No matter the number of books you read or the well-meaning advice, there's nothing that prepares you for motherhood. And going back to work after time at home with a newborn is a tough decision but one that must be faced, especially if finances don't allow otherwise. Unfortunately, many working moms don't have the opportunity to make that choice, according to an article by The 19th, a non-profit that covers gender and politics. In fact, they referred to discrimination against moms in the workplace as an "open secret" that is rampant.
How can employers support working moms that are balancing responsibilities inside and outside of the workplace?
Signs of Discrimination Against Moms
Another well-known "open secret" of discrimination against working moms is the wage gap. After 20+ years of fighting it, a new study has revealed that the gender wage gap begins as early as the post-college job search. The article states that in 2022, women's hourly pay was only 82% of men's hourly pay for the same position, either in part-time or full-time positions. And women of color earn even less.
The 19th article also reveals other obvious signs of discrimination, including:
Not being promoted to leadership positions
Long work hours and/or inflexible schedules, especially post-pandemic when women took on more caretaking responsibilities
None of this is surprising to me, considering my personal experience. A male acquaintance and I graduated with the same degree from the same college and were hired at the same company for the same position, post-graduation. His starting salary was $6000 more than mine. Later in my career, I was laid off from a job and told, "We just thought you'd rather be at home with your new baby."
Employers and human resources can create a culture of welcome and support for working moms and those who may become pregnant while employed. Here are a few changes that can be implemented:
Inform them of their rights: Many parents are unaware of their accommodation rights during pregnancy, maternity leave and their return to work.
Offer flexible or remote options: Working parents may be afraid to ask for these options so they should be presented proactively.
Accept their humanness: If we learned anything from the pandemic, it's that we all have kids or cats or dogs that want our attention during work hours. Create an environment of acceptance and authenticity and normalize caregiving.
Create Employee Resource Groups: Just as with any diversity hiring and support, ERGs can offer a welcoming space for those who are doing their best to balance parenting and work.
More than anything, it's important to recognize the value that working moms and parents bring to your company. Caregivers are those who will naturally bring important skills to the table, like organization, negotiation, communication, and prioritization capabilities. Don't write them off because there is something else that requires their attention too.