In terms of data that gets measured, two truths come to mind when I think about how working parents are faring in the workforce these days. On the one hand, the so-called “motherhood penalty” is well-documented and studied. We know, for example, that working mothers encounter systematic disadvantages in pay, perceived competence, and benefits relative to women without children. So, too, do we have data on perceptions of working motherhood. (Did you know that over 40% of Americans still believe mothers should not work outside the home?)
Simultaneously, on the other hand, companies are doing more and more to measure, study, and advance diversity efforts. Companies seem to be catching on that diversity is good for the bottom line. And that’s a good thing all around.
The disconnect between these two points, however, seems to be that employer efforts are often overlooking caregiving as an important dimension of diversity. Many companies have affinity groups to support employees along a variety of dimensions of diversity. Relatively few, however, have launched groups to support their parent employees.
Has your company made progress in its treatment of, pay equity for, and retention of working moms? Hard to know, right? As with other types of diversity (race, ethnicity, sex), it is indeed possible to measure how many women with dependents a company employs, and how good they are at retaining them.
Today I offer you a conversation with Sarah Johal. She’s the mama who spearheaded big advances in parental leave at Lyft. And she’s here to tell us about a specific request you can make of your employer to help study, measure, and raise awareness about caregivers in our workplaces.
Mindful Return: Sarah, welcome to the Mindful Return blog! First, could you tell us a little bit about your own journey into working parenthood? What got you fired up about the issue of parents in the workplace?
Sarah: Thanks so much, Lori. My journey started when I became a new parent 6 years ago. I became motivated to flip the narrative how working parents are perceived. Realizing the bias and discrimination I and other colleagues experienced in our careers simply due to our parent identity, I started encouraging companies to become more family-focused. I did this through my own self-led employee advocacy and by publishing thought leadership content on similar topics (Forbes Women, Entrepreneuer). Selfishly, my sense of urgency is providing my daughter a better future with the time I have, to make the biggest impact possible. We need to change outdated perceptions and policies, not people.
Mindful Return: You’ve recently taught me that employers with 100 or more employees (or federal contractors with 50 or more employees) are required to file EE0-1 Employer Information Reports each year. These employers are required to report the number of employees by job category, race, ethnicity, and sex. What options do employers have with respect to reporting around caregiving?
Sarah: Employers who want to take action can do so with the existing EEO-1 form, which contains a singular optional reporting field. This is a huge untapped opportunity to directly measure hidden bias and hold leadership accountable.
To your point earlier, if nearly half of America consciously or unconsciously believe mothers should simply stay home, that’s going to show up in hiring or promotional practices that impact half our population.
Very few companies include working parents in their diversity and inclusion strategies. And there’s no incentive for companies to proactively do so today. Why? Precisely because of that lack of required reporting. Meanwhile, data tells us motherhood bias is the top contributor to the gender pay gap, regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic status.
Mindful Return: Is this reporting field a new option? Are there currently employers who are reporting this data? If so, is there any way to find out which ones are?
Sarah: I haven’t discovered any companies reporting voluntarily (yet).
Mindful Return: What exactly would an employer learn from collecting and reporting this caregiver-related data on its EEO-1 report? What trends might the employer be able to start documenting? What trends would the government be able to document with this data?
Sarah: A majority of U.S. workers provide unpaid care for another person outside of their full-time job. A majority of us will need long-term elderly care. And that entire multi-generation caregiving labor falls disproportionately on women.
Adding a caregiving identifier provides a more holistic view of what’s actually happening to our economy and hiring practices at scale, and intersectional trends across related policies. Employers, for example, could better detect lack of mothers being promoted to executive leadership positions. Having this amount of aggregate data would be invaluable for the U.S. to shape policies that enable working families to thrive.
Mindful Return: What logistical steps would an employer need to take to be able to start doing this type of reporting? And by when?
Sarah: The next EEO-1 filing deadline is May 2020. So employers should think of that workback schedule needed to gain internal consensus. And they should think about how to best gather, store, and report that data to create a new annual benchmark. I think one of the harder exercises will be how employers define a caregiver-identifier without federal guidelines.
Mindful Return: If I’m an employee at a company that doesn’t currently report on caregiving, and I’d like to encourage my employer to do so, what steps should I take? Who should I speak with first, and what’s my specific request?
Sarah: A good first step is identifying stakeholders within HR or Diversity & Inclusion parts of your organization who can help you navigate the current reporting criteria and planning cycles. Talk about how this report aligns with the company’s own goals. Discuss how your company shares out those annual metrics. Confirming the company’s 2020 submission date provides a timeline to prepare your business case and determines what additional resources are needed to include caregiving data.
Mindful Return: What objections am I likely to encounter from my company? And how do you suggest countering these objections?
Sarah: Definitely expect resistance in gathering data for a metric that’s not required! You’ll likely face bandwidth concerns assigning resources to execute this unexpected project.
Provide a clear business case or project brief that can be easily circulated between decision-makers, identifying how this supports the company’s values and culture. If your company has employee resource groups (ERGs), meet with those community leaders for their intersectional input.
Gather competitive intel. And get prescriptive with workstreams and timelines across internal stakeholders to provide leadership an on-time submission plan. The more informed you are, the better equipped you’ll be to respond to push back.
Mindful Return: Outside of this EEO-1 reporting, are there other data points you’d encourage companies to collect around caregivers and working parents? Any other advice you’d give working parent advocates who are trying to make a real difference in their workplaces?
Sarah: It’s a good exercise to do a mini-audit of what your competition offers in terms of family-focused benefits and career opportunities. Does your competition show up on ‘Best Places to Work for Parents’ rankings? Do they offer more paid family leave or elderly care financial assistance? There are often hidden insights in employee benefit surveys as well, that can influence data collection or feedback loops.
For those wanting to get more involved, and if your company doesn’t have an employee resource group for parents, start one today! A majority of women looking to join a new company are more inclined to sign on if that company has a related ERG (Women in Tech, Parents of Kids with Special Needs, etc.).
I was recently reminded not to wait for perfection to launch a new initiative towards a very long endgame. Simply begin to take action. A lot can be accomplished over a monthly lunch meetup.
Mindful Return: Thank you, Sarah, for all your helpful advice! Here’s to collecting more data on working parents. As we know, what matters gets measured. And what gets measured matters!
Sarah Johal (she/her) is a marketing professional building beloved tech brands (Pandora Radio, Lyft, Runkeeper, Workday), while leading employee inclusion practices. Intersections of data storytelling, social impact, and diversity & inclusion are her favorite spaces to collaborate. She’s been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Slate, and Fast Company for her impact getting companies to become family-focused. Sarah is currently writing her first business book, The Hidden Costs of Matahara: How Motherhood Bias Puts Innovation on Timeout. She lives in the San Francisco-Bay Area with her husband and daughter.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave