t’s no secret that many working mothers struggle with work-life balance and a lack of workplace flexibility. But it turns out that it may also be driving them out of the workforce, as well.
In her new book, Work PAUSE Thrive, journalist and consultant Lisen Stromberg surveyed 1,476 college educated women and found that career gaps were surprisingly common. Only 11 percent of the women planned on pausing their careers for motherhood, yet 72 percent ended up doing it anyway.
In an interview with NBC News, Stromberg explained that the women took career breaks for reasons that are familiar to working moms everywhere, including lack of workplace flexibility, expensive childcare options and a bias against mothers.
“What we learned is that women, once they become mothers, are viewed as less promotable, less likely to be leadership material, less committed,” she said. “Interestingly, men, when they become fathers, are viewed as more promotable, more capable, more committed and so on.”
Stromberg goes on to say that the top reason women leave the workforce is because of a “lack of control of their time.” The women surveyed weren't able to establish a schedule that allowed them to successfully balance both work and family, so they were driven out.
“They were willing to work hard but needed time mastery so that they could do the things they wanted to do in work and life,” she said. “I call it time mastery. For the majority of the 28 percent of women who never paused, the reason they didn’t pause was they had supportive work environments that rewarded productivity, not face-time.”
Whether you refer to it as “time mastery” or work-life balance, it’s clear that inflexible employers forced many of the study's participants out of the workforce—a move that can cost moms literally millions in lost wages. Not to mention, it's often difficult for moms to reenter at the same salary and title they had before kids.
As for a solution, Stromberg said that women should examine their current work environment and ask themselves if it is a place that will provide the flexibility they need.
“Look at your company and really assess,” she said. “Do I have a manager or do I have a situation where I can partner with my company and make this work for me and them? Is this an environment where that conversation can even be had? If it’s not, then I would encourage the person to leave.”
Thankfully, there are at least a few companies that provide much-needed flexibility to working mothers. Check out Working Mother's 2017 100 Best Companies list for information on this year’s winners and the flexible work options they provide.