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Childcare remains the foremost obstacle which women face in the advancement of their careers. Even in the age of progressivism, woman’s empowerment, and feminist ideals, women still perform the majority of childcare responsibilities.
The lack of affordable, dependable, safe, and trusting childcare options affects families across the world. Employment opportunities for women with children and family-oriented workplace environments will be the catalyst for shifting the mindset which looks negatively upon working mothers. Even as the author of this piece, I research and write on the issue of working mothers fighting for value in the workplace with a sleeping infant on a bed behind me, hoping he sleeps long enough for me to complete my assignment. Unable to work outside of the home due to the long rigid hours worked by my partner and the excessive costs of quality childcare, I must balance my home, my children, and my desire for a rewarding career.
My story is not unique. Women across the world are burdened by the antiquated notion that they bear the responsibility for child-rearing. Should a woman want to start a career, she’s responsible for seeking out and securing childcare options and missing work for her child’s illness or activities. This concept often forces mothers to choose their children over their personal growth and careers. Conversely, we also see women choosing to delay or not have children altogether because they strive for a particular career which would be negatively impacted by having children. Having a fulfilling career not only reduces stress on mothers but also provides financial independence for women (Poduval & Poduval, 2009).
Mothers work for intellectual fulfillment, but they also work out of necessity. In today’s socio-economic climate, it is more likely that both parents must continue to work outside of the home after having children. Women’s need and desire to continue working after becoming mothers create a population within society that has unique and specific needs. Working mothers, especially minorities, face challenges in their careers disproportionately when compared to working fathers. The circumstances faced by women call for changes in the mindset of employers and the workplace environment in order to help shift the bias against working mothers in a more favorable direction. The male-centric view of working parents forces women to either set aside their careers, stop attending school, or simply give up the idea of a career at all.
While society slowly shifts the family to balance equally on both partners, there needs to be a bridge that closes the gap for women. Bridging the GapEmployers can implement systems which allow women to strive for more. A positive, mother-friendly workplace environment enables women to care for their children and also have a career because they want to and because someone has provided options for them to do so. Childcare initiatives and changes in the workplace environment shift the balance for women. We can’t wait for society to change its view of working mothers without implementing practices to help women go to work now. An employer providing creative workplace options allows women to pursue work outside the home (out of a necessity or simply out of desire) and forces the continuing evolution of society toward an equal balance in childcare responsibilities.
The U.S. Department of Labor recognizes the unique circumstances that women are under in our society and that the working lives of women are affected more significantly and more frequently than those of men. It is no longer okay to define women by motherhood alone. Women deserve the fulfillment and financial independence that a career provides without the obstacles that result from having children. Such obstacles consist of the guilt of working and the emotional labor required to maintain a home and schedule for children. Working mothers tend to balance the majority of tasks at home all while trying to perform at their best within their careers. Employers can support working mothers and reduce the stressors associated with balancing family and work. Reducing workplace hostility towards motherhoodWomen who become mothers are unfairly viewed as underproductive in the workplace (Poduval & Poduval, 2009).
Working mothers, forced to balance work and children, require more time away from work in order to care for and raise their children. Contrast this view against the way working fathers are perceived in the workplace and there is a clear bias against working mothers over working fathers. Career choices and career advancements for women are affected by considerations of childcare and child-rearing more often than those career choices are for men who are fathers (Labor, 1993). Employers can alleviate these factors and the disadvantages that mothers face by recognizing that not only is the view of mothers as underproductive an unfair one, but the employer also has a responsibility to provide options for parents in order to balance both the home and their careers. What can employers do? Provide family leave without fear of consequences for the mother provide flexibility in the work environment for a working mother (part-time, working from home, etc.) Ensure workplace gender diversityEnsure that hiring and promotional practices are balanced and fair, not biased against motherhoodProvide on-site childcare facilities recognize the varying needs of mothers and provide support accordingly (single parents vs. two-parent households).
Parenting and child-rearing remain a responsibility primarily held by mothers. Employers need to recognize this bias against motherhood. Employers who make these changes and provide support for working mothers will see a shift in productivity as well as a shift in the view of working mothers. Motherhood does not serve a cause of under-productivity when the necessary support systems for mothers are in place. Employers must acknowledge this and provide support in order to bridge the gap while society continues to shift the balance of child-rearing to both parents.
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