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Dr. Dana Sumpter Shares Three Ways Companies Can Support and Retain Working Mothers for Harvard Business Review

November 18, 2020  | 2 min read

Dr. Dana SumpterThe Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the way people work and what the future holds -- especially for working mothers. As of September 2020, 865,000 women left the U.S. workforce compared to the 216,000 men. Working mothers are having to choose between putting their careers on pause to address home matters, such as helping their children with distance learning, or reducing their work hours. Work/life boundaries are nonexistent during mandated work from home policies and addressing these challenges has fallen on the shoulders of employees rather than their employers and managers. As a working mother herself, Dr. Dana Sumpter, and her colleague Mona Zanhour, wanted to understand these challenges further and interviewed working mothers from around the nation.

Interview conversation relieved a situation that is not suitable and could further push women out of the workforce. As Covid-19 cases begin to spike again, and the state may be forced to consider further lockdowns, Dr. Sumpter’s findings suggest three key ways managers and employers can ensure mothers remain on the job.

  1. Provide certainty and clarity, wherever possible. Several participants stated the uncertainty about the future and worrying about job insecurity was the cause of additional stress and chaos. Managers need to provide clear communication and certainty when possible.
  2. Rightsize job expectations. Nearly all participants stated they were still recovering from the upheavals of March and April. Childcare demands remained consuming and pre-pandemic level work performance was still impossible. Employers that implement parent-friendly scheduling policies that take everyone’s circumstances into consideration can create developmental opportunities for employees.
  3. Continue the empathy. As pandemic fatigue sets in, managers’ responsiveness and compassion run out. Though working from home may not be new, many of the home pressures, such as restricted working space or children who are enrolled in distance learning, are still there.

Employers and managers must take the lead in helping create a virtual workplace environment that is supportive of all employees. Read more.