2015’s Best & Worst States for Working Moms

by John S Kiernan

Wallet Hub Best Worst States for Working MomsAlthough women now comprise roughly half of the American workforce, they still earn about three-quarters as much as men do and have far less upward mobility, as evidenced by the fact that less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female chief executives. Even the new crop of high-profile female CEOs seems to be drastically underpaid compared with their male peers.

Such obvious inequality has spawned a great deal of debate about gender roles in a shifting socioeconomic environment. Workplace inequality is important not only in the spirit of a merit-based economy, but also for deeply ingrained social reasons. For instance, should women have to choose between career and family?

The real question, however, is what we’re doing about this fundamental problem. Progress, it would seem, is taking shape at different rates across the country. Not only do parental leave policies and other legal support systems vary by state, but the quality of infrastructure – from cost-effective day care to public schools – is also far from uniform as well.

So, in order to help ease the burden on an inherently underappreciated segment of the population, WalletHub analyzed state dynamics across 12 key metrics to identify the Best & Worst States for Working Moms. A complete breakdown of our findings, as well as expert commentary and a detailed methodology, can be found below.

Main Findings

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Overall Rank

State

“Child Care” Rank

“Professional Opportunities” Rank

“Work-Life Balance” Rank

1 Vermont 12 2 4
2 Minnesota 11 5 8
3 Wisconsin 16 15 5
4 New Hampshire 4 8 31
5 Massachusetts 5 10 22
6 Washington 16 14 12
7 North Dakota 7 19 14
8 Maine 31 9 5
9 Virginia 1 6 49
10 Ohio 15 23 13
11 Nebraska 36 3 19
T-12 Connecticut 22 27 7
T-12 Maryland 10 1 50
14 Utah 13 41 9
15 New Jersey 3 35 26
16 Oregon 34 38 1
17 New York 8 16 38
18 Delaware 8 10 43
19 Rhode Island 33 32 3
T-20 Illinois 18 25 28
T-20 Iowa 35 23 11
22 Idaho 41 18 9
23 Tennessee 6 26 38
24 Kansas 19 31 16
25 South Dakota 25 17 23
26 Montana 39 42 2
27 Colorado 26 21 23
28 Indiana 14 49 20
29 Pennsylvania 23 32 26
30 Florida 24 12 44
31 Hawaii 48 6 33
32 California 44 22 15
33 Texas 2 47 46
34 District of Columbia 45 4 45
35 Michigan 37 29 21
36 Wyoming 31 43 17
37 Alaska 40 28 30
38 New Mexico 42 34 17
39 Missouri 27 35 34
40 Arizona 28 20 47
41 Kentucky 30 44 28
42 Oklahoma 21 46 40
43 North Carolina 29 37 34
44 West Virginia 37 45 25
45 Georgia 20 38 51
46 Arkansas 43 30 36
47 Nevada 49 13 48
48 Alabama 46 38 42
49 Mississippi 50 48 41
50 South Carolina 47 50 36
51 Louisiana 50 51 32

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Red States vs. Blue States

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Ask The Experts: Improving the Plight of Working Moms

It’s clear that something must be done in order to increase workplace gender equality and ease the burden on working parents, but there is significant debate about what that “something” should be. For some added insight into the issue, we turned to an eclectic group of experts – from university professors who research gender roles and economics to the authors of some of the most popular career and women’s blogs. Below, you can check out both our panel and their responses to the following key questions:

  1. Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career and family?
  2. What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?
  3. What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?
  4. What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?
  5. What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

 

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  • Kim England Professor of Geography and Adjunct Professor of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at University of Washington
  • Maureen Perry-Jenkins Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Director of the Center for Research on Families at University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Fred W. Vondracek Professor Emeritus of Human Development at Pennsylvania State University, College of Health and Human Development
  • Rieann Spence-Gale Assistant Dean and Professor of Management, Science, Tech., & Business Division at Northern Virginia Community College
  • Stewart D. Friedman Practice Professor of Management and Director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Craig B. Caldwell Chair and Associate Professor of Marketing & Management at Butler University, College of Business
  • Stefanie K. Johnson Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at University of Colorado Boulder, Leeds School of Business
  • Courtney G. Joslin Professor of Law at University of California – Davis, School of Law
  • Jennifer A. Chatman Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management at University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business
  • Zachary A. Schaefer Assistant Professor of Applied Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville
  • Susan Mills Partner at Polachi Access Excecutive Search
  • Jennifer Schulte Business Instructor at Des Moines Area Community College
  • Lynette Chappell-Williams Associate Vice President for Inclusion and Workforce Diversity at Cornell University
  • Nancy E. Hill Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Carolyn Joy Dayton Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, and Associate Director of the Infant Mental Health Program in the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development at Wayne State University

Kim England

Professor of Geography and Adjunct Professor of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at University of Washington
Kim England
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

It is both. Some things might be easier, for instance evidence suggests that employers now acknowledge that workers actually have other aspects of their life to balance – caring for their children, parents, communities, as well as their own health and well-being. However, there are still so many pieces for women to balance and elder care is a major, ongoing concern. This is complicated by new varieties of family ‘problems’. And we’re hearing so much about how tough it is for our children to get into college that parenting now involves another set of anxieties: are we failing our children if we aren’t building their resumes with ‘extracurriculars’? If your child isn’t visiting colleges before they are juniors, are you jeopardizing their future? And yet at the same time there are new negative stereotypes to content with, like helicopter parenting, and I’m fascinated by how that seems to be surpassing the soccer mom as the new label for making parents feel inadequate!

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

It is now more common for employers to offer a range of policies so that parents can better align the various facets of their lives. Companies nervous about supporting their employee-parents without impacting the bottom line (often offered as a reason not to be more family-friendly) now have plenty of best practices to consider, and should be buoyed by the evidence that family-friendly policies are linked to less burnout and turnover, higher job satisfaction and productivity. These include compressed workweeks (like the 4/10/40 or 9/8/80 schedules), job-sharing, streamlining the processes for accessing work-life programs, and leave to handle family emergencies and health/medical issues (ideally some of this could include a few days of sick leave). I am also encouraged by a small but growing number of companies actively discouraging long hours and workaholic expectations, such as answering emails and phone calls in non-working hours. I hope this marks a trend toward workplace culture shifting toward healthier, more humanly sustainable work lives.

What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?

Jobs that limit daily flexibility such as control over work schedules, when to take breaks, and the option to telecommute or have alternate work week schedules, especially if they involve frequently changing work schedules. Having little or no control over your hours, and not knowing whether next month or even next week the hours or days you are scheduled to work might change makes any other sort of scheduling (like doctor’s appointments or teacher meetings) very difficult – added to which childcare options are generally not that flexible. Wealthier professionals might be able to hire nannies, cleaners and so on as strategies to help achieve balance, but that isn’t an option for many people. There are only so many child care slots available even if you have a regular work schedule, trading off with family members or working opposite shifts from your partner are options but the employment unpredictability can strain support networks, and it’s important to have the time to actually spend time with your partner if you want your relationship to thrive.

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

For the past 15 years, states have been able to adopt their own version of the FMLA and several states now have legislation more generous than the FMLA (usually lowering the employee threshold); other states are currently considering it. Only a handful of states, including California and more recently, Rhode Island, offer paid family and medical leave; Washington State, where I live, passed legislation in 2007 but subsequently postponed it. Just as individual state level actions on the minimum wage helped to shift the national conversation on raising the federal minimum wage, perhaps the same thing will happen around family leave.

In terms of local government, it is often city governments that lead the way by introducing legislation that supports working families and various ordinances around employee benefits. For instance, the City of Seattle recently introduced a Paid Parental Leave policy that provides four weeks of paid leave for city employees. While governments can (and perhaps, should) legislate that the private sector be more supportive of working families, there is also power in setting an example. By introducing policies that apply to government employees, the subsequent success of such actions can encourage voluntary take up in the private sector.

Maureen Perry-Jenkins

Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Director of the Center for Research on Families at University of Massachusetts Amherst
Maureen Perry-Jenkins
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

There is no one easy answer to this question. It depends on the type of work, the ages of children, the policies offered and the role of other partners (e.g., husbands, wives, partners). Women in professional careers are more likely to have workplace supports than low-income women but they often have greater responsibilities. The bigger issue, in my mind, is why you are asking this only of women. If men are involved in an equal partnership then they too struggle with managing work and family.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

Every type of work has different demands and requirements, thus, companies need to first assess what are the particular challenges facing their workers. For example, if you have a mandatory overtime policy at your work site that is completely unpredictable, this is a huge challenge for workers. If you require nonstandard work hours, then child care becomes very hard to find. If you have high travel demands, that creates family stress.

It would be very easy for companies to survey workers to see where the greatest sources of stress lie for working parents before offering solutions. In my past research, workers had the best ideas for how to solve their work and family challenges. For example, one set of workers were struggling with the random nature of mandatory overtime. They would be told they had to work overtime or forfeit their next day wages, but child care would be closing or charging fees for every 15 minutes late the parent was picking up their child. They were stuck. The employees proposed a plan where different workers would "sign up" for mandatory overtime, if it had to occur, and they would not be asked to work (or penalized) if they were not on the list for that day. This was a simple solution that the company initially resisted but ended up trying and having huge success in terms of employee satisfaction. For professional workers, the issues are different. Flexibility in hours is a valued work condition and often time over money is of more value to employees with young children.

What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?

Careers that have an expectation of "after work hours” work, where one is expected to spend nights and weekends at the job on a regular basis are challenging for parents.

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

We need better policies...paid leave, pregnancy discrimination act, sick days, but we also need to enhance work conditions (e.g., support, autonomy, less urgency). Workers spend a lot of time at work and it can be a place that supports healthy development and productivity or a place that deadens workers.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?
  • Most employers don't believe they are biased. Training in implicit bias is necessary...it helps us to understand our implicit, hidden biases that shape our decisions every day. Training about wage penalties for mothers and wage bumps for new fathers.
  • Enforcing policies that are already on the books but that employees don't know about or are too scared to ask for.

Fred W. Vondracek

Professor Emeritus of Human Development at Pennsylvania State University, College of Health and Human Development
Fred W. Vondracek
What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

Supporting high quality day care for preschool children (including infants), either through offering such services directly or through subsidizing them, would improve the quality of both home and work life, while at the same time improving company climate and performance.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

Increasing transparency in performance evaluations and holding evaluators accountable would increase gender equality. This would discourage "secret" deals and expose biased evaluations because it would permit and promote assessments of the validity of performance evaluations. In addition, it is critically important to include women in performance evaluations in male-dominated occupations and to include men in performance evaluations in female-dominated occupations.

Rieann Spence-Gale

Assistant Dean and Professor of Management, Science, Tech., & Business Division at Northern Virginia Community College
Rieann Spence-Gale
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

In many ways, I think it is easier. Today we have better tools (family-friendly benefits) and options (more day-care choices). Add to that the fact that we have a higher level of awareness into this issue –I’d say it’s better than it was in the 50’s or 60’s by far.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

A place to start would be by offering family-friendly benefits. One of the most popular options here would be flextime. Being able to adjust your work day hours a bit, to make a day-care pick-up time deadline, or to attend your child’s ball game or to get your kids to the dentist for a late afternoon appointment can make a world of difference in a parent’s life.

What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?

I’m not sure it’s about the career, per say. It’s more about your boss and the company you work for—those two “attitudes” can make it or break it. If you have a realistic boss, and not a dinosaur, and a company that has the family-friendly benefits attitude, then it becomes much easier. As previously stated, flextime can be the golden ticket. I suppose if you are self-employed, that would be a winner as well — you are your own boss and you are the company!

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

The issue of comparable worth has been looked at in many states — but not all 50. If this were an important issue in every state, then we would have equal work for equal pay. If the pay issue were in line, then working mothers would have the means to balance things in their busy lives.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

We could start by getting the Equal Pay Act (1963) right for the first time ever! You would think that after 52 years, we would like the starting pay for the same job to be equal, regardless of gender. We need to make job descriptions gender-neutral — which will also help with comparable worth. And, we need the dinosaurs to retire — before they pass on their old ways of thinking on to new, baby dinosaurs! Until the dinosaurs become extinct, there is the danger of passing on those old mentalities to another generation.

Stewart D. Friedman

Practice Professor of Management and Director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Stewart D. Friedman
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

In some ways it’s becoming easier. Millennial dads are wanting, needing, and asking for the same thing that working mothers have been needing for a long time. Too, the grey-haired fathers of today’s working moms, who, for the most part, still run the show, are deeply invested both in the success of their daughters and their grandchildren’s well-being. So, in some ways we are seeing progress – greater awareness of the needs of working families and business leaders’ understanding that to attract and retain talent, they need to encourage people to meet commitments outside of work. At the same time, and especially with the ubiquity of new technology, there’s no longer a 9-5 boundary; people are connected to work 24/7. Naturally, this has strained working parents. So, there are pushes and pulls in both directions.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

Companies need to recognize that their employees will perform better and be more productive if they are not stressed, fatigued, and distracted. Offering flexible options “on the books” is not necessarily going to work as the solution if the work culture indicates the employer expects and rewards 24/7 availability, the so-called “ideal employee.”

A better approach is a shift in mindset away from an expectation of constant face-time toward one that focuses on measurable results. The solution is to figure out what the employer needs, wants, and expects from the employee and also what the employee needs to do outside of work – for family, for themselves, and for their communities.

Then, there needs to be an attitude of flexibility and experimentation with how the job can be done in a way that the employer gets what she needs and the employee can meet these demands (on time and with high quality) but when and how she sees fit so she can meet her other obligations, which include taking care of herself.

What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?

Careers that require face time – service jobs, for example – are especially tough. Those jobs in which you’re able to work from home or during off hours, you can shift time and place and this makes real flexibility easier. You can do school carpool, go to the gym, and still get the work done. When you’re doing direct service client-facing work, it’s trickier.

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

Enacting laws supporting family-friendly policies, such as paid sick leave and paid parental leave, is essential.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

Gender stereotypes are changing as Millennials have quite a different view of them. In our 20-year longitudinal research on Wharton students from 1992 and 2012, we found that young men and young women are much more aligned in their values than in the past.

