“Working moms overlooked and left behind:” Bright Horizons’ Newest Modern Family Index in the News

Working mom walking with child

“When it comes to the workplace, many working moms still believe they're overlooked and left behind.”

So begins an article in USA Today about Bright Horizons 2018 Modern Family Index (MFI).

The study shows working mothers striving for careers, but held back by old-fashioned assumptions that keep them off the promotion track and out of the boardroom, even in 2019. The so-called Motherhood Penalty has costs, hitting not just working mothers, but also the employers they work for.

“Most employed Americans agree that working moms bring important leadership skills to the table,” reads the MFI. “When organizations don’t have many working mothers at the top, it keeps them from realizing their full potential as well.” 

From the study: 
• 91% of working Americans agree that moms can bring unique skills to leadership roles in an organization.
• 85% of respondents agree that being a mother helps a woman prepare for the challenges she will face as a business leader.
• 85% also agree that organizations need more moms in leadership roles at work.
• 84% believe that having mothers in leadership roles will make a business more successful.

Yet MFI data shows the situation for working mothers is only getting worse – with nearly twice as many women afraid to reveal a pregnancy versus five years ago. “Working mothers face major obstacles on the path to leadership,” says the study, “not just a glass ceiling, but negative attitudes from both senior leadership and coworkers.”

Happily, though, there are success stories. USA Today points to a number of employers – MasterCard, Home Depot, and Ernst & Young among them – that are successfully moving the dial. "There is no way as a mother of school-age children that I would be able to balance that without the appropriate supports in the workplace,'' Ernst & Young Partner and Principal Jackie P. Taylor told USA Today.

"I think any parent, you always have that struggle of you want to do a great job at work because work is really important,” Home Depot Merchant and working mother Hila Roberts told the paper. With her company’s help, she’s been successful on both the work and family front. “It's really about the leadership here and them being supportive of having someone like me.”

The paper also reports on MasterCard taking the extra step of helping women who’ve left the workforce to “Relaunch Your Career.” 

Continuing progress will require keeping the challenges top of mind. "I think we keep believing that these things have evolved,'' our own CHRO Maribeth Bearfield told USA Today. But "there are still women in the workplace who feel they’re being disadvantaged on things like pay (and) career opportunities. ...You hear 'She’s got children; she may not be able to work on the project as much.' 'Do we want her traveling?'”

“Conversations that shouldn’t take place,” said Maribeth, “but they do.’’

Read the USA Today article in its entirety. And then download the full study, here.

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

January 29, 2019

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.