It's no surprise that the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected working mothers. According to the April employment report, nearly 4.2 million women have been pushed out of the workforce, predominantly those who are Black and Latina, as a direct result of the public health crisis and the unequal division of labor that still persists inside the home. As the country slowly but surely reopens and people return to work, women are struggling to re-enter a workforce that has long been unkind to working moms — of the over 4 million who lost work, nearly 2 million remain unemployed.
Workers are in demand, and now is the time to proudly declare that being a mom doesn’t take away from your abilities as an employee or an entrepreneur — it enhances them.
"The challenge before us is to help these 2 million women to return to the labor market," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said this month. "Our policymaking has not accounted for the fact that people's work lives and their personal lives are inextricably linked, and if one suffers so does the other. The pandemic has made this very clear."
But in truth, the challenges for moms in the workplace existed long before Covid-19 ravaged the country. Pay for first-time moms dropped by 30 percent — a byproduct of the pre-existing gender gap and the fact that the majority of child care responsibilities still predominantly fall to women, who must reduce their hours as a result. Meanwhile, dads make about 20 percent more than child-free men because of several factors, including "hours worked, increased effort and positive discrimination," according to researchers. Altogether, 72 percent of working men and women are reported to say that women are penalized in their careers for having children, while men aren't.
Given the disparities, it's understandable if working moms want to play down or even hide motherhood from current or potential employers. In fact, 1 in 4 mothers admit they're concerned about their colleagues' perceptions once they have children, and 1 in 5 women are nervous about telling their employers they're pregnant. Some of their fears are, unfortunately, justified: 41 percent of workers believe moms are less devoted to their work than non-moms, and 38 percent judge them for needing more flexible work schedules.
We need to tackle this stigma and condescension head-on by advertising from the get-go that we are working mothers and that we have additional strengths as employees: We need to put the word "mother" on our résumés. Doing so combats implicit and explicit bias by proclaiming that motherhood is something unambiguously positive, not to mention a common life choice. It also helps demonstrate that the skills mothers use to keep families afloat are transferable to the workplace.
That's why on Tuesday my organization, HeyMama, a membership-based online community for entrepreneurial and working moms, is launching a campaign to urge women to add "motherhood" to their résumés. We hope moms will post #MotherhoodOnTheResume to encourage one another, hiring managers and those who support working moms to tear down the cultural hurdles.
We will not only encourage these women to type m-o-m on a CV but also help them enumerate the skill sets that make them desirable job candidates. Motherhood must be recognized for what it really is: a training ground for leadership in all its forms.
Attempting to potty train a defiant toddler in a pandemic is a crash course in crisis management. Settling a dispute between two hard-headed siblings is a free — and often recurring — class in conflict resolution. Balancing the family budget, managing a slew of family members' schedules and, in the era of Covid-19, working from home while facilitating at-home e-learning, cooking and cleaning are all valuable capabilities for employees.
On one level, society at large already gets this. A reported 91 percent of working Americans believe moms bring a unique set of skills to leadership roles — including being better listeners (65 percent), calmer in a crisis (51 percent), more diplomatic (47 percent) and better team players (44 percent) — and 89 percent believe they bring out the best in employees. But because of the stigma that persists, moms need support to make this point more visibly and emphatically.
Of course, there is a substantial risk for those who do incorporate motherhood and the experience it has equipped them with into workplace conversations and job applications. That risk is no doubt higher for Black, Indigenous and working moms of color, who endure racial as well as gender bias. Given that Black and brown moms lack sufficient access to affordable child care, reliable health care and other support systems that would make it easier for them to thrive in the workplace, they will no doubt face additional judgment and hurdles from hiring managers who view mothers' leaving early to pick up children or missing a day's work to care for sick children as a knock against them, versus a reality of life.
And yet, in the wake of historic job loss and the so-called she-cession, we are poised to alter how hiring managers, supervisors, employers and colleagues view motherhood and work as these women return to paid employment. Workers are in demand, and now is the time to proudly declare that being a mom doesn't take away from your abilities as an employee or an entrepreneur — it enhances them.