But cultural shifts are usually not abrupt; they take time. We see more and more men stepping out of their gender stereotypical straight-jackets and demanding they be free to be loving, caring, nurturing, involved, and engaged fathers. This is the type of shift that erodes gender stereotypes over time.

The first step is consciousness-raising, for we all have unconscious biases. Consciousness is being raised in the way I just described by young men and also by lawsuits like the Kleiner Perkins lawsuit regarding all manner of subtle and not-so-subtle bias in the tech industry.

People are taking note. But it is very hard to change on a dime. We are in a period of transition and, because of the proliferation of all kinds of experimentation and innovation in the roles played by men and women in society, I am hopeful.

Craig B. Caldwell

Chair and Associate Professor of Marketing & Management at Butler University, College of Business
Craig B. Caldwell
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

While I think that there are more services and options for women balancing work and motherhood, one part that has gotten harder is that the expectations that you can do everything and do it well is as prevalent as ever. The difficulty is that expectations that you can do it all cause women who struggle to feel like they have failed.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

Two things:

1) Flexibility is critical for working parents. Even when children are in school, it is rarely the case that the children have coverage for the duration of the traditional work day. Drop off, pick up, and handling medical problems will interfere with a work day that starts at 8 and ends at 4. Having systems in place that allow for flex time, work from home, and creative solutions like job-sharing are critical for companies wanting to attract top talent – male and female.

2) The other thing that companies should attempt to implement where possible is to measure employee performance on output, not time spent at work. Output or outcome based compensation schemes, if pushed to their logical conclusion, tell employees that the company cares about whether you get your job done and drive the right results, and less about where and at what time you do your job. Obviously there are some jobs where this is difficult because of the nature of the work.

What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?

Retail work and work that is time sensitive tend to be thought of as challenging for work/family balance. In particular, retail that involves being on-site at a business during those hours when children are most likely to be home can be very challenging.

However, both of those pale in comparison to members of the armed services that must deal with deployment. The absence of a spouse or alternate caregiver make this career virtually impossible for those trying to raise children. During deployment, I think you would be challenged to find anyone that claims work / family balance.

The easiest kind of career likely involves work where you can set your own hours. I think independent sales representatives that work a small geography might enjoy good balance as they have some discretion about when calls need to be made.

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

I think it starts with government officials ability to recognize the costs of various solutions. For example, perhaps there are some solutions that provide daycare to working mothers at no charge or for discounted rates. This solution costs money and likely, it isn't a cheap solution. However, when you compare the cost for daycare with the cost of having women exit the work force and enter social service programs, you will likely find that daycare is a less expensive solution than providing basic social services.

Also, I tend to be a fan of government programs that incentivize employers to offer the kinds of flexibility, care options, or leave programs that employees require. These programs tend to be less bloated with bureaucratic energy than so called "safety net" programs where services go directly to individuals.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

This is really a big question and one I can't do justice to here. However, I will say that we need to act while girls are still very young.

By the time students reach me at the college level, there are very intelligent young women that have self-selected out of certain fields: finance and computer science happen to be two fields that I see somewhat often given my role in a business school. Only when young women feel that all possible career options are open and attractive will the workplace itself become more equal.

Stefanie K. Johnson

Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at University of Colorado Boulder, Leeds School of Business
Stefanie K. Johnson
What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

Generally, jobs that promote flexibility in work hours/ work location make work-life balance easier for both men and women and promote more positive job attitudes overall.

Creating gender equality in the workplace is a tougher issue. Women have made great strides but there are still subtle forms of sex discrimination. For example, I published a study last year that showed that physically attractive women are discriminated against when applying for masculine jobs and this effect was the result of inferences that she was too feminine to do the job. The effect was stronger for individuals who were higher in sexism (self-reported) so efforts to decrease sexism and promote inclusion could promote women.

That article also suggested that sexism was reduced when women acknowledged the fact that they were an under-represented group (they mention that they were a woman or an attractive woman) so I believe that having open dialogues about gender discrimination and sexism is more effective than trying to pretend that it just isn't there.

Courtney G. Joslin

Professor of Law at University of California – Davis, School of Law
Courtney G. Joslin
What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

There are a number of steps that states and the federal government can take to help working parents and other caregivers, including working mothers.

The federal law that enables workers to take time off of work to care for a sick family member, or to bond with a new child, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), is limited in a number of ways. FIrst and foremost, the leave that it ensures is unpaid. Many covered workers do not take the leave they are entitled to, or they take less time than they need because they simply cannot afford to take unpaid leave. Some studies have found that women are more likely to do so than man. Second, many workers are not covered under the law either because they are part-time workers, or because the employer they work for is too small to be covered by the statute. Indeed, it is estimated that because of these two limitations, about 40% of employees in the U.S. workforce are not covered by the FMLA. Finally, the FMLA does not cover routine or less serious health and medical needs. In other words, a person is not entitled to leave under the FMLA to attend a child's routine doctor's appointment, or to care for a child who has the common cold. But, of course, someone needs to take care of these things.

Some states have taken steps to fill in these gaps. For example, California, along with a few other states, has passed a Paid Family Leave law. Under the law, workers receive partial pay (up to 55% of their salary) for up to six weeks of leave per year to care for a sick family member or to bond with a new child. The statute also covers a wider range of employers, employees, and family members than the FMLA covers. For more information click state paid family leave laws.

Governments could also expand the types of events that qualify for family leave to include time to attend school and extracurricular events and routine medical needs. A bill to amend the FMLA in these ways has been introduced in Congress.

With regard to pregnant women, although the Supreme Court recently held in Young v. UPS that companies might be required under Title VII to provide accommodations for pregnant women, states and the federal government could enact provisions that expand and clarify this requirement. There is a federal bill that would do this. And on the state level, a number of states have already adopted similar legislation.

Even if they are not required to do so by law, companies can incorporate these protections into their own policies. For example, after being sued by Peggy Young but before the case was decided by the Supreme Court, UPS eventually changed its policy so accommodations could be provided to pregnant workers.

Jennifer A. Chatman

Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management at University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business
Jennifer A. Chatman
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

Easier in some ways and harder in others. On the surface, things are getting easier in the sense that more organizations are developing family friendly policies (e.g., work from home, flex time, extended leave for mothers and fathers) that allow women, in particular to navigate the challenges of family and career.

On the other hand, there is a widespread belief that the challenges for women are more resolved than they actually are. For example, most people, even progressive young college students, severely underestimate the continuing strength of sex-role stereotypes. In our research, college students strongly agree with norms portraying women as communally oriented (e.g., caring for the family) and men as agentic (e.g., competitive, career oriented). And, longitudinal research shows that women are still significantly more likely to drop out of the workforce, usually to care for a family - even after earning advanced degrees like an MBA - than are men. Thus, we are beginning to see what I consider to be the second wave of feminism - the Ellen Pao case, the "Lean In" movement - which can be viewed as responses to a lack to true gender parity at work.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

Offer flexibility in work hours and locations, figure out ways to help women come back after pregnancies without being harmed by their leaves, and, most importantly, encourage men, in particular, to take advantage of these programs so that their female partners avoid being the default parent and so that the challenge of managing parenting and elder care is shared. If men are also taking these same types of leaves, they won't be viewed as unusual or a sign that a person is not committed to their career. They will become normative.

What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?

What we know is that some professions have a much better track record of successful women than others. For example, students in medical school and law school are now roughly equally distributed - 50/50 men and women. And, the proportion of female physicians and lawyers are climbing rapidly. This is a sign that these professions, though enormously demanding, may be more conducive to work-life challenges than, say, business. MBA programs, for example, are still struggling with gender balance and most only reach 20-30% women. Further, there is a higher dropout rate among female MBAs than men, as I said above. And, in some business careers such as high technology, private equity, and venture capital, the number and proportion of women is minuscule.

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

Offer care options - preschool, elder care and such. I'm not a policy expert but again, my thinking is that it is critical to get men to also use these support systems so that it becomes more normative generally and women don't look uncommitted if they need to take career breaks to care for their family.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

Much of what needs to change are the retrograde stereotypes of men as agentic and women as communal. My view is that this is a question of actively changing organizational norms (my definition of organizational and group culture). This is a tough road because these stereotypes are deeply embedded and internalized.

That said, in one of my recent studies we showed that when certain norms that favored a "PC" attitude toward gender equality were made salient in mixed sex work groups, these groups were significantly more creative and productive. Research supports the notion that leaders who are committed to establishing and maintaing gender parity can do so.

Zachary A. Schaefer

Assistant Professor of Applied Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville
Zachary A. Schaefer
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

It is becoming easier and more difficult to balance work and family at the same time, because women are being placed in a double bind.

As the number of organizations that offer "work-life friendly" policies continues to increase, the expectations of women to be able to gracefully balance both spheres of their life will also increase. This is an unfair double bind where women are now supposed to be able to raise a family, head the household, and establish a successful career all because organizations now offer telework, more paid time off (PTO), and flexible work schedules. Men are not faced with this situation. This increased flexibility can actually have the reverse effect of blending the spheres of work and life which were once separated in terms of physical spaces. Following the current trajectory, the decompartmentalization of formerly separate spheres of life allows work to continue eroding the family sphere. This entire process occurs, however, based on the aggregated choices of women who want to pursue careers and raise families. The proliferation of work-life policies are a response to the choices modern women are making regarding home life and work life.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

Listen. Collect data from their employees to figure out what their needs are and craft policies and opportunities based on the patterns that emerge from the data. While companies will not be able to respond to each person's individual requests and needs, seeking to understand what working parents consider a "balanced" life is an important first step. The goal is to create engaged, healthy, productive, and well adjusted workers.

