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Moms Returning to the Workforce Still Want It All, Yet Say Barriers to Their Success Remain

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Karen Stoychoff

A new survey commissioned by SurePayroll shows moms eager to return to the workforce but raise concerns about barriers to their success.


Survey reveals moms missed their job, but not the gender-based bias, issues surrounding breastfeeding

It’s been 44 years since a fragrance company introduced the “eight-hour perfume for the 24-hour women” with a jingle featuring the lyrics, I can bring home the bacon. Fry it up in a pan...

The television commercial stirred controversy and epitomized the late 70s stereotype of the superwoman—a woman expected to do it all to have it all.

According to a new survey commissioned by SurePayroll, 70% of respondents still feel the pressure to be a good mom, have a successful career and balance other aspects of their life following the birth of their child. Two-thirds of moms returning to the workforce say they felt the need to “have it all” before their child’s birth, according to the survey of 2,000 employed moms of school-aged children.

Sixty-four percent of moms said their drive to climb the corporate ladder was already high before their child’s birth, and 54% of working moms are more motivated than ever to continue their career ascension.

But the climb isn’t always easy, as 46% believe they’ve already been treated as if they’re not committed to their work because they have children and 51% think they weren’t considered for a promotion or new opportunity because of being a mom.

Many also report the road toward their goals may still be winding, with 57% voicing concern that issues with finding child care will harm their career progression.

Respondents report gender-based bias—“archaic thought processes and opinions about women’s roles,” “male-dominated” jobs and “alpha-males who think that a woman’s place is in the home”— finding work-life balance, and “the mental workload of managing both the home and the job” as key barriers to women to climbing the corporate ladder.

Yet, most moms feel gratified by the work they’re able to accomplish outside of their household (71%) and that they’re ready to take on the workforce, whether to make enough income for their family (56%) or because they want to further their careers (25%). Nearly half of respondents said being back at work makes them feel like a better mom (48%).

Many moms are ready to be their own boss, with 59% of respondents who aren’t already small business owners expressing interest in opening one.

“Women own about 43% of small businesses in the U.S., generating roughly $1.9 trillion per year.

Women want to open small businesses for a variety of reasons including greater flexibility, more control, and the ability to turn their passion to profit,” said Linda Alperin, SurePayroll head of sales. “More than ever, women want to have it all, and small business ownership is a path to that goal.”

Fifty-seven percent of moms report they missed being at their job while on leave. The top things they missed include the work itself (42%) and sharing time with their colleagues (41%). Alternately, 55% of moms had a hard time not being around their child or getting used to a schedule again (33%).

While 55% of moms had an easy time getting back in the hang of things when going back to work, 35% said it was hard for them to regain their footing at work after being away. Respondents cite barriers related to breastfeeding, including time and privacy to pump and a secure place to store breastmilk, among the top challenges of returning to work after being home.

One-quarter of respondents said the workforce is different now from before their child was born.

Half of the moms surveyed have switched jobs since their child was born, and most of these respondents said the search for a new job was more challenging than for their previous job (64%). Similarly, 63% said they find the interview process for a new job to be more challenging than they originally remembered.

“Attracting and retaining moms in today’s competitive job market requires a creative, flexible and
personalized approach, starting with the interview process,” said Alperin. “Hiring your team’s next star contributor could very well come down to how a mom returning to the workforce views their interview experience.”

When it comes to maternity leave, two-thirds of working moms believe between four and eight months is the ideal time off. Six in 10 moms returned to work less than four months after their child was born, and 26% returned to work in less than two months.

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