Childcare, Corporate, News

Working Mothers and The Mommy Tax

It’s Q1, the Corporate Retreat Season. Seasoned veterans of Corporate America spend countless Q1 weeks at off-site planning retreats and sales kick offs. Many consider them a dual “love ‘em/hate‘em” experience. In the pro column employee off sites are often the wonderful respites they’re set out to be. At the same time, they can be filled with dread. Especially for working moms. Attending corporate events can easily run into thousands of dollars of unnecessary additional non-reimbursable expenses just to participate.

Exaggeration? Let’s take a look. Whether a single or dual-income household, overnight care alone could cost close to $1K for a 3-day business trip without a local, nuclear family to step in. And that’s just for starters. Families may now need to add in the costs (and stress) of arranging for pick-up and drop-off of children at school, coverage for extra travel days, extra groceries (and the higher costs of take out food), and spending money that wouldn’t exist without these required employee events.

When “Out of the Office” Meets “The Mommy Tax”

It’s a stark reminder that the Mommy Tax exists. This tax on working families, particularly women, represents the out-of-pocket expense and professional losses incurred simply due to having kids.

Organizations offering family support in the form of childcare benefits generally cater to the littles of workers through daycare stipends or back up care. Yet, working families with kids between the ages of 10 and 18 are far and away the largest population in the US, yet few options are available for parents of older kids through high school. This group is often having little or no additional benefits to choose from to offset childcare costs.

We need to look no further as evidence that The Mommy Tax is crushing working mothers financially. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women already earn just 71 cents for every dollar paid to male colleagues. A discrepancy that continues to rise 5% for each child in the household compared to career women without school-age children. 

Moreover, a study by the Center for American Progress found that women are 40% more likely to experience childcare-related career disruptions, adversely affecting the career trajectories and earning potential. Black single mothers, the largest US group, are disproportionately impacted, spending up to 50% of their annual income on childcare. This far outpaces other other demographic categories: all for the right to have a job.

It’s no wonder then to learn that The Mommy Tax is a primary contributor to women’s labor participation being at levels not seen since the late 1970s. The Council for a Strong America suggests this alone represents a staggering $57 billion loss of income. If a business case for supporting women’s participation is needed, look no further than the recent McKinsey report revealing women’s workplace equality will add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025.

What’s a Mom With Tweens, Teens to Do?

While solving for the complex contributors to The Mommy Tax are numerous, there are a few immediate things working moms can collectively do to bring about rapid change. 

Several Ways Mothers Can Inspire Change

  • Speak Out Loudly. It’s no cliche that the squeaky wheel gets oiled. Moms need to remain vigilant about being vocal (and loud) with human resources about the impact these events (and the lack of adequate benefit options) have on families.
  • Demand Change. If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that virtual events CAN and DO work well. Highlight the need for your company to offer more flexible working options.
  • Build Strength in Numbers. Many organizations adopt employee support groups as a way for staffers to support each other. Seek out and actively participate in these groups. If they don’t exist, start one and use that platform to push for change.

A Call to Action for Corporations

Corporations have a critical role in shaping family-friendly work environments. First and foremost, human resources leaders much look at childcare benefits from the lens of all parents, not just those with infants and toddlers. A comprehensive approach involves offering flexible work schedules, providing, or subsidizing after-school care and creating family support policies.

Per the Boston College Center for Work and Family, such measures not only aid employee retention but enhance job satisfaction and productivity. Corporations can quickly provide access to benefits, specifically targeted toward school-aged kids, as an immediate, low-cost extension of traditional childcare benefits.

While none of these represent the magic pill in eliminating The Mommy Tax, incremental steps lead to major change. HR leaders are at a crossroads, looking for innovative approaches to retain and support their female workforce. Making the mom voice a collective clarion call for radical change is a powerful step toward bringing about change.

Originally posted to The (MBE) which is the blog child of Janis Brett Elspas, proud mother of four — TRIPLETS plus one more — all born within a year. An award-winning mom blogger, she is a seasoned social media strategist and traditional PR consultant specializing in communicating with and marketing to women, moms, dads, kids, and families across the generations.