New York, NY (October 25, 2011)—There isn’t a mom around who hasn’t looked at someone else’s work life choices and questioned her own decisions. What Moms Choose: The Working Mother Report, a new study from the Working Mother Research Institute, sheds light on how moms feel about the paths they pick, where they feel most judged and what employers can do to keep working mothers engaged in their careers.
To learn about who chooses to stay home, who goes back to work, and the push-pull factors that shape all the decisions in between, the Working Mother Research Institute worked with Ernst & Young LLP to create the What Moms Choose survey, which was taken by 3,781 moms nationwide including both stay-at-home and working moms. The study yielded surprising insights.
Among the Top Findings
“We find that guilt and worry are universal conditions for moms,” says Carol Evans, President, Working Mother Media. “Working mothers carry a greater burden of guilt and feeling judged than their at-home counterparts, but the gap is surprisingly slender.” Here are the top three areas where moms feel judged, according to the What Moms Choose survey:
Working mothers feel most judged about:
- How clean my house is
- Not taking care of myself
- The amount of time I spend with my children
Stay-at-home mothers feel most judged about:
- My contribution to family finances
- How clean my house is
- Not using my education
UNTAPPED TALENT: AT-HOME, BUT CAREER-ORIENTED
This survey uncovered a new group of stay-at-home moms: the career oriented stay-at-home mom. More than half of these moms say they’d rather be working, and they work hard to hold on to their jobs. They return to work in greater rates after having a first child than paycheck-driven workers, and they stay longer when they do. For employers, these career-oriented stay-at-home moms represent an untapped and underused talent pool.
WHAT CAREER-ORIENTED WORKING MOMS REALLY WANT: SHIFTING PRIORITIES
What Moms Choose underscores the importance of programs that take into account women’s shifting priorities. For instance, what moms want when they have preschool children is different from what they prefer after children become school-aged. Career-oriented moms stated:
• They’d like to scale back during preschool years, but don’t want to drop out completely. In our survey, roughly half of all career-oriented moms say that working part-time before children are school-aged is desirable.
• They’d like to work full-time again after children are school-aged. Nearly three-quarters of career-oriented moms rank this as desirable.
• They want to be home at the end of the school day. When asked to define what makes a good mother, 63 percent say being there when the kids come home at the end of the day.
THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT BENEFITS FOR WORKING MOMS:
Here’s what working moms say are the most important benefits to them. (Percentage indicates proportion of respondents who rated each benefit as one of three most important):
57% Flexible work hours
51% Ability to use sick leave to care for children
36% Predictable work hours
24% Availability of part-time work
23% Paid maternity leave
FIVE MARCHING ORDERS FOR EMPLOYERS
Employers who can provide career paths for women at all levels—and all life stages—as well as respond to women’s top workplace needs will reap substantial benefits in improved productivity and bottom line gains. The survey suggests employers should focus on the following areas:
1) Establish a culture of trust
“With trust, flexibility can work for anyone, because at the heart of it is the belief that people will get the job done and we don’t need to monitor when and where work occurs,” says Billie Williamson, Americas Inclusiveness Officer, Ernst & Young LLP.
2) Focus on being family-friendly
What Moms Choose shows that family-friendly policies are a huge competitive advantage in attracting and keeping talent. “The fact that such a low percentage (22%) of stay-at-home moms say they would return to their previous employers speaks volumes about better understanding and addressing the needs of working mothers,” notes Jeffrey Merrifield Associate Director, Americas HR Strategy & Operations, Ernst & Young LLP. “Employers should note that a very clear majority of these same women say they would seek out an employer with a reputation for being a good employer for working mothers (58%) and family friendly policies (63%).”
3) Provide flexibility
Flexibility topped the survey’s rankings of most important workplace benefits, vaulting over such offerings as paid maternity leave, telecommuting and access to child-care benefits. “This confirms what working moms have told us over three decades of research,” says Jennifer Owens, Director, Working Mother Research Institute. “Flexibility is the number one thing working mothers want.”
4) Allow employees to use paid sick leave to care for a sick child
Parents need their employers’ trust and support that they will do what needs to be done. “Working parents don’t want to have to lie in order to stay at home with a sick child,” Owens says.
5) Provide predictable work hours
“The best companies know that plenty of planning for schedules is a key benefit their employees need,” says Evans. “No matter what kind of career she has, a working mother wants to protect her carefully laid plans for childcare.”
The Working Mother Research Institute worked with Ernst & Young LLP to create the What Moms Choose survey, which was fielded by Walker Communications through a series of email blasts sent by Survey Sampling International (SSI) in May 2011. A total of 3,781 individuals submitted online questionnaires. The final results are documented in this report, which was written by the Working Mother Research Institute. All tabulations, percentages and other calculations published in the accompanying report were compiled in accordance with established research standards.
To read the full report, What Moms Choose: The Working Mother Report, click here.
About the Working Mother Research Institute
The Working Mother Research Institute (WMRI), a division of Working Mother Media, is home to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies, Working Mother Best Companies for Multicultural Women, Working Mother Best Companies for Hourly Workers and the National Association
of Female Executives’ Top Companies for Executive Women, among other initiatives. WMRI produces insightful benchmarking reports as well as important research papers studying work life and the advancement of women and conducts surveys, such as What Moms Think: Career vs Paycheck and What Moms Choose: The Working Mother Report, to further corporate culture change nationwide.
About Ernst & Young:
Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, our 152,000 people are united by our shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. We make a difference by helping our people, our clients and our wider communities achieve their potential.
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