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Mothers in the Workplace: 12 Ways Employers Can Attract and Retain Working Moms

Successful businesses need to hire the best talent out there. Since 47% of U.S. workers are women, that means creating policies and a company culture that supports working mothers. During COVID-19, this is even more important, as more than one in four working moms are considering reducing their hours or leaving the workforce entirely.

Continue reading to learn the steps you can take to attract more working moms and create a great environment for the working mothers at your company.

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Benefits of hiring working moms

Why is hiring working mothers good for business? Mothers are often masters of prioritization, multi-tasking, communication, negotiation and organization. They are incredibly resilient and adaptable, great at dealing with distractions and a lack of sleep, and know what it takes to juggle multiple demands.

Beyond their unique skill set, hiring working mothers can make your teams more diverse, offer new perspectives that drive innovation and help model and promote a flexible workplace culture (e.g., taking time off to go to a child’s sports game, taking leave when a child is sick) with clear boundaries for other employees.

12 ways to attract and support working mothers

Creating a great work environment for mothers can help you retain your workforce and build a culture that attracts a diverse range of candidates, including working moms. Here are 12 steps you can take to accomplish that:

1. Know your workforce

Before launching a program to support working mothers, start by gathering relevant data. For example, identify where the majority of mothers are within your organization. Are there any working moms in leadership roles or is that an area you could look to improve? Look at the retention rates for your working parents and take note of any patterns.

Related: How to Promote Gender Equality in the Workplace

2. Define the demographic

Once you’ve identified the working parents in your workforce, the next step is to define your demographic. Because parenting is often an 18-year-long job, parents will have different needs based on the stage of their parenting journey. Align your organization’s programs to target all of your working mothers, whether they’re pregnant or have children in high school.

Some organizations, for example, actively encourage employees to use personal days to take care of their family’s needs as well as their own. This can send a more inclusive message and reassure employees that you fully support working parents.

Read more: How to Support Working Parents During COVID-19

3. Focus resources on transition points

One way to keep employees focused is to provide support during transition points, like welcoming a new child, managing a change in schedule or role, or coming back from parental leave. For this reason, many companies focus their benefits and programming on these points, such as offering parental leave on a phase-back basis that gives mothers a gentler return transition (e.g., working half days for the first few weeks).

4. Offer accommodations for new mothers

It’s important to be intentional about fostering a company culture that’s supportive of new mothers. Even if it’s not required by your state’s laws, consider offering a specific space for nursing mothers to breastfeed or pump to ensure both comfort and sanitation. This often involves offering a private, quiet space with a locked door, a comfortable chair and towels.

Some companies even offer private refrigerators for breast milk only, which can further contribute to working moms feeling comfortable, welcome and included in the workplace.

5. Consider benefits that appeal to working moms

Parental benefits like paid maternity leave, child care assistance (e.g., reimbursement for daycare fees, backup child care) or an on-site childcare service can attract new talent to your organization.

Some companies choose to offer increased flexibility in work schedules to accommodate not only working mothers but their entire workforce. Parent-friendly flexibility options could include allowing employees to work from home a few days per week offering staggered or compressed work weeks, or trying the unlimited PTO model.

Other benefits that may appeal to working mothers include:

  • Dependent care flexible spending accounts (FSAs)
  • Stipends for child care expenses
  • Digital forums for parents at your company to chat with each other
  • Programs for new parents
  • Paid sick leave

Related: Setting Employee Work Schedules: A Manager’s Guide

6. Advertise resources for working mothers that are already in place

Many companies already have an employee benefits program in place that supports working mothers, such as an employee assistance program (EAP) . However, employees may not realize these programs exist or don’t understand what they have access to.

Make sure your existing benefits are visible to all employees. One solution is to create a single, user-friendly website or company intranet that makes it easy for employees to identify what kind of benefits are available to them.

7. Communicate often

One of the simplest steps a company can take to support working mothers is to keep the lines of communication open and discuss their changing needs with supervisors or human resources. Be empathetic, compassionate and understanding about the challenges working moms face. Ask them how they’re feeling, what they need and any specific way you can support them.

Another way to promote work/life balance is by categorizing communications, especially any sent outside of business hours. An easy way to employ this strategy is to lead email subject lines with headers like, “Not urgent,” “For Monday” and “Urgent.”

8. Create a parental leave handbook

You can easily solidify your expectations as an employer and give expecting mothers the tools they need to have a successful maternity leave by creating a parental leave handbook. Solicit feedback and guidance from other leaders in your organization who are also mothers. A handbook helps mothers know what to expect while they’re away and how to transition back into the workplace more easily.

9. Collect data

Measure the effectiveness of any new initiatives by gathering data before you start and again a year later. Look at whether your employees are using their vacation time or family leave time, what your retention rate is and whether mothers are returning from maternity leave or not.

10. Be consistent

It’s important to be consistent with your policies for all employees. For example, a working mother may have an especially accommodating manager or may have negotiated for specific benefits when she was hired. However, this can send the wrong message to the rest of your workforce. Show that you support everyone in the workforce by maintaining and enforcing consistent policies for all of your employees. This might also mean offering the same level of schedule flexibility or time off for all employees, regardless of whether or not they have children.

11. Set a visible example

One way leaders can show that they support working moms is by setting an example for balancing work and family. For example, family photos placed visibly on managers’ desks and talking openly about family life outside of the workplace sends a message to members of their team that a work/life balance is possible. Practicing vulnerable leadership (e.g., being open about parenting struggles) can also normalize these conversations and keep working moms from feeling alone.

12. Create a mentorship program

Consider creating a mentorship program to connect new or expecting mothers with moms in leadership positions. This will provide them with support and build their confidence as they navigate their new role as a parent.

Showing all moms in your workplace that you support them can help you retain top talent, attract other qualified mothers to your company and have a big impact on their overall morale and productivity. Not only that, but having a diverse, inclusive workforce can make your company more innovative, competitive and successful.

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