Stephanie Coontz’s article “Why Gender Equality Stalled”(New York Times Sunday Feb. 17, 2013), underscores the lack of family-supportive policies in the U.S.
“When the United States’ work-family policies are compared with those of other countries at similar levels of economic and political development, the United States comes in dead last.”
Here in the U.S., employees have to rely on our employers to provide work-family supports to make it possible first, to choose how to best arrange work and family care in our own families, and then to be successful both at work and at home.
However, the sad reality is that most employers do not provide adequate work/life supports, leading to a dire situation for families like those described in Coontz’s article. Women who would rather work are staying home, and men who would share equally in child care find themselves unable to. Based on our 2011 study of employee well-being nationally, we found that only 18% have access to a full or part-time child care center associated with their employer and only ten percent have access to either back-up child care or adult/ elder care through their employer.
The business impact of child care and work-family supports
Is it any wonder that women leave their employers to care for babies when they are only granted six weeks maternity leave and don’t have a high-quality child care solution near work?
What employers offering child care know is that it is a powerful retention tool for new moms and dads both. Women, and to an increasing degree men, indicate that an employer-sponsored child care center improves their likelihood of returning to work for their current employer after the birth of a child. Parents using child care (full service and/ or back-up) report higher satisfaction, more scheduling flexibility, and stronger commitment to their jobs. None of this is surprising, and yet, most employers don’t provide child care or other foundational family-friendly benefits and don’t realize the losses they incur.
Bravo to progressive, proactive employers
While I am 100% behind efforts for political change in favor of working families, I’m not waiting around. Great employers are filling the work-family policy gap now, and now is when we need it. Cheers to all the Bright Horizons clients and others out there who are helping families to be successful. We know your organizations reap the benefit and it is well-deserved. You are realizing Coontz’s closing mandate to “stop seeing work-family policy as a women’s issue and start seeing it as a human rights issue that affects parents, children, partners, singles and elders.” Furthermore, you have stopped waiting for a government-level solution where none is forthcoming. Thank you.