While the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to rethink the way they work, it has also put gender equality in the workplace at risk as women are being affected disproportionately. While many left the workforce due to layoffs, an estimated one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or dropping out of the workforce altogether due to burdens of childcare, remote learning and other factors related to Covid. Meanwhile, economic conditions have forced some companies to put their diversity and inclusion efforts on hold as they seek to balance their tight budgets.

The Triple Threat

The pandemic has left women — and, by extension, their employers — facing three crises at once.

One is economic, as women have been hit hard by layoffs. Women also face a healthcare crisis, with those working in essential jobs facing risks from Covid-19 and many struggling with mental health. Working moms report especially high levels of stress. Finally, families are facing a childcare crisis, with daycare centers shut down and schools online. Often, one parent must be available to monitor online learning — and in many families, it’s the mother who assumes that responsibility.

The result: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in September alone, 865,000 women had dropped out of the labor force. Many of these are women who didn’t really want to leave the workforce, but felt forced to, which makes them excellent candidates for contingent work.

“It has been a really tough seven months for moms in the workplace,” says Allison Robinson, co-founder and CEO of The Mom Project. “We’ve got a real risk of unraveling a decade’s worth of progress. That’s why it’s more important than ever to prioritize hiring moms — including in contingent programs.”

As the economy recovers, though, employers have an opportunity to create more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces. When companies start hiring again, working mothers could be key to landing the best possible talent — especially in the contingent workforce.

“Having women, and moms in particular, in the workplace is a critical strategy for business success,” says Allison Robinson, co-founder and CEO of The Mom Project. “Women lead with compassion. Moms build more equitable workplaces, they build more productive workplaces and they provide a better overall employee experience for their teams and organizations when they are in positions of power.”

The Opportunity for Employers

The pandemic has forced many employers to rethink policies on remote work, location and even job hours. It’s now clear that employers can successfully give employees the flexibility many — especially working parents — need.

“For a lot of managers, this is a revolutionary thought: There are so many job responsibilities that don’t necessarily need to be completed in the classic 9-to-5 timeframe,” says Matt McNamara, CTO of The Mom Project. “We already operate in a world that looks very different than it did pre-Covid. This is an opportunity for employers to have more incredible talent available and to be a more equitable employer.”

There is a large talent community available, especially for employers who are able to be flexible about location and hours. Many contingent workers, especially women who have left jobs that did not give them the flexibility they needed, might welcome project-based work, job sharing or other flexible opportunities.

“A lot of parents lean into the contingent workforce, which offers shorter-term projects and more control,” McNamara said. “Contingent work fits parents pretty well.”

The Mom Advantage

Hiring moms can help your business. It promotes gender diversity, which is an essential element of business success. And research by The Mom Project shows the advantages of hiring moms in particular.

“Moms, dads and allies are an untapped pool of amazing workers,” McNamara says. “They’re experienced in juggling responsibilities, they have good attention to detail, and they have a strong desire to be a contributing member of the workforce.”

A survey of more than 500 working professional women by The Mom Project’s WerkLabs found several advantages to hiring moms:

  • Better employee experience. Female employees with moms for colleagues had a more positive workplace experience than those without, the survey found. Respondents said moms who were managers were more likely to prioritize employee well-being, keep their teams informed and be approachable — all important elements of post-pandemic employee engagement.

    “Pre-Covid, when companies looked at how to enhance the employee experience, it was very traditional: salary, benefits and leadership,” says Christine Coyle, vice president of strategic initiatives, WerkLabs, The Mom Project. “Today, as we look at what gives people a better employee experience, it’s flexibility, schedule manageability and holistic support.”
  • More equitable and inclusive workplace. Survey respondents rated moms more favorably when it came to treating everyone on the team fairly. The survey also found that companies with moms in the workforce — and especially a mom as CEO — were more likely to promote diversity and inclusion.
  • Higher productivity. There were also productivity benefits to hiring moms, who are used to juggling multiple projects, according to the survey. For example, moms who are managers were rated highly by respondents for overall team productivity and encouraging collaboration among teams.
  • Stronger employee commitment. Survey respondents with colleagues and managers who are moms were more likely to recommend their organization to others as a good place to work, and they were more likely to say they planned to stay with their employers — a good sign for contingent workers who may be converted to full-time hires.

Recruit and Retain

Once you have decided to reach out to moms as part of your contingent workforce strategy, what is the best way to recruit and retain them?

The Mom Project’s research offers several suggestions:

  • Embrace and implement flexibility. This may mean remote work or jobs that aren’t a standard 40-hour workweek. Encourage ownership in managing schedules.
  • Lead with compassion. Train managers on how to support teams. Increase communication.
  • Invest in inclusion and diversity. Expand diversity and inclusion initiatives and reaffirm your commitment to these goals.

The upheaval in the workforce caused by Covid-19, with the mass transition to remote work, could ultimately bring about an engaged and productive remote workforce, with more flexibility for all workers.

“It’s a real opportunity for companies to seize an expanded contingent labor market,” Coyle said.

Build Community

One way to build your community of workers is with a diverse talent cloud. Diverse talent clouds use AI to accelerate matching, capturing your company culture and other requirements to find workers who will be the best fit. The technology improves match reliability, reduces bias, and helps the cloud grow more accurate in real time.

Enter The Mom Project’s newest offering, a pre-vetted, diverse talent community tailored to your company’s diversity and inclusion objectives and built to fit with your workforce program.

Engaging workers within The Mom Project’s Diverse Talent Cloud means they are pre-vetted and can hit the ground running. Workers’ inclusion in the Diverse Talent Cloud Database indicates a certain level of experience — some may have proven themselves and their skills with other Mom Project clients — giving the customer an added level of comfort, not to mention the other benefits. “Diverse talent clouds will be the de facto source of highly skilled, diverse talent for all enterprise customers. The Mom Project will impact the employment landscape in favor of underrepresented minorities on a massive and lasting scale,” McNamara says.

Using a diverse talent cloud will help ensure equal representation in every role, reduce the time it takes to fill positions, help your workforce grow with only qualified candidates, and build community to increase engagement.

Working mothers are the secret not just to achieving an inclusive workplace, but they’re essential to every contingent workforce program looking to prove that the future of work is a total workforce.

For more information on The Mom Project, please contact Sabrina Carrozza at sabrina.carrozza@the momproject.com