What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?

Careers where extended travel is an expected part of the job make it difficult to achieve work-life balance, if that balance is defined as giving workers a chance to work from home or spend more time with family. Industries that listen to the needs of their workforce and craft policies based on those needs create an environment to achieve work-life balance, even if it is fleeting.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

Pay equality is the most important change that needs to occur, and industry-leading companies should lead the way by addressing this issue on their own rather than waiting for a government mandate. A qualified woman should earn the same pay as her male counterpart.

Susan Mills

Partner at Polachi Access Excecutive Search
Susan Mills
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

I feel quite confident that it is getting much easier for women to balance a career & family. Not only is it acceptable now; but it is expected that women are working. Resources are more readily available for parents to access. Employers are also getting on board with providing flexibility and access to ways to make the balance work.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

The biggest thing I feel companies can contribute is to allow parents to work from home occasionally. This does not mean that the children are home at the same time. Rather, if a company allows a parent to maintain a home office, I find that the parent will actually work more hours. By having email available on a mobile device, human nature is such that the worker will be checking the email at all hours of the day and night. Also in my case, I find that I am often more productive at times during the night where I can sit at my home office and accomplish days of work in hours. There can be so many distractions in the company offices that the work day gets shortened significantly.

What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?

Any career which requires an individual to meet with people face-to-face such as the medical/health industry could be difficult. Except for paperwork requirements, this is perhaps the more sensitive to inflexibility.

The easiest career could be mine – a financial role – where so much of the role is independent thinking. My clients are other employees. As such, we can communicate via email, text, etc., and not feel as though we are losing anything. An occasional team meeting is good for team building, but when it comes down to core work getting down, working mainly from home at whatever hours are most productive is a huge win-win.

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

Full time kindergarten paid for by the state would certainly be a big help. Also, before school and after school programs, where the children stay at their own school, put parents at a lot less stress than having the need to move the children during the day. Greater tax breaks for daycare would help as well.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

Each person needs to stand up and represent themselves. We are all people. There are more than just 2 genders now. If individuals represent themselves as people rather than a specific orientation, then others can choose to accept them or not. This will take years. No one can assist other than to continue to educate overall.

Jennifer Schulte

Business Instructor at Des Moines Area Community College
Jennifer Schulte
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

It’s more difficult. According to research, regardless of whether women are the breadwinner or stay home, they are still viewed as the primary housekeepers.

The underlying difficulty in managing daily life comes from the widening income gap. Many single-earning and dual-income families are more stressed than ever as their incomes are not enough to maintain the lifestyle their parents once had at the same age. Regardless if children are involved, I believe the pressure is now felt by both genders.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

Offer on-site daycare, wellness programs and flexible scheduling. In my opinion, flexible scheduling is the most highly respected “perk” a company can offer working parents. Without it, stress levels are consistently high. Companies who have rigid schedules and disciplinary action programs in place can lose a great employee over basic scheduling conflicts with their kids (i.e., sick, babysitter rescheduled, school in-service, etc.)

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

Mandate that companies offer longer maternity leave for mothers and at least offer paternity leave for fathers. Our nation is in the top 10 worst countries for number of days offered for maternity leave. Something needs to be done. California did a nice job with their paid maternity leave program. I would like to see longer maternity leaves offered to mothers so that the family goes through an easier adjustment when returning to work. Longer maternity leaves increases the likelihood of continual breastfeeding and greater infant development.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

Regardless of title, successes by either male or female employees need to be praised immediately. Equal Pay. Offer opportunities for advancement, company involvement and furthering education without stereotyping. Suggestions offered are valuable and management should carefully consider how they respond both verbally and non-verbally to their male and female subordinates. Without question, a strict sexual harassment policy should always be adhered to. (This goes both ways!).

Lynette Chappell-Williams

Associate Vice President for Inclusion and Workforce Diversity at Cornell University
Lynette Chappell-Williams
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

It is becoming easier for women to balance career and family as more employers understand the benefit of allowing employees to live their lives holistically and are providing services and support to address both career and family.

One of the most helpful programs to help with balancing is providing flexible work options. According to the 2014 Society for Human Resource Management Benefits Survey Report, 52% of companies offer flex time and 59% allow employees to telecommute or work remotely - there has been an increase in ad hoc telecommuting from 45% to 54% between 2009 and 2014. Research shows that offering flexible work choices increases productivity and reduces unplanned absences, and is particularly helpful to women with dependent care responsibilities who can more easily address “balance” through flexible work.

Cornell University has offered flexible work options since 1998 and has developed a web page to assist employees and supervisors with navigating options for flexible work, including examples of work that can be done remotely.

As a single parent living more than an hour from the office, I have found the flexible work option invaluable in allowing me to raise my daughter and be successful at work and to remain productive when inclement weather has made it difficult to make it to the office. By working remotely two days a week, I can get project work, that needs quiet time, completed and focus on face to face meetings on the days I am in the office. With Wi-Fi, Skype, email and other technology, I can stay connected with my staff and with colleagues.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

Providing a variety of work/life support can help working parents balance home and work life. Lactation rooms can make it easier for new working mothers to return to work and to continue breastfeeding. Back-up child care and elder care is valuable for those times that regular care breaks down. Providing elder care and child care referral helps families as they are trying to identify affordable care options. And encouraging healthy life options through onsite wellness programs and discounted gym memberships also helps with balancing.

What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?

Each career has its requirements and challenges, so balancing needs to be tailored to both work and family needs. For example, some careers have work hours that fluctuate from one week to the next. In that case, having a support network that can also be modified, or having several support networks can help to meet the balance.

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

One way federal, state and local government can better support working mothers by providing paid maternity leave. While the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that employers with 50 or more workers provide up to 12 weeks of leave, that leave is unpaid. The Department of Labor has noted that 78 percent of workers who have needed FMLA leave have not taken it because they could not afford to.

In 2013, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), which would provide new parents with up to 12 weeks of paid leave (at 66 percent of earnings) which would bring the U.S. more in line with other countries.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as reported by the Pew Research Center (December 12, 2013 by Gretchen Livingston), of 38 countries, the U.S. is now the only one with no paid leave for new mothers. This compares with Estonia that has 108 paid weeks of leave.

The U.S. also provides the smallest amount of protected leave: 12 weeks, compared to such countries as Poland, Spain and France that offer a minimum of three years.

State and local governments can also support working mothers by both modifying regulations that are consistent with implementing flexible work options and encouraging employers in their jurisdictions to implement flexible options. Tompkins County, in Upstate New York, has been working for years to implement flexible work options for their employees and has now created a flex procedure. As the County implements the flex procedure, it can serve as a model for employers in the county to implement similar procedures.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

The most obvious step is to create greater pay equity for men and women and provide the same employment opportunities for women as for me. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women made 59 cents on the dollar in 1970 compared to 78 cents on the dollar in 2013, although at this rate, researchers predict that it will be 2057 before we reach gender equity. Taking steps to expedite this process will create greater equality.

Aggressively addressing sexual discrimination in the workplace can also promote greater gender equality. Although there have been laws in place to address sex discrimination, on January 28, 2015, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking updating the rules that govern how federal contractors and subcontractors prohibit sex discrimination. The proposed rule would address both forms of sexual harassment (quid for quo or “this for that”) and hostile environment sex harassment. It would also address adverse treatment because gender-stereotyped assumptions about family caretaking is also discrimination. In addition, the proposed regulation would ensure that child care leave is available to fathers in the same terms as for mothers. On January 28, 2015, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking updating the rules that govern how federal contractors and subcontractors prohibit sex discrimination.

Nancy E. Hill

Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Nancy E. Hill
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

It’s neither harder or easier, but different and with greater variability. Whereas there number of women in high demand professions has increased and continues to do so, there are also increasing number of agencies that help women identify the supports they need. These include agencies that help with hiring services for errands, child care, etc. In addition, partners (spouses and other partners) are more attuned to sharing the blessings and burdens of homelife and childcare. However, we have a long way to go for businesses to be truly sensitive and accommodating to balancing family life, including better maternity leave, time for caring for sick children, attend school events, and the like. Further, the school day continues end well before the work day ends, often with few after school care options, especially for middle school students, which exacerbates the issues work balancing career and family. These are not necessarily “women’s” issues to balance. But, the care of children is still primarily the responsibility of women. The experience of women is also more varied now than before. The needs and experiences of professional women, who have greater resources, is quite different from the needs of working class and lower income women. For these women, access to quality day care, preschool, and afterschool care remains a significant challenge. The jobs these women hold often come with significantly less flexibility, making it difficult to keep one’s job when time off is needed for sick child care or because of the inability to find care. For these women, the tradeoff of working to provide for basic needs and providing quality care and supervision for children is nearly impossible to successfully navigate.

The question of “balancing” career and family is often wrongly pits one against the other. Given that most families need two incomes to meet their needs, the “either/or” stance often implies that women are choosing one over the other, rather than needing to integrate both. Being a good mom means doing both. This is different from the antiquated stance that having a career is the antithesis of being a good mother. We need to change the assumptions here.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

Companies can provide flexibility in the time and place that work gets done. The minimum is to provide flexibility to care for children when they are sick. But, parents also want (and children need) to attend some school events. There ways to do this without reducing productivity or overloading those employees without children by allowing flexible work hours and opportunities to work offsite. In addition, larger companies can help employees by contracting with high quality childcare organizations to help parents find reliable care for summer, afterschool, and for sick children.

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

State and local governments can work with schools to provide longer school days that better match work days, reintegrate arts, gym, music into those extra hours, and provide access to high quality experiences for children during school breaks. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the same teachers that teach math, science, reading, and literature have to work extended days. Additional high quality teachers can be brought in to teach these important creative classes. This will also potentially reduce inequities because lower income students will have access to these activities that higher income students receive because their parents are able to arrange them.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

There are differential implicit beliefs such that women who take time for their children are not serious about their careers, whereas men who take time for their children are not only serious about their careers but “well rounded.” Companies need to actively work against that bias and change these implicit conversations. Both women and men have children who require care and moms and dads want to be actively engaged in their children’s lives. Promote that.

Carolyn Joy Dayton

Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, and Associate Director of the Infant Mental Health Program in the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development at Wayne State University
Carolyn Joy Dayton
Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

Although there is currently a greater emphasis on father involvement in child rearing relative to prior time periods in U.S. history, most mothers continue to contribute a great deal more than fathers to childcare activities in the family (Bianchi, 2011). This appears to be especially true during the early years of child development (e.g., infancy, toddlerhood), when fathers report engaging in fewer childcare activities (Dayton, et al., 2015), and report that they see themselves as more influential as a parent to their older children than they do to their infants and toddlers (Walsh, et al., 2014). This is likely to make the career/family balance especially difficult for mothers when their children are very young.

What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?

The foundation for the parent-child relationship and for the child's mental health is developed during the infancy and early childhood periods. Therefore, anything that companies can do - especially during these critical early years - to help parents spend quality time with their young children will help families raise physically and emotionally healthy children.

Examples of company policies that are family-friendly for families with young children include: private and comfortable stations for mothers to pump breast milk - preferably not in bathrooms; high quality, on-site childcare facilities that allow parents - mothers and fathers - to drop in and spend time with their infant/toddler/young child; flexible work hours that allow parents to tag-team in caring for their infant/toddler/young child; work from home options that allow parents to work flexibly throughout the day at a pace and schedule that allows them to spend time with their infant/toddler/young child (note that this option allows parents to secure less expensive childcare help so that they can work from home while a helper cares for the child -- and example of this is hiring a high school student for extra help with the baby after school - the parent can remain in the home and be available as needed but focus on work activities while the helper is present).

What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?

For parents with young children, low-paying jobs tend to be especially difficult in terms of balancing the needs of infants/toddlers/young children with the job requirements. For a mother who is working a shift at a fast food restaurant, for example, taking the time to pump breast milk is typically not an option. Similarly, many low paying jobs offer the least flexibility in terms of hours of work and working from home options. In addition, low paying jobs often do not provide paid time off to take care of sick children.

What can state and local governments do to support working mothers?

Enact laws and policies that support job flexibility for parents of young children (see above), and don't place undue burden on small companies (not easy, I realize). Given the examples I've provided above, one can see that this will require a great deal of creative thinking to devise solutions that help families and don't deter from effective business practices. Ultimately, policies like this are likely to save money -- for instance, when a parent is allowed to take time off for a well baby check up, that child is less likely to end up in the emergency room for what should have been routine medical care.

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

We seem to forget that fathers are parents too. In early child development, fathers are capable of doing everything mothers do except for breast feeding. When fathers spend time caring for their infants, for instance, they tend to feel more efficacious in their parenting and the mothers of father-involved babies and the babies themselves are better off as well (Dayton, et al., 2015; Alio, 2010). Company policies that allow flexible time and time off for fathers in their roles as parents will promote the health and development of young children and their families.

 


Methodology

WalletHub evaluated the attractiveness of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia based on the 12 metrics listed below, which were selected based on their significance to various aspects of a working mother’s life – from the home front to the workplace and everywhere in between. We analyzed each state across three key dimensions, namely “Child Care,” “Professional Opportunities” and “Work-Life Balance.” Our data set is listed below with the corresponding weight for each metric.

Child Care – Total Weight: 5

  • Day Care Quality Score: Double Weight
  • Child Care Costs (Adjusted for the Median Woman’s Salary): Full Weight
  • Access to Pediatric Services (Number of Pediatricians per 100,000 Residents): Full Weight
  • WalletHub’s “Best School Systems” Ranking: Double Weight

Professional Opportunities – Total Weight: 5

  • Gender Pay Gap (Women’s Earnings as a Percentage of Men’s): Double Weight
  • Ratio of Female to Male Executives: Full Weight
  • Median Women’s Salary (Adjusted for Cost of Living): Full Weight
  • Percentage of Families (Single Moms with Children Younger than 18) in Poverty: Full Weight
  • Female Unemployment Rate: Full Weight

Work-Life Balance – Total Weight: 5

  • Parental Leave Policy Score: Full Weight
  • Length of the Average Woman’s Workday: Full Weight
  • Women’s Average Commute Time: Full Weight

 

Sources: Data used to create these rankings were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Child Care Aware® of America, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Partnership for Women & Families and WalletHub Research.

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John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
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