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The 5 Things Working Mothers Want Most from Their Employers

A study of 7,500 working mothers reveals paths to improving the workplace

The motherhood penalty is more than just a pay cut. Mothers who also do paid work are not only paid less than men (regardless of parental status) and women without children, they are also less likely to be promoted, get raises, and hold the highest positions in a company, and they are more likely to be perceived as being less competent and less committed to their work.

The current American workplace is largely unfriendly to working mothers, so we examined self-reported data from thousands of moms in our dataset to understand what they want from their employers.

The top five things working mothers want from their employers

1. Paid time off (sick days, personal days, vacation days)

2. Flexible work hours (the ability to set your schedule as long as you get your work done)

3. The people you work with (respectful, professional, and unbiased coworkers)

4. Equal opportunities for women and men (promotions, leadership roles, salary increases, incentive programs, etc.)

5.The ability to telecommute (flexibility to work remotely)

Paid time off is not only what working mothers want most from their employers, it’s the number-one priority among working women overall. We consider this one of the “bread and butter” benefits—ample paid time away from the office allows women to balance career with the life they want. And for working mothers, this affords time for being a parent.

The traditional 9-to-5 schedule is unfriendly to anyone who takes care of children, and in the United States, mothers still take on the bulk of childcare duties, so it’s unsurprising that working mothers want flexible work hours and the ability to telecommute. According to our 2019 survey, more than half of working mothers say they would feel uncomfortable leaving work unexpectedly to pick up their child. The combination of rigid work schedules, face time expectations in the office, and “soft” workplace penalties (i.e., being perceived as less committed) make it difficult for working mothers to be both parents and ladder-climbing professionals.

Seventy-two percent of working parents (both women and men) agree that working moms are more likely to be passed up for a new job than are non-parents, and 69 percent of working Americans say that working mothers are more likely to be passed up for new jobs than are other employees. Without respectful and unbiased coworkers, for working mothers there seems to be little opportunity for equality in the workplace.


This data is based on a sample of 7,500 moms in InHerSight’s audience, who have told us what's important to them at their current companies and what they are looking for from prospective employers.

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By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza

Content Strategist, InHerSight

Emily is on staff at InHerSight where she researches and writes about data that describes women in the workplace, women's compensation and contract literacy, and women's rights in the workplace. 

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