It’s 2021, and while women have made great strides towards achieving equality over the past few decades, there’s still a ways to go. So in honour of Mother’s Day, today we’re discussing the difficulties women raising kids face in the workplace, especially in light of the pandemic. Keep reading to learn how organizations can better support working moms, then check out this article where we share tips on how to help working parents, in general, navigate through this COVID-19 reality!
The Challenges of Being A Working Mom During COVID-19
The sad reality is, the hardships faced by career women are nothing new, as the pandemic has merely magnified existing problems. Below are just three of the top issues faced by North American women right now:
Severe stress and burnout
A recent survey completed by CNBC showed that moms are the primary caregivers in 53% of U.S. households. That means most mothers in the workforce have at least three jobs: earning income for their families, handling household chores, and raising kids, all of which entail a million responsibilities. With the pandemic’s added pressure, it’s no wonder that there have been 2.4 million additional cases of burnout among America’s professional women during the past year.
Disproportionate effects of pandemic-related unemployment
Since the pandemic started, employment among Canadian women has reached its lowest point in 30 years, as many women feel forced to leave the workplace. The challenge of figuring out how to balance work and family during this time is overwhelming, and working moms face extreme pressure to sacrifice their careers.
Escalated bias in the workplace
The pandemic means added responsibilities at home, and women typically bear the brunt of it. Working moms increasingly fear that their employers see them as distracted, unfocused, and unreliable because of their family commitments. As a result, they feel pressured to prove themselves and hopefully avoid penalization by working much harder at their jobs.
3 Ways to Show Up for Mothers in the Workplace
In preparing to write this article, we held discussions with real women facing these problems. They provided insight into how workplaces can better support them during COVID-19 and beyond. Solutions include:
Adjusting expectations for working moms
Rather than penalizing women for not meeting unrealistic standards during this season, reframe what a successful work outcome looks like. This means adjusting (not lowering) the expectations of working mothers. For example, when developing project timelines, deliberately build in buffers to allow for potential personal issues that may arise, such as the need for time off to tend to a family emergency. Also, consider adopting a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) model, where output and work quality (as opposed to hours and methods) are the main focus.
Demonstrating empathy and being flexible
Employers need to show more compassion than ever before. It starts with little things like not judging a mom who shows up to a Zoom call looking slightly dishevelled or understanding when her kids start screaming in the background. But it should also include tangible remedies like:
- Allowing women to choose their hours so they can handle domestic responsibilities and complete work assignments
- Standardizing extra time off so working moms can attend to their families and recover from burnout
- Providing the option to work from home when needed
Building stronger teams and emphasizing female leadership
Invest in your teams’ growth, longevity, and comradeship as doing so will naturally provide robust support systems for workers. In addition, nobody knows what it’s like to be a female in the workplace better than other females in the workplace. Focus on actively shaping and moulding leaders who will represent their women colleagues in critical organizational decisions. Seek their perspectives to create solutions to problems unique to working mothers.
A Bright Spot in All the Madness
Women still face many challenges in the workforce, but there’s hope:
“Despite women feeling more overworked and anxious in the last 12 months and twice as likely to sacrifice their career to be caregivers, female-founded start-ups have doubled, and the Fortune 500 has more female CEOs than ever, demonstrating women are key to a post-pandemic recovery.“
The Female Lead
Organizations can contribute to this progress by aggressively working towards gender-equalized cultures. The first step is creating awareness about these issues in the first place. Need a launch point? Check out our workshop on how to combat gender bias today!