The story of how parents juggle work and family is a familiar tale. Parents strive to be attentive to their children’s needs while getting to work on time, focusing on productivity, and staying late at least occasionally. They do all that while working out child care and making school and children’s activities mesh with work schedules. Making it all work can be tough, but it’s harder in some states than others, according to a study from personal finance website WalletHub, which recently looked at the best and worst states for working mothers. The study focused on mothers because data shows the existence of gender inequality in the workplace in areas such as pay and upward mobility.
“While women now comprise roughly half of the American workforce, they make about two-thirds as much as men and have far less upward mobility, as evidenced by the fact that less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female chief executives,” WalletHub said in a statement on the study results. The organization looked at a variety of metrics across the country and ranked the states on daycare quality rankings, child-care costs, access to pediatric services, public school quality, gender pay gap, the ratio of female executives to male executives, parental leave policies, the length of the average woman’s workday, and average commute time.
Differences by state
The study found that opportunities and impediments for working mothers differ among the states. “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—are far from uniform as well,” according to the study.
Oregon came in No. 1 overall. It tied for 15th in child care, tied for 10th in professional opportunities, and came in first in work-life balance.
Rounding out the top five were Washington, D.C., which came in No. 2 overall. It tied for 11th in child care, and came in first in professional opportunities and 34th in work-life balance. No. 3 Vermont tied for 15thin child care, came in 13th in professional opportunities, and tied for fourth in work-life balance. No. 4 Maine ranked 18th in child care, 12th in professional opportunities, and tied for fourth in work-life balance. No. 5 New York ranked 10th in child care, seventh in professional opportunities, and 21st in work-life balance.
What employers can do
Employers interested in attracting working moms may not be able to control some of the factors included in the study, but they aren’t powerless in creating a mom-friendly workplace, according to Julia E. Markley, an attorney with Perkins Coie LLP in Portland, Oregon. She wrote about her state’s No. 1 ranking in the June issue of Oregon Employment Law Letter. She said that employers interested in making their workplaces friendlier to working mothers can start by reviewing their maternity and parental leave policies and comparing them to other employers’ policies. She also advises examining pay practices to ensure they’re fair.
“Consider what you can do to enhance employees’ work-life balance, including providing telecommuting, flexible work hours, and flexible work arrangements,” Markley added. “In addition become active in your community in support of ‘family’ issues such as child care, pediatric services, and public schools.”