Report: How the pandemic has impacted working women in Wisconsin
In 2021, Kane Communications released research that revealed half of working women in Wisconsin were considering leaving their jobs since the pandemic began. After previously breaking down this study on Lake Effect, we go back to that report to examine one area in particular: working mothers in Wisconsin.
Only half of working women in the state have jobs that offer flexible hours or a work from home option, and less than half of women have jobs that offer paid family leave. Furthermore, the study revealed that women were quitting their jobs at a faster rate than men, and they were also returning to the workplace more slowly compared to men.
For Kimberly Kane, president and CEO of Kane Communications, the data displays an undeniable reality of the viable impact that working women have on Wisconsin's economy and labor force.
Kane says she is continually amazed at the amount of responsibilities that working moms juggle on a daily basis. These normally hectic schedules of tasks were compounded, and especially revealed, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many working moms had to fulfill the professional obligations while also ensuring that their kids were being educated and cared for all in the same space.
Kane says these conditions played a role in a deteriorating presence of professional moms in the workplace. "When those employers didn't demonstrate empathy, when those employers didn't demonstrate a sense of understanding, so many women said, 'I just can't go back into that work environment."
The burden of balancing professional obligation with parental responsibility also disproportionately impacts women in comparison to men, she says, with an estimated 60%-80% of domestic duties commonly falling on the working moms. To neutralize this overwhelming statistic, Kane suggests for women to use discretion and intentionally limit their undertakings. She expresses that having the ability to perform a task doesn't automatically imply a direct necessity to do so.
Kane references a study released in 2018 from the World Economic Forum that analyzed the impact of women in the general workforce and found that companies generally tend to perform better when women are working. The study found companies are more efficient, productive and profitable because of the diversity in approach and strategy that women provide. Kane expounds, "Our economy ... needs to have women working. Imagine about 50% of your workforce decides to stay home [and] decides not to work. How would our economy succeed? How would our businesses succeed? We wouldn't."
In order to slow the retreat of women from the workforce, Kane believes that a shift of employer's professional mindset is needed. Flexibility and accommodations shouldn’t be a one-way street but should rather be reciprocal to foster a healthy working environment that is conducive to working moms. This includes adjusting paid time off regulations so that employees are not forced to use sick days to have to address a possible medical emergency with their child.
Child care is another thing that is in need of a update, she says. "I was stunned at some of the responses that we got — 50% of working women at that time reported that they were considering quitting their jobs to your 81% of working moms. So they did not have access to affordable child care within their jobs." Creating a culture in our workplaces where employees are able and encouraged to openly discuss the parental aspects of their lives instead of strictly adhering to professional components could also foster healthier work environments, Kane says.
Kane believes that Wisconsin can be a leader in fostering innovations within professional practice and culture. "We've done it in the past as a state. We can be leaders and then taking a look at creative and proactive and substantive ways ... and we can support working moms and dads to make sure that parents have enough paid time off with their newborns and enough support as those little ones."