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The Outlook For Working Parents Is Worse Than What It Was In 2020

CleoThe Mom ProjectPL+US (Paid Leave for the United States), public officials, and large employers partnered to publish a report on COVID-19 and its impact on employment among working families, with a particular focus on working mothers.

At a high level, the data demonstrates that even after 18 months, the situation facing working parents is far from over and signals an impending exodus of working parents from the workforce. Here are some key findings:

The outlook for working parents is worse than what it was in 2020.

50% of families have had one or both parents leave the workforce, reduce hours, or take a leave of absence (compared to 20% in April 2020). 56% of parents that need childcare still don’t have access to full-time, reliable care. Their mental health is also suffering and working parents need support from their employers: 1/3 of parents report mental health benefits would make them feel more supported.

Caregiving and gender inequity are not costing women their jobs- it’s costing them their careers.

A reminder: 865,000 women left the workforce in September 2020 alone. Due to gender inequity, women were forced to prioritize their caregiving responsibilities over their career ambitions. Insufficient options for childcare and caregiving are significant drivers of attrition. 91% of women manage half or more of their families’ caregiving and education responsibilities and women are 2.3x more likely than men to care for an adult relative like an aging parent.

Men are advancing while women are being shut out or held back.

Nearly half of men feel they’ve advanced in their careers more or as much as expected since the start of the pandemic, while for women it’s only 1 in 3. Parents that feel included are 41% less likely to leave—and for working moms, in particular, it’s even more critical.

Flexibility is great, but for working parents, more money is even better.

Women offered a choice of if and when they go into an office are 20% less likely to leave their jobs. However, 44% of working parents are leaving due to insufficient compensation (compared to 38% citing the need for more flexibility). More than likely, the booming job market is also causing 40% of working parents to consider a job change in the second half of 2021.

Minority and LGBTQ+ working parents are the most at-risk of dropping out of the workforce.

40% of all working parents are considering leaving their job, and non-white parents are 28% more likely to do so. Non-white parents have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, inside and outside of the workplace. Only 46% of LGBTQ+ parents feel they can be themselves at work and are 2x less satisfied with their jobs, compensation, and benefits as a whole. Correspondingly, benefits supporting alternate paths to parenthood (surrogacy, adoption, fostering) would make 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ parents feel more supported.

What Can Be Done?

Invest in Parents encourages organizations to track and survey their parent workforce to help them feel heard and to tailor benefits and policies to what will make them feel supported. They also encourage companies to reevaluate their benefits and invest in modern support for working parents.

While it is important to measure working parents in the office, it is also important for working parents to bring their authentic selves to work and leverage all available benefits. Revealing one’s true self is what propels a career to the next level. And bringing personal examples into the office gives that compelling edge needed to form a camaraderie with peers and executive leadership. The two principles of tracking and surveying the parent workforce and the ability for working parents to bring their authentic selves to work are codependent, as The Caring Company at Harvard Business School illustrates below.

Of course, we can’t forget the role a policy change could play to mitigate problems for working parents. 3 in 4 parents were offered new benefits or company policies to support them through the pandemic, but a national paid sick leave policy would allow them time to provide care to a sick family member.

CEO of Cleo Sarahjane Sacchetti says this data is (unfortunately) just a confirmation of what we already knew. “Things haven’t gotten better, and with Delta uprooting return to office and school reopening plans, business leaders are scrambling to keep their working parents happy and supported in their roles. We need a major change in how we support parents or we’re going to see a mass exodus of them from the workforce – this needs to happen in days, not years.”

The Invest in Parents report has been published alongside “The Invest In Parents Pledge,” a movement committed to supporting, protecting, and investing in working parents. Employers and individuals who sign the Invest in Parents Pledge commit to advocating for and supporting working parents to help them participate in, remain in, and thrive in the workforce. Those interested in signing the pledge can find it here.

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