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Beyond Business as Usual: More Working Moms in Part-Time Positions

By Tina Vasquez (Los Angeles)

Last week, we discussed the motherhood penalty, a startling trend in which employers avoid hiring mothers out of the assumption that they won’t do their job as well because of their family obligations outside of the office. If, by chance, an employer chooses to hire a mother, that woman often gets paid much less than female, childless co-workers performing the same duties. Studies have actually shown that the pay gap between working mothers and childless women is actually greater than the pay gap between men and women. According to a new study by Regus, the global provider of innovative workspace solutions, a new trend is brewing and it’s one that actually favors mothers looking to get back into the workplace … if they’re willing to settle for part-time, that is.

The global study, which was commissioned by Regus, surveyed 11,000 corporations across 15 countries and found that 44 percent of companies worldwide plan to hire more mothers for part-time jobs over the next two years. Among U.S. companies the numbers are even higher, with 46 percent reporting plans to recruit more mothers into 2012.

West Region Vice President for Regus, Sande Golgart, believed this study to be of particular interest to Regus because many of their clients are working mothers and he believes providing part-time work to women with children can assist them in managing the work/life balance issues that plague so many women. “We think that there is much work to be done in making the transition from maternity leave back to the workforce as smooth as possible. Allowing mothers to take advantage of workplace flexibility demonstrates an understanding of the challenges that they face and paves the way for them to be more productive and less stressed at work,” Golgart said. “One of the most significant factors in improving employees’ work/life balance is offering the flexibility to work remotely, either full or part-time. Flexible workplace solutions are now available that allow corporations to offer those mothers returning to the workforce the ability to work full or part-time from home, along with a whole host of other workplace possibilities. By taking advantage of such measures, businesses worldwide will be better positioned to attract and retain the most talented personnel to their working environments.”

The companies that participated in the study represent a wide range of industries, from the finance sector and manufacturing and production, to healthcare, retail, and media and marketing. Other findings show that 47 percent of larger companies consisting of 1,000 or more employees intend on recruiting more part-time mothers, as do 39 percent of smaller firms. According to Regus, the findings indicate that the American work culture is finally willing not only to accept, but to support the balance many women need to make between their work and family responsibilities.

New Workplace Strategies

“Working moms can bring a tremendous amount of value to an organization. As a whole, they are very hard-working, responsible, intelligent, and they are willing to dedicate themselves to an organization on a part-time basis which helps a company manage its costs,” Golgart said. “Additionally, as the workforce becomes increasingly more distributed, the trend of hiring more part-time moms will help to reinforce the fact that companies must look beyond the traditional ‘business as usual’ approach when it comes to supporting their workforce and adapt or transition to workplace strategies that are geared to support the vastly different work styles of today’s employees – whether they’re based in an office or from home.”

Overall, America’s hiring practices registered highly on Regus’ global scale, but working conditions for mothers and, most importantly, acceptance of their dual obligations isn’t going to change overnight. The U.S. still faces numerous, and seemingly overwhelming challenges as it pertains to making the workplace suitable and flexible for working mothers. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 35 percent of American companies offer health insurance for part-time employees, just 16 percent of businesses offer job-sharing, and only 11 percent offer stress reduction programs.

Despite these new challenges, Guillermo Rotman, chief executive officer of the Regus Group Americas, believes that Regus’ findings indicate that the country is taking a step in the right direction in terms of showing support for working mothers in America. “While we have seen that companies intend to take on more mothers as part of their strategy to combat the financial downturn, there is much work to be done in making the transition from maternity leave back to the workforce as smooth as possible,” said Rotman. “Allowing mothers to take advantage of workplace flexibility demonstrates an understanding of the challenges that they face and paves the way for them to be more productive and less stressed at work.”

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