Molly shifted her baby on her hip, feeling stressed as she looked around the crowded hotel lobby. She had parked the stroller out of the way of the lunch crowd during the conference and scanned the room hoping to spot a Starbucks where she could grab a bagel since she now had only a few minutes for lunch. Molly had asked her colleagues in the line at the café if they would mind if she jumped ahead of them since she was on a tight schedule to get her son back to childcare during the conference. “No, I really can’t let you cut in line. I only have a few minutes and I’ve scheduled an important lunch.” He looked apologetic as the hostess motioned for him to follow her.
Though they were both attending the same conference the experience my friend Molly had was very different from her male counterparts. It was generous that the conference had provided childcare, but the time it took to pick up her son from childcare, get to a restaurant, and then leave early to check him back into childcare before the conference session began made it especially frustrating that her colleague was unwilling to let her cut in line so she could have a moment to eat lunch.
Acknowledge the Invisible Inequities
While this is a small snapshot of what a woman might struggle with in a particular setting, it sheds light on the invisible challenges working moms deal with—from cultural expectations from their employers to societal standards of how women are expected to manage their work and lives. On the surface the organization had done the work of securing vetted childcare workers so that parents could attend the conference with young children. They had the thoughtfulness to schedule sessions to end early enough so that parents could leave to put their kids to bed at the hotel. This is beyond what most organizations typically provide for their employees for conferences! The male colleague who was unwilling to let Molly cut in line wasn’t being intentionally rude—he simply didn’t have a framework for what attending a conference with a young child would cost a working mom.
Though a dad might attend the same conference he likely won’t get asked questions like “who is watching the kids while you’re here? Do you have family in town that help you with childcare?” There are disparaging comments made like: “I could never leave my kids for this long” or “my husband wouldn’t know what to do to if I wasn’t there to help with the kids.” The logistical challenges of securing childcare, the out of pocket financial cost and the emotional toll it takes for moms is often unrecognized by employers and teammates. Women will forgo career-advancing opportunities such as conferences, dinner with clients and late nights at work because the burden falls on their shoulders to manage their career and childcare.Though most events are currently virtual, they won’t always be. It has become even more imperative for employers to re-evaluate policies on how to create a more equitable workplace when employees return to work in person. Click To Tweet
This doesn’t just hurt the employee. Employers and businesses can and will miss out on the valuable contributions their working moms can make but are often unable to provide because of inflexible work policies. Though most events are currently virtual, they won’t always be. It has become even more imperative for employers to re-evaluate policies on how to create a more equitable workplace when employees return to work in person.
Though the realities of workplace equity affect women, “fathers have nearly tripled their time with children since 1965,” according to the Pew Research Center. In the same report 56% of working moms and 50% of working dads feel stress in balancing work and family life and find it difficult to juggle these responsibilities. If ½ of your workforce is showing up to their jobs stressed and unsure how to meaningfully contribute on the job, it will have negative effects on their work.If ½ of your workforce is showing up to their jobs stressed and unsure how to meaningfully contribute on the job, it will have negative effects on their work. Click To Tweet
When one member of the body suffers, all suffer. We are called to rejoice with each other and bear each other’s burdens. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 says: “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.”
Create the Culture We Want and Need
As Christians, being the church isn’t excluded to an hour on Sunday mornings. Being the church means seeing employees beyond what they produce, the function they serve, or how many billable hours they can charge. Employees and teammates are created in the image of God and are whole people. Providing more flexible work-life policies invites a way for moms and dads to taste and see the kind of flourishing the Lord intended at work and home. In his book Culture Making, Andy Crouch writes about culture change as a way to demonstrate the kingdom of God. He writes: “The only way to change culture is to create more of it.”Providing more flexible work-life policies invites a way for moms and dads to taste and see the kind of flourishing the Lord intended at work and home. Click To Tweet
As many of us have discovered, parenting young kids while working at home is extremely challenging. Rather than requiring employees to take sick or vacation time to care for their families, consider how you can provide flex days that enable them to help their kids adjust to virtual school, take a mental health day, volunteer in the community, or enjoy an opportunity for personal development. At Hallmark, the graphic design department offers a paid monthly day where teammates provide a workshop on a different art medium or project. Employees bond and recharge their creative juices while they learn Shibori dying techniques or paint inspiring murals on abandoned homes in Kansas City during their workday while kids are at school or daycare. This fosters an environment of prioritizing the creativity of their employees and does so during normal work hours when working moms and dads don’t have to secure additional childcare.As every industry is forced to innovate their methods and policies, Christian leaders have the opportunity to lead the change in workplace culture for moms and dads. Click To Tweet
We will change culture for working moms and dads when we begin to create policies for dads to be able to hold their newborn daughters without worrying about the crunch of deadlines during paternity leave. Moms will feel honored in their workplace when they’re invited into challenging projects instead of immediately ruled out because of the age of their children. The Holy Spirit can guide us into the creativity and courage to make changes to the language we use and the policies we make for parents in our workplaces. As every industry is forced to innovate their methods and policies, Christian leaders have the opportunity to lead the change in workplace culture for moms and dads.