Majority of Americans Say We Should Do More To Help Working Parents

Having kids typically makes it harder to advance in your career, according to overwhelming body of research.


According to a new poll, most U.S. workers feel that employers aren’t doing enough to support parents returning to their jobs after they take time off to raise children.

57% report that companies ought to do more to help parents get back to work, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey. Just 27% believe it’s parents’ responsibility to shoulder the burden and deal with the challenges of choosing to leave on their own.

Support for expanding workplace policies is strongest among millennials. Sixty-three percent of respondents under age 30 say companies should do more, compared to 51% of those over age than 65. Parents with children under the age of 18 are most likely to support these measures, with 64% indicating that they want to see U.S. businesses do more to help parents struggling to finding work.

The survey didn’t show much of a discrepancy between men and women on the issue. But a different kind of gender gap did show up in the questions: mothers are more likely than fathers to leave their jobs, reduce work hours, or take off extended periods of time in order to care for a child or family member. For many of them, getting back into the workforce can be tremendous challenge.

To better understand the unique challenges women face after having kids, the survey asked moms who opted out of the workforce to share their stories.

Nissa, a 43-year-old who works in marketing and returned to the workforce when her son was in 3rd grade, wrote the following: “Sometimes I think employers are hesitant to hire women who previously stayed home with children because they know they are seen as the primary caregiver, and the employer is not sure that transition has moved to a more equal position between both parents, or mom and another caregiver.”

“Being able to navigate those expectations in an honest way that doesn’t leave you less likely for a promotion or career advancement would be amazing,” she added.

Another mother, who left her job in nursing and social work after her first child was 6 months old, voiced frustration that the skills she’d honed as a stay-at-home parent weren’t valued in the workforce. “I have been an active, engaged member of the community in volunteer roles, yet I feel like my resume would look better if I had had a failed business venture than just being president of the PTA, or a girl scout leader,” she wrote. “Although our society professes to value family, workplace policies and hiring practices appear to support this in name only.”

Those who choose — or are forced by circumstance — to remain in the workforce while raising children face a different set of challenges. The survey conducted by HuffPost/YouGov indicated that 60 percent of Americans say parenthood makes it harder to advance in a job or career.

There’s less of a consensus on whether gender makes it more difficult. A 54 percent majority of women say that working dads have it easier than working moms, but just 31 percent of men agree.

In the HuffPost/YouGov survey, a third of parents who are currently working claim that more flexible work hours would be the most helpful policy for supporting working parents. One quarter said the option to work from home would be most helpful, while 23 percent prioritized affordable daycare or after-school programs. 17% wanted more paid time off.

A number of companies are doing more to actively pursue women who’ve left the workforce but want to get back: Investment banks and some tech companies are recruiting more experienced workers as interns, with the aim to hire them for full-time work.

Après, which helped conduct the HuffPost survey, has designed a platform to get parents back into the workforce. The tool features job listings — from full-time work, to part-time, consulting gigs and maternity leave fill-ins — targeted at women with “gap years.”  It also pairs job hunters with career coaches.

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