While the workplace is certainly a more equitable environment than it was decades ago, it’s not difficult to see the ways in which bias against working moms still exists. Currently, working moms are paid $.75 for every $1 a father makes. A reported 40% of hiring managers avoid hiring women for fear they’ll someday become pregnant and require maternity leave. One 2007 study found that women without children are two times more likely to be called back for an interview than those with kids. And during the peak of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S., dads where three times more likely than moms to receive a promotion while working from home.
It’s not just tangible examples of bias against working moms — and even women who one day may become working moms — that caregivers have to navigate at work. How they’re perceived by recruiters, managers, and their peers can present an entirely different set of problems — problems that can impact not only the quality of their work but their mental and physical health. A reported 41% of employed Americans believe moms are less devoted to their work, despite a 2014 study that found moms to be more productive than women without kids, and moms with two kids to be the most productive of all. And 38% of working Americans judge moms for needing a more flexible work schedule. Knowing all too well that these outdated misconceptions and biases are alive and well, a reported one in four moms are worried about their peers’ perceptions, and 19% are afraid they won’t be viewed as a leader.
That moms still face prejudice in the workplace in 2021 is reprehensible, but things are changing. HeyMama’s first-ever Motherhood on the Resume campaign, powered by Lincoln, aims to accelerate those changes, arming moms with the language and tools to tout the work-related skills they’ve learned as a direct result of becoming a parent. And for better or worse, hiring recruiters are in a truly unique position to help change the conversation before a working mom ever walks through the door and create a more equitable working environment for everyone. Here are just a few ways hiring recruiters, mangers, and team members can change the conversation about working moms and better highlight the ways in which they’re invaluable to any employer:
- Craft neutral job descriptions
Creating a more equitable work environment starts before the hiring process even begins. Given the biast moms know exists and are likely to face, a poorly crafted, gendered job description could keep moms from ever throwing their hat in the proverbial ring. When assumptions are made about who is likely to apply to a position (using “his manager” or “his experience,” for example) working moms can already glean that they are not being considered for a specific position within the company.
- Provide total pay transparency
While there is a federal law prohibiting employers from banning their employees from discussing their salaries, managers often discourage these conversations for fear they’ll unearth any pay discrepancies between coworkers. Yet openly discussing your salary with your peers can be step towards eradicating the gender pay gap, including the pay gap that exists between moms and dads.
To help facilitate these conversations, hiring recruiters can list the salary of any position in the job description itself, and then discuss the salary openly and honestly during the recruitment and hiring process. They should happily explain what the salary is based on and, if there is a range, what will determine whether you land on the high or low end of it. Hiring recruiters should also encourage salary discussions and negotiations, creating a comfortable, transparent environment that will put any would-be employee at ease.
- Accept “non-traditional” resumes
There are a myriad of reasons why a working mom may have “gaps” or other listings on their resume that are considered “non-traditional.” While constant employment or a degree from a prestigious university are considered immediate signs of hireability, there are plenty of other life decisions, benchmarks, and accolades that can connote leadership, drive, promptness, organizational skills, as well as other appealing traits.
If hiring recruiters want to bring notoriously under-represented workers into the fold, they can gladly accept a wide-variety of resumes and applications that do not just highlight more traditional career paths. This may include removing a person’s name, birth date, and any other identifiable information from their resume and giving it to another hiring manager or team member to read over blind, further preventing them from bringing any unconscious bias into their resume assessment stage.
- Continuously train their team
A good hiring recruiter will work to consistently train their team on the most updated best practices, which can include any improvements in the hiring process that works to weed out unconscious biases from the equation. There’s always room to improve in every aspect of business, including the beginning phases when managers work to expand their workforce and diversify their staff so that they better represent the public they’re serving or hoping to market.
- Attend annual unconscious bias trainings
Continuous training should include annual unconscious bias training. These trainings should be as up-to-date as possible, and include how biases can present themselves when reading over an application or resume. What does a hiring recruiter assume when they see a gap in a person’s resume? What do they assume about the applicant when they notice they listed the PTA or other school-related activity? Examining what comes to a person’s mind and why can help them undo these connections that may keep them from putting a mom’s application through or offering them a formal interview.
- Hire moms in hiring manager and recruiter roles
Of course, if you really want to work to undo the bias against working moms, you should simply hire them in more leadership and recruitment positions. We can’t be what we don’t see, and we certainly can’t create a more equitable working environment for caregivers if we don’t give them leadership positions and the power to create those environments themselves. Recruiters and managers are more likely to hire someone who looks like them, which means in order to create a more equitable work environment we need to have more working moms in hiring roles.
- Ask for feedback and improve based on criticism
Asking interviewees for their feedback on your recruitment process is another tangible way to help undo any bias that may exists within that process, especially a bias towards moms. By creating a survey or asking for feedback in another effective and efficient way, you can identify any blind spots and work to make the recruiting process even more equitable for and inviting to working moms.