Help for Working Moms: Can Paid Leave, Services, Policies and Apps Help?

New research is conflicting on what working moms want and need.

New research is conflicting on what working moms want and need.

What do Papua New Guinea and the United States have in common?

Neither country has a national paid family leave law. Some suggest that solving the conundrums of working moms might be as simple as a national family paid leave policy.

NPR recently examined the status of American working parents, and found: “’The U.S. is absolutely the only high-income country that doesn’t’ provide paid maternity leave, says Jody Heymann of UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. In fact, of the 193 countries in the United Nations, Heymann says, 185 have national paid leave laws.”

In another segment in the NPR series, this one on California where family leave is working, they reported: “Since the family leave law went into effect more than a decade ago, it’s had a positive impact, says sociologist Ruth Milkman, a professor at City University of New York, who has studied the law and its history.”

“When she and a colleague surveyed large, midsize and small companies in California five years after the state’s family leave law went into effect, they discovered those early fears hadn’t played out. More than 90 percent of businesses reported a neutral or even positive impact on their companies after the law. The positive impact had to do with improved employee productivity and morale,” according to NPR.

While morale may improve for all employees, paid family leave in particular addresses the needs of working moms. Aparna Mathur, economist for the American Enterprise Institute, told NPR: “In states like California that have implemented paid family leave, research suggests that women are much more likely to get back to work. They have higher wages. They’re able to participate more actively in developing a career, you know, improving lifetime earnings. And that helps the economy as a whole.”

While morale improves for all employees, paid family leave addresses the needs of working moms #taketheleadwomen

“Whether they want to or not, the vast majority of parents American parents do work. Nearly 70 percent of mothers and 93 percent of fathers with children under age 18 work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” according to Yahoo Finance.

A new poll from Gallup recently surveying 323,500 American adults, about working and parenting, found what many considered surprising results.

“More than half (54 percent) of both working and non-working moms recently told Gallup that given the choice, they’d choose to stay home and take care of their home and family rather than hold a job,” according to Yahoo.

Yet, what did not make many headlines from that study is that 45 percent of women said they would like to be CEO or promoted to a position of senior management.

According to Jane Miller, CEO and executive vice president of Gallup, “One of the goals of this report is to encourage businesses to embrace all segments of women in the workplace and move past common stereotypes about working women. All women should have opportunities to learn, grow and develop.”

Miller continues, “The topic of women in the workplace is sensitive and controversial. Yet, in every business, leaders must deconstruct and discuss — transparently — how to create cultures that make sense for women.”

She adds, “In the U.S., more than 5 million jobs are available. But women and men continue to drop out of the workforce in troubling numbers. We have to figure out how to get people back to work and how to keep them at work. However, many women don’t want what businesses are offering them.”.

In what may be a giant leap forward for working moms and dads, President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order that federal contractors allow all their employees to have paid sick leave.

According to the Economic Policy Institute: “In line with the Department of Labor, our estimates suggest that between 694,000 and 1,053,000 employees of federal contractors may directly benefit from additional paid sick leave, including an estimated 450,000 to 775,000 who currently receive no paid sick leave.”

“According to a new survey of more than 300 organizations from the Society of Human Resource Management, new moms receive an average of 41 paid days off, compared with 22 days for dads,” writes Rebecca Greenfield in Bloomberg.

Highlighting the disparity between maternity and paternity leave, Greenfield writes, “In the past year, companies such as Twitter, Neftlix, Etsy, and Facebook have all expanded their leave plans to include all parents, regardless of gender.”

To help working women manage the labyrinth of information about employers and their maternity leave policies, Fairygodboss offers a wealth of resources, including a Maternity Leave Resource Center and a Parental Leave Tracker, keeping score on employers who have improved their policies.

Georgene Huang and Romy Newman, co-founders of Fairygodboss, are Take The Lead hosts of the October 19 Virtual Happy Hour at 6:30 p.m ET, where they will share what led them to create, an online resource for women to review employers and rate how female-friendly their work environment is, how to avoid getting “mommy tracked” and what you can do to increase transparency in the workplace.

Beyond paid maternity leave, resources for working moms are missing from the marketplace. To answer that need, UN advisor Shannon Spanhake and Chitra Akileswara, a Harvard medical school lecturer, launched the app,  LUCY, what they call “a one-stop marketplace providing health care support and advice to expectant families and also helping employers to retain valuable talent, increase productivity and reduce spending on health and attrition.”

Beyond paid maternity leave, resources for working moms are missing from the marketplace #taketheleadwomen

Named after the mother of us all, “Lucy, our oldest known human ancestor, is known as the mother of humanity. She was discovered in Ethiopia and is dated to 3.2 million years ago,” according to the website.

According to the founders, “Working mothers today are more ambitious than ever and yet have less support than they historically had. They live far away from their home communities and may even work remotely from their teams. In their dual roles as parents and professionals, working mothers often have to piece together the skills and support they need to juggle it all. This has resulted in what we see today: a leaky pipeline of women who have aspirations to lead, and yet are forced to make hard choices to be a parent first and an employee second.”

The website states: “We at LUCY have found a way to create that “village” for working mothers. We believe LUCY will become an industry standard – a household standard – for how families recruit help, build skills, and attain confidence as they grow.

Natasha Lomas writes about Lucy in Tech Crunch: “Specifically it’s for pregnant women in the third and fourth trimester, so pre-birth and post-partum. The idea being to serve up custom support plans for expectant parents to make it easier for families to locate and book allied (and vetted) health professionals.”

She adds, “The team has a website but it’s a mobile app play first and foremost. On sign up the app asks the user to respond to a few questions, such as whether it’s their first child and to quantify their attitude to particular services, before generating a suggested support plan, with recommended services viewable and bookable right in the app. Down the line they intend to support user ratings/reviews.”

Other entrepreneurs are rushing to market with services and opportunities for working moms trying to make it all go more smoothly.

Entrepreneurs are rushing to market with services and opportunities for working moms #taketheleadwomen

Allison Robinson, CEO of The Mom Project, tells the Chicago Tribune: “I felt like the decision of being a full-time career mom or a stay-at-home mom was too binary, and I wanted to create a solution in between, that allowed moms to stay professionally engaged through rewarding, challenging work to keep their skill sets current.”

The Mom Project is “free to job hunters, collects information on their backgrounds and aims and on companies’ needs. In candidates, it looks for an undergraduate degree, at least, and five years of work, and verifies education and employment histories before someone gets an offer. Employers pay Robinson a service fee of 20 percent of what they pay their new hire. The business has signed up more than 150 employers, including Hyatt Hotels and Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co., and more than 50 have made a match or are close to making one,” according to the Tribune.

The Gallup poll results may also be surprising in light of new research from Cornell University based on diaries of 12,000 parents that finds, “Mothers experience less enjoyment than fathers because they spend more time on the unpleasant jobs of parenting compared to fathers,” writes Jenny Anderson in Quartz.

“Research shows that parenting is generally harder on mothers. They spend more time at it, tie more of their self image to the concept of being a good mother, and feel more stretched between work and home (though men are catching up here). They have less down time,” Anderson writes. “Despite an increasing ‘provide’ role for mothers, the ‘good mother’ role still carries expectations of primary caregiving.”

Along with the expectations of being a good mother, there is also the expectation of being a good employee, entrepreneur, CEO, leader or manager.

“The topic of women in the workplace is sensitive and controversial,” according to Miller at Gallup. “Yet, in every business, leaders must deconstruct and discuss — transparently — how to create cultures that make sense for women.”

About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon