Recruitment & Retention

HR can do more to support working moms

“The retention statistics are there that moms stay in their jobs. They are loyal…they’ll work for you for years and years, and do an amazing job, if they get the support that they need.”
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Grant Thomas

4 min read

Moms deserve extra support—not least the 40.5% of moms with kids under 18 who are the “equal, primary, or sole income earners for their family,” according to the Department of Labor.

In her forthcoming book, Go Ask Your Mothers: One Simple Step for Managers to Support Working Moms for Team Success, Sarah Wells shares how HR pros and managers can better support, and retain, working moms.

Wells, who also owns a retailer specializing in products for new moms, shared with HR Brew insights from her book.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are some HR takeaways from your book?

Moms are not a monolith, we’re not all the same, and that’s why in the book I focus so heavily on initiating communication with the working moms on your teams to actually figure out what they need to feel supported in the workplace. So, for some moms, that might be they need a lactation room so they can use a breast pump. But, for another mom, it might be mental health support, benefits, or flexibility for doctor’s appointments that they need. So, even though there are some really great benefits that HR directors and organizations can put in place, like paid leave…what you need is that communication to find out what it is that they want and need.

When you have this really good communication with the working moms on your teams, most of them have told me in interviews and surveys, that they’re willing to be flexible, so they may have an idea for a benefit that they need to feel supported, but if you can’t meet that need exactly the way that maybe they envision, they’re willing to work with you to implement that.

What are examples of other resources that HR can offer working moms?

There’s a lot of room to be creative…In the book, there was a good story…of a mom who was looking for a way to keep her breast milk that she pumped at work refrigerated…and there was just not the financial budget to buy, like, a whole refrigeration set up for that, and so the mom, and the boss, and HR, in that situation, came up with the fabulous idea to get on one of those freecycle, upcycle groups on social media. And, they were able to find a college dorm-type fridge for free…and meet her needs without actually [having] a financial impact on the company.

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Managers, and HR, and organizational leaders are often tired, overworked, overwhelmed. They have a lot on their plate, a lot of people to manage…and one of the great things you can do is utilize other parents on your team as a support system for the new parents that come onto the team. So, whether that’s setting up the parent resource groups, or facilitating and supporting a lunch-hour meetup…One way managers can show their support is to provide the space and time and just opportunity for parents to connect with other parents…[This] also alleviates management and leadership and HR from having to do all the heavy lifting.

Why are working moms not feeling supported at work?

They’re worried about losing their job, or being put on a mommy track, or sort of being pegged as being someone who’s difficult or is asking for too much, so they don’t speak up for what they need. So, when I wrote the book, I came at this really from the management side, because management, organizational leaders, the companies themselves, they’re the ones with the power and the dynamic to really set the tone for the culture for the working moms.

Empowering moms to speak up is critical, and that’s the goal. But it really needs to come, first and foremost, from management sending signals overtly, and through creating good culture, that this is a safe place to speak up for what it is that you’re going to need to feel supported and to stay here. And it’s so beneficial to organizations to practice this good culture for working moms, because the retention statistics are there that moms stay in their jobs. They are loyal and committed. They’ll come back and they’ll work for you for years and years, and do an amazing job, if they get the support that they need.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.