New Report: What Working Mothers Think

October 19, 2010

American families are undergoing a sea change as we rethink who works, who stays home to care for the kids and why we work. This power of slow reexamination of how we live comes at a time when women make up more than half of the people on American payrolls for the first time in our history, with moms the primary breadwinner in almost 40 percent of all families.

To understand how working moms see their shifting roles and how others see them, Working Mother magazine surveyed more than 4,600 people across the country, including working moms, stay-at-home moms, working dads and singles in the workplace. Among our findings: whether making $20,000 or $200,000, moms who view their jobs as a career—rather than just a paycheck—are more satisfied and feel more positive at work and at home. “What Moms Think: The Working Mother Report” offers surprising insights into the perceptions of both sexes.

“I meet women all the time who think of their jobs as careers, and it doesn’t matter if they’re answering phones in a call center or running a company,” said Carol Evans, President, Working Mother Media. “This research reveals that women who embrace the long-term commitment that a career implies feel more satisfied and positive about every marker that we measured, including being ‘in balance.’ These findings have huge implications for women and the companies who rely on them.”

Among the report’s top findings:

·         Moms who view their work as a career are happier in all aspects the survey measured—with their marriage, kids, friendships, salary, respect they command and choice to work—than women who work primarily for a paycheck;

·         Male managers are big supporters of working moms in the workplace (at least in the United States ~ Germany has a way to go on this aspect of working life);

·         Though moms value flex as a key benefit, men are more likely than women to have jobs that allow for flexibility;

·         Both men and women feel a deep ambivalence when wives out-earn their husbands (this substantiates the claim the Pew Research Center found in a January 2010 study about women outearning their husbands, as reported in the Washington Post).

What contributes to a woman labeling her work as a career versus a paycheck? It’s not her salary. What a power of slow idea! It has nothing, or less, to do with money.

 

Courtesy of Working Mother magazine and "What Moms Think: The Working Mother Report"

 

According to The Working Mother Report, women feel they have a career when they:

  • Have opportunities to develop skills and advance;
  • Feel supported and respected;
  • Believe their work fulfills a higher purpose than simply making money.

“The most exciting aspect of The Working Mother Report is how actionable this is,” Evans said. “Women can examine their attitudes and shift toward careerist thinking. Companies can support women in viewing their jobs as careers with training and advancement programs.”

The Working Mother Report coincides with the 25th anniversary of Working Mother 100 Best Companies. It was sponsored by three of the Working Mother 100 Best Companies—Ernst & Young, IBM and Procter & Gamble.

The Importance of a “Career”

Women who identify themselves as having a career are more likely than those who self-identify as working primarily for a paycheck to say that:

  • Their life is ‘in balance’; they are healthy and fulfilled;
  • They are supported in work responsibilities and respected at home;
  • Their spouses contribute more to caring for children and to at-home tasks;
  • Their work fulfills a higher or more meaningful purpose than ‘just making money.’

How Male Managers View Working Moms

The Working Mother Report reveals that male managers view working mothers highly favorably, seeing them in a better light than do working fathers and men without children. Male managers say that working moms are likely to:

  • Take on additional work;
  • Be committed to career advancement;
  • Travel for work;
  • Take stretch assignments;
  • Relocate.

“Male managers—regardless of whether they have kids themselves—are strong allies of working moms. They see how dedicated these women are to their careers,” said Suzanne Riss, Editor in Chief, Working Mother magazine. “Managers praise working moms for the quality of their work, their interest in advancing, and their willingness to take on extra work.”

Flexibility: Not Just for Working Moms Anymore

The moms surveyed said that a flexible schedule is trumped only by stability and security when they look for a new job. Yet The Working Mother Report revealed that men are more likely to have jobs that allow for flexibility, more likely to use flex without fear of retribution, and that they feel they can take time off when necessary.

Among those whose work does allow for flexibility, there is a large gap in the percentage of women (58%) and men (74%) who say flexibility has had a positive impact on their career advancement.  Working mothers are more likely than working fathers to say:

  • Part-time work is a viable option at their company (65% vs. 58% for fathers);
  • They would work part time if they could still have a meaningful career (70% vs. 63% for fathers);
  • Flexibility increases their commitment or loyalty to their organization (77% vs. 73% for fathers).

Mars vs. Venus

Women who earn more than their husbands are more likely to expect men to contribute to cooking, cleaning and caring for the kids (um, I kind of expect my husband to contribute no matter what his paycheck):

  • Women surveyed were significantly more likely than men to say that domestic chores should be split down the middle (92%). But fewer than half say their spouses do their fair share. Men, in contrast, reported that they feel they are doing their fair share (68%).

The Working Mother Report revealed a deep ambivalence among both men and women about women earning more.

  • When asked in theory about the idea of their spouse out-earning them, 73% of women and 59% of men said they were comfortable with the idea of their partner earning more.
  • When women actually are the breadwinners, the comfort level drops for men from 59% to 42%.

Read the full report, What Moms Think: The Working Mother Report.

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5 Responses to “New Report: What Working Mothers Think”


  1. Part of this actually surprises me. I would have thought there would have been more to say about stress and trying to balance life. The women I know all struggle with this.


  2. I appreciate your point of view, Valerie. Given that it’s Working Mother magazine, it’s clear they are supporting women who are career-oriented. Indeed, the struggle continues as we reinvent our roles and explore new ways of living. In what ways do you manage stress and find better alignment in your life?

  3. Carolee Says:

    Interesting….

    I suppose if the woman brings home the bacon- at least most of it….

    AND the other partner REALLY does do the majority of the household stuff, I guess the woman wouldn’t need to find a balance between home and work….

    She could come home and Grunt a hello, Sit down to read the paper for an hour, Followed by a night of TV while they watch the husband (or other partner…) Cook, Clean, Fold laundry, Help with homework, Give the kids a bath, yadda-yadda….!

    Hmmmm. maybe I should go back to a career away from home!

    I’ve been doing it all wrong!

  4. powerofslow Says:

    It is indeed a challenge to try to keep it all together. Occasionally, all you have to do is dump your purse. Follow this link for more!


  5. […] New Report: What Working Mothers Think (powerofslow.wordpress.com) […]


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