What's more valuable to working mothers than a full-time nanny with magical powers? For one thing, a flexible schedule, according to new research from Baylor University, which found that women who return to work after giving birth are more likely to stay on the job if they have greater control over their work schedules.
Retaining working moms is a major issue. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71 percent of women with children under the age of 18 were working or looking for work, and nearly 60 percent of women with young children were employed. Yet, a large number of mothers who return to work after childbirth subsequently leave the labor force.
"The transition back to work is pivotal for a new mother, and this study offers important insight into the understanding of how a job can either contribute to or detract from the mother's decision to stay with her employer after she returns to work," said Dawn S. Carlson, Ph.D., study author, professor of management and H.R. Gibson Chair of Organizational Development at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University, Waco.
The study also found that it isn't all about the flexible schedule. Job security also plays an important role in deciding where to work after having children. When job security is high, workers are not distracted by worry or exhausted by strain. Instead, they are able to engage more fully in responsibilities inside and outside the workplace.
"Job security heightens motivation and energy, particularly for mothers who are sensitive to the security of their jobs after returning from maternity leave. When working mothers believe that their tenure with an organization is not at risk, they will have more energy and other resources with which to fully engage and perform both at work and at home," said Merideth J. Ferguson, Ph.D., assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at Baylor and a co-author of the study.
Researchers were thorough. They surveyed 179 full-time working mothers in North Carolina with an average age of 31 years. Of the group, 72 percent was white, 27 percent was black and one percent was Asian. The majority, 79 percent, was married. They worked an average of 39.7 hours per week and planned on returning to work for 30 or more hours by four months postpartum. The duration of maternity leave was six weeks, but only 48.1 percent reported having paid maternity leave.
In essence, the study found that when employers make a great effort to put a working mom at ease, whether it's by allowing her to have flexible time to help her family or reassuring her that they're not going to fire her because of her family obligations, the more likely they are to keep the mom on the job.
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