94% of Working Mothers of Color Cite Lack of Flexibility as a Major Challenge


The COVID-19 pandemic affected people and industries in different ways. Among the most affected people, women, especially mothers, were a significant population. According to the United Census Bureau’s 2021 studyOpens a new window , over 10 million working mothers living with their children were not actively working as of January 2021. Women stopped working for various reasons. A sizeable number of mothers, especially, stopped working to take care of their children and families. According to another study by ResumeBuilder, 11% of respondents stopped working to take care of their children.

The Mom Project, a digital talent community and marketplace that connects professionally accomplished women, especially mothers, to companies, surveyed 520 people who participated in the RISE program to understand their experiences. Out of the total respondents, 90% were female, 70% were people of color, and 83% were mothers.

According to the study, women and mothers had to overcome many work-related and personal challenges, and childcare was just one of them. The following are nine major pain points of working mothers:

See more: How To Get Women Employees Back Into the Workforce Post Pandemic

  1. Childcare

During the pandemic’s peak, along with corporations, the education system, too, went remote and online. Working mothers found it challenging to maneuver the school schedules and limited daycare availability. About 54% of the respondents said that managing limited daycare availability and inconsistent school schedules was a pain.

2. Flexibility

Work flexibility was another major challenge for most working women. In fact, 94% of the respondents said that lacking flexibility at work and their certification programs was a significant pain point.

3. Financials

For a significant number of participants, their financial situation was a pain point. About 71% of the respondents said that providing the necessary financial support for current and future needs was a challenge.

4. Job Search

Many women who quit their job voluntarily or were forced to move out during the pandemic want to get back into the workforce. However, searching and applying for a job is not a simple task. It requires time and energy. About 74% of the respondents felt that submitting applications with limited time and energy was challenging.

5. Career (Re)entry

Another major challenge with getting back into the workforce is that it is difficult to find a suitable job for many women. According to 90% of the survey respondents, reentering the workforce or getting into a new industry was a challenge. This was echoed in another study. According to the ResumeBuilder study mentioned earlier, 30% of respondents said no job opportunities existed. Further, 36% said that though they were applying for jobs, they were not getting hired.

6. Career Navigation

According to 56% of respondents, lacking tools and resources for career guidance and opportunities was a major pain point.

7. Reaching Out

Many women do not feel comfortable about asking people for help. About 60% of the respondents felt that hesitation and feeling uncomfortable to ask for help was a major challenge.

8. Wellness

Taking on multiple responsibilities undoubtedly takes a toll on one’s health. About 64% of the respondents said they experienced physical and mental strain from taking several responsibilities.

9. Workload

For about 80% of the respondents, keeping up with various commitments was a major challenge.

In addition to these challenges, about 80% of Black/African American respondents said they had to be strong and resilient. Moreover, 50% of Black/African American participants had experiences as single parents with no one else to share the responsibility of co-parenting, adding to their existing stress.

See more: 3 Ways the Pandemic Can Change the Conversation for Women in Tech

What Can Be Done

A few conclusions drawn from the study is that working mothers have several responsibilities and value a few things, such as flexibility, work-life balance, inclusion and tools/guidance that can help them get back into the workforce. In fact, 92% of the survey respondents valued work-life balance, and 94% valued diversity and flexibility. A significant number of working women have also shown a preference for remote work.

For example, Kate GrayOpens a new window , head of people, Omnipresent, said:

“As a mother, remote work allows me to work like I never have before. Historically, I’ve worked with organizations that have some element of flexible working but I was always the one having to visibly leave whilst people were still working. There was a feeling of guilt for ‘leaving early.’ Now, my day is completely flexible and that has helped with my mental health and am here to do school pickup and bedtime routines. In a senior role, I now have the opportunity to work for a company that promotes flexibility and allows women to pursue a meaningful career. When I had my daughter, I had to take a full year’s maternity leave because I couldn’t work from home. If I had had her while at Omnipresent, it would have been completely different. For someone who is a primary carer, it allows them to be flexible and not have to choose between having it all or having to make choices. The guilt from trying to have it all, and the feeling of doing it okay, but not great, is the greatest challenge. Omnipresent allows me to cater to my demanding job and my demanding family life.”

Similarly, Lucy AshenhurstOpens a new window , general counsel, Omnipresent, said, “Working from home doesn’t mean I work remote; it means I work connected. Connected with my colleagues, connected with my children and connected with the pile of washing up I now have time to tackle between calls. (It can’t all be sunshine and roses!) I started my career at cutthroat corporate firms, where working 36 hours without sleeping was a badge of honor, but there was no expectation of connection with anything other than the carpet under your desk. I could never understand why they happily paid six-figure salaries but didn’t trust their staff to work from home occasionally! 

Thankfully, we have come a long way since then. Recent years have seen a gradual shift towards flexible working but while the recent pandemic has been heartbreaking, it has also accelerated the remote working trend by proving that if employees are trusted, supported and happy, they actually work more, not less. It’s a personal choice we made to be closer to my mum after she lost her husband recently but it also means I am three hours from London, which would mean long hours commuting, and being resigned to being a weekend-only mum, wife and daughter. Frankly, it would have broken my heart. Instead, I have converted the kids’ playroom into my home office and I still manage to do 8+ hour days without missing out on the school run, reading a story or popping into the garden to see the “super cool slug we found Mummy!” Connection is everything.”

When organizations offer employee benefits, they should focus on flexible working hours and remote work to encourage mothers to stay or apply for jobs. Further, instead of measuring productivity by the number of hours, employers should measure it in terms of what was achieved and the quality of work. 

In addition to work flexibility, companies can offer reskilling and returnship programsOpens a new window like the one’s companies like Amazon, Hubspot, IBM, and Deloitte offer. Most importantly, companies should create a supportive culture for working mothers. By taking the necessary steps, companies can alleviate the challenges of working mothers and reap better returns.

What steps have you taken to alleviate the pain points of working mothers? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .


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