is thought that gender disparity in the workplace has widened even more, undoing decades’ worth of female advancement in corporate jobs.
So, how exactly can we curb the course of the ‘she-cession’ to make sure that participation levels of women in the workplace rise and continue to do so for many years to come? The answer is quite simple – ensure businesses are prioritizing efforts to support working moms and retain them by offering opportunities to participate in managerial hierarchies.
Working Women Need Support. Companies Can No Longer Ignore This
Although last year’s remote work model allowed some working mothers to juggle family and career life reasonably well, this does not signify that these employees were supported adequately. Many women still found themselves to be the primary caregiver during this time and had to make accommodations to achieve a work-life balance.
As working parents begin to return to the office and the workforce, companies must recognize that these employees need additional support through targeted programs, flexible work arrangements, and robust parental leave policies.
The economy is starting to recover but recovery efforts will fail if companies choose not to approach workplaces with an intentional gender lens. If you choose not to support working mothers then you fail to support a section of the labor market that contributes approximately 8 trillion dollars of the country’s GDP every single year.
Building a Better Company Culture – With Women In Mind
With return to work plans in motion and employees slowly beginning to be phased back into the office, a new definition of company culture is required. And this one needs to be built with working women in mind.
Employers are being encouraged to make progressive changes to their company policies and the support programs that they offer working mothers. Doing so will ensure that this section of the labor force can continue to progress both professionally and in their personal lives. So, what should a company culture look like through the lens of a working mom?
1. Make Flexibility the Norm
The pandemic saw companies having to adopt new approaches to working (e.g. the fully remote model). This also meant changes in how management and employees communicated with one another and the hours that employees worked.
While technology made it quite easy to transition from in-person meetings to video calls, one thing that the pandemic made companies set boundaries around was an employee’s ability to access flexitime options. As hybrid work models are being put in place, companies must continue to set policies that provide working mothers with flexible working arrangements.
Employers need to normalize the option for employees to respond to emails outside of business hours, having core hours for meetings, and allowing employees to disconnect when they need to address personal matters.
2. Provide Re-Entry Programs
Many women who had to step back from the labor market during the pandemic are now looking to make a return. Companies should be looking to implement re-entry and mentorship programs for working mothers. These programs should include skills development, access to mental health and welling resources, and regular touchpoints with a mentor.
3. Get Men on Board
It is important that men in the workplace get involved in helping working mothers feel supported in the office. From C-Suite executives to interns, men need to be career allies and provide women with the resources and support they need when returning to the workplace.
Additionally, companies should look at making their paternity leave policies more robust. Men should also be doing their part when it comes to family child care responsibilities. By acknowledging and respecting a working father’s needs to have flexible work arrangements, this will allow women to return to the workplace more comfortably.
4. Invest in Mental Health and Well-Being
Employers need to recognize that the extra burden placed on women in the last year will inevitably have taken a toll on their mental well-being and health. Companies must commit to support the whole health of their employees. Make sure that programs which support an employee’s mental health such as an employee assistance program (EAP), well-being app, or telehealth counseling are put into place before returning to the office.
5. Highlight Female Role Models
Working mothers often felt isolated, lonely, and underappreciated in the workplace. This became evident during the pandemic with many women feeling like they were alone in their struggles. As they return to the workforce, it is essential that employers make sure that employees have access to female role models.
Whether successful female employees in your company or your industry, organize discussions with leading female professionals to help working moms feel more connected and seen in their role of juggling motherhood and a career.
Retaining Working Mothers: How An Employer-Sponsored Child Care Program Can Help
While nobody can say for certain how the ‘she-cession’ recovery will play out over the months to come, one thing is certain: employers must do all they can to retain working mothers. Offering flexible working arrangements will be a plus, but, another solution which has proven successful for many companies in the past is an employer-sponsored child care program.
A robust employer-sponsored child care solution ensures that working parents have access to the benefits and resources they need to lead a successful professional and personal life. Many companies have realized the importance of providing parents with policies such as flexi-time, extended parental leave, and mentorship programs upon return from maternity leave.
Employer-sponsored child care programs also help working parents to access affordable childcare where they are – whether that is in the office or at home. These child care services allow parents to work confidently knowing that their child is being cared for by an experienced early childhood educator. These initiatives are known to increase employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction significantly.
After all, nurturing the return of working mothers to the workforce is not just beneficial for women, it’s good for all aspects of the business.
Vivvi: Working with Employers to Support Working Parents
Vivvi partners with employers of all sizes to make high-quality full-time and backup child care more accessible and affordable.
As your company welcomes employees back, we can work with you to provide next-level child care solutions across our campuses, in-home, in-office, or via virtual care. As an early learning child care provider, our team meets the needs of your business and your employees where you are.
Visit our employer page to learn more about the benefits of offering employer-sponsored child care solutions to your working parents.