A woman in casual clothes holds a baby in one arm as she works on a laptop at home.

How to Work Well with Working Mothers – and Why it’s Worth It

Sep 15, 2021

by Jessica Larson

Women STEM professionals are familiar with the pressure of working in a male-dominated world. When these professionals become mothers, the challenges become even greater. Even in 2021, women can feel like they must choose between having a career and having a family. This is a phenomenon that was only made more evident by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

A year and a half into the pandemic, women and working mothers are still disproportionately absent from the workforce. Amid this current “she-cession” and the significant loss of talent across many industries, it is more important than ever to understand that women, specifically working mothers, are worth championing.

Here are four tips for working well with working mothers.

Allow Recharge Breaks For Family

The pandemic has had brutal consequences for working women, including the mothers who made the difficult choice to place their careers on hold to care for their children through school closings and distance learning. Though the future of the pandemic (and its impact on the return of women to the workforce) is hard to predict, implementing family-friendly policies in your business is a no-brainer. Perhaps one of the best ways to do this is to acknowledge or even mandate mental health days to allow employees to recharge with their families.

In high-caliber scientific industries, burnout is already a looming threat to women, due to the typical challenges they face. Working mothers who have been out of work while taking care of their families, or juggling the two this entire time, will need help and support in returning to work and balancing their lives. Mental health days allow all of your employees to remain at the top of their game. Whether your business adopts a flexible workweek schedule, or mandates a number of days per month or year for recharging, keeping your working mothers mentally sharp and rested will ensure their talents stay at optimum levels.

Strive For A Culture of Work-Life Balance

Though it is a phrase often thrown around without much implementation, creating a culture of work-life balance is possible. And it’s worth the investment. Much like enforcing mental health days, understanding that employees wear many hats in their lives can help them achieve balance. Take steps to learn about your employee’s lives outside of work, and consider implementing beneficial work-life changes. For working mothers, that may include providing on-site childcare, offering college reimbursement to help foster helpful skill-building, and establishing discount programs for expenses like school supplies, electronics, and clothing.

Another method of ensuring a healthy work-life balance for your employees is to help alleviate at-home stresses. Given the financial impact the pandemic has had on women, it’s no surprise that personal finances affect professional productivity.

Start by taking a close look at compensation and benefits packages. Though STEM fields are traditionally higher-paid industries, the gender wage gap still exists. Offering financial workshops and guidance programs that address common issues, like building and monitoring credit, can help reduce some of the hardships holding your employees back. Being a champion for the equality and financial health of your employees will not only maximize their potential, but that of your business as well.

Listen to Your Employees

Any good business owner or HR department will be in tune with the conversation taking place at the proverbial water cooler. Soliciting feedback proactively and listening to your employees will solidify yourself and your brand as a close ally of your talent, especially as you make decisions that will impact their daily lives.

Remote work is an example of a topic that employees, especially mothers, feel strongly about. Many STEM fields aren’t entirely conducive to work-at-home, but some have managed it with excellent results. However, not every woman, mother, or employee works best in a work-from-home model (homes with children can be distracting). That is why ensuring a lack of obstacles for your employees is vital.

Help to Develop Their Skills

To get mothers to return to industries already stacked against them, you will need to commit to increasing their value. One of the best ways to do this is by cultivating an atmosphere of mentorship within your company. Identify those employees who have excelled through the past year and a half. Get to know their skills and techniques, and allow them to share their pandemic-beating expertise with returning mothers. By utilizing your go-getters to bring others up to speed, you elevate your entire business.

It can also be a great boon to cross-train returning mothers in adjacent skills that will boost their portfolio of skills and create a great asset for your business. A current hot topic in the world of science is renewable energy and how to become a leader in fighting climate change. For example, new initiatives to achieve net zero carbon are pushing the construction industry to prioritize net zero energy building design. In turn, this will increase opportunities in solar, wind, transportation, and new product development, to name a few.

Though working women have always faced adversity not typically seen by their male counterparts, recent circumstances have made it clear that now is the time to become staunch advocates for a better future. By investing in your working mothers, and all of your employees, you become a beacon of hope in a field long-mired by a lack of equality.

If you’re a STEM employer, you can partner with AWIS to provide mothers and all women in your organization with access to AWIS member benefits, career resources, mentoring and leadership opportunities, and a sense of community.

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.
Jessica Larson is a guest author from SolopreneurJournal.com