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How to Support and Celebrate Women in the Workplace This Mother’s Day — and Every Other Day

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women in the workforce, but the post-pandemic hybrid workplace holds many possibilities for flexible arrangements and employment opportunities — specifically for mothers.

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It should come as no surprise that working mothers make terrific leaders, according to Bright Horizons’ Modern Family Index. Nearly 9 out of 10 people said working moms in leadership roles brought out their employees’ best sides. What’s more, around two-thirds called them better listeners, and more than half applauded their ability to remain calm amid chaos.

With all these kudos, why aren’t working mothers favored for promotions or celebrated for their talents more often? In some societies and cultures, they are. The U.S. has yet to catch up — and especially in the COVID-19 era. Since the start of the pandemic, professional moms in the U.S have borne the brunt of many stressors. Pew Research Center data shows that teleworking mothers were much more likely to shoulder significant child care duties (while also meeting workplace responsibilities) than teleworking dads.

This isn’t to dismiss fathers, of course. It’s to highlight a disconnect between how companies treat working moms and what those moms are worth. Talented people are tough to find, so if you’re in any position to make workplace changes in support of working mothers, aim high. Below are four ideas to get you started:

1. Survey your working moms to uncover gaps.

Forget about using your intuition to figure out how to help working moms at your company. Instead, send out an anonymous survey to gain insights and encourage discussion. Ask all your working parents about their biggest struggles and wishes in terms of balancing home life and careers. Then, use the feedback you receive to make changes — particularly for moms. Otherwise, you might lose some of the most vital members of your team, which isn’t fiscally or culturally beneficial.

For instance, your company might already have a mothers room where nursing moms can pump or breastfeed in private. That’s terrific. Is the room comfortable enough for your working moms to relax fully, though? Does it have the right amenities? Kazoo co-founder Autumn Manning recommends that employers outfit their mothers rooms with little touches (think a small fridge, cozy seating, and warm décor). As Manning has noted, “There’s very little difference in the budget needed to make positive experiences happen, but there’s a huge gap in how it feels to the working mother.”

2. Show your support for women-owned businesses.

Women head up around 40% of businesses in the U.S. This means that when you’re looking for vendors and business partners, you could have a good chance of finding a woman-owned business to support. But do you? Alison Gutterman, CEO and president of Jelmar (the company behind CLR cleaning products), believes companies have an obligation to actively put their dollars behind great companies helmed by great women.

“Before purchasing anything, consider every alternative,” says Gutterman. “Your choices may lead you to spend more money supporting organizations run by women, ideally setting a precedent for other women to follow suit … When it makes sense, I patronize women-run businesses to show solidarity.” It isn’t hard to research organizations to see if they’re headed up by women, either. Most have “about us” pages on their websites that include executive lineups. If you’re having trouble finding a women-led organization to meet a certain need, explore a hashtag like #BuyWomenOwned on LinkedIn or another social channel.

3. Launch a parent support group at your company.

Parents have plenty in common, and it’s beneficial for them to share stories, ideas, and doubts. Make that process effortless by creating a working mothers employee resource group (or an ERG). Tribe, Inc. CEO and executive creative director Elizabeth Baskin writes that “one of the most basic functions of an ERG is to provide a safe place to share experiences and receive support from other members. That seems sorely needed by mothers working remotely right now.”

A 2020 Women in the Workplace report states that mothers are more than two times as likely as fathers to worry that their work performance is being judged negatively because of caregiving duties. And two-thirds of moms take on most of the responsibility for raising their kids. This leaves mothers feeling emotionally depleted, and your parent support group could be the opportunity teleworking moms need to de-stress.

4. Give flexible scheduling a try.

Many employee advocates believe that productivity should be measured in tasks completed, not hours logged. Studies support this, showing that employees who can “flex” their schedules are more productive and engaged (i.e., less likely to quit). Technology such as virtual private networks, Slack, Zoom, and the like makes it easy for working moms — and all employees — to work from anywhere at any time.

This allows them to complete their tasks while not having to juggle what feels like a million bowling balls. Here’s the bottom line: If a working mom can do her job in 30 or 35 hours, does it matter? Would you even know given that everything ran smoothly? Probably not. So give adaptable hybrid scheduling a trial run to show your support for working moms.

Moms make the world better. This Mother’s Day (and in the days after), show the moms in your organization how much you appreciate their contributions both on and off the job.

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