- The number of households that reported home-schooling during the 2020-2021 school year had doubled when compared to the prior year.
- As the number of kids being home-schooled rose, so did unemployment rates.
- Organizations can alter their hiring practices, policies, and workplaces to better accommodate parents with children.
Home-schooling in the U.S. has risen; the pandemic, politics, and personal choices all play a part, but how has this impacted the workforce and the workplace?
With so many people having lost their jobs due to shutdowns, those who are able to work from home are lucky. Many employers understand that the situation has been challenging for working parents, but not all have made accommodations for parents who have to come into the workplace and who are also in charge of their child’s education.
Some have said that in the COVID-19 economy, you’re only allowed to have a child OR a job – but this shouldn’t be the case. Coworking spaces and workplaces can alter their spaces and policies to better accommodate parents with children.
Home-schooling is on the rise
Many working parents are doing their best to keep their children on track academically while also keeping up with their own work demands.
National home-schooling rates grew rapidly from 1999 to 2012, but have since remained steady at around 3.3%. That was until the onset of the pandemic, which created a new interest in home-schooling and the appeal of alternative school arrangements.
From April 23 to May 5 of 2020, about 5.4% of U.S. households with school-aged children reported home-schooling.
By fall, 11.1% of households with school-age children reported home-schooling. This did not include virtual learning through a public or private school.
The change in home-schooling rates was an increase of 5.6% and represented a doubling of U.S. households that were home-schooling at the start of the 2020-2021 school year compared to the prior year.
As the number of kids being home-schooled rose, so did unemployment rates. In October of last year, 865,000 women and 216,000 men dropped out of the labor force.
How can parents balance home-schooling while also having to work?
Balancing home-schooling with remote working has proved to be a challenge for many working parents in the past year.
Many working moms have been forced to make home offices or find flexible coworking spaces that make accommodations for children.
To make the transition to home-schooling or online learning easier on parents, coworking space operators could modify their space and policies to better accommodate parents.
Firms could distribute the workspace in a way that makes it easy for people with children to occupy the area, as well as onboard professionals to help take care of the children.
Most importantly, workspaces should be made safe and healthy for everyone. This allows parents to focus on their work without worrying about their children being secure, safe, and looked after while they work.
How do women balance home-schooling/childcare while also having to work?
For many families, unemployment numbers soared during the early months of the pandemic. Women – and mothers in particular were especially affected.
During the early months of the pandemic, unemployment rates were higher for women than men, and mothers were more likely to reduce their work hours than fathers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020.
In 2020, women spent two more hours a day on childcare while doing other tasks than men. The greater childcare demands that stemmed from the loss of daycare and in-person schooling were the driving force behind mothers’ lower employment rates and reduced work hours.
The closure of childcare facilities and the shift to virtual learning/home-schooling placed a burden on mothers and took many of them out of the workplace.
What can companies do to ensure women reenter the workforce?
Many women face an many obstacles when attempting to return to work after having children, but there are steps companies can take to ensure women not only can come back to work, but are properly accommodated.
- Employers must be sure that they are paying all genders equitably.
- Create internal networking structures for women + set up formal systems mentorship programs.
- Ensure that schedules can be made flexible.
- Be more accepting of gaps in women’s resumes.
- Offer extended maternity and paternity leave.
According to Rework, women might see through short-term quick fixes like hiring bonuses; they want to know that when the next pandemic or crisis hits, they won’t be forced to make the same decisions they made during the pandemic.
This means employers need to overhaul their support at the intersection of family and career.
When companies are flexible, they understand what it means to be an employee with child caretaking responsibilities. A fairer, more equitable workplace is possible if companies and spaces understand how to accommodate parents – namely, mothers.
C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told Insider that childcare disproportionately fell on women before the pandemic.
“We’re starting to have bigger public conversations around this disproportionate burden that women have, and employers are starting to have conversations about this and families are starting to have conversations, so hopefully we’ll begin to see a significant shift,” Mason said.
11% of women with young children said they quit a job due to the pandemic. Among this group, 51% said one of the reasons was because their child’s school or daycare was closed. Less women would have had to quit their jobs if their workplaces provided childcare or a place for children to do virtual learning.
“One of the long-term impacts of this pandemic may be a reversal of some of the important gains women have made with respect to increased career opportunity and pay equality,” said Debra Friedman, a labor and employment attorney at the law firm of Cozen O’Connor, “they’re forced to make choices between career and family, often resulting in a career setback.”
It is important for women to reenter the workforce for DE&I purposes, but more importantly because they can bring unique experiences to the table, which can boost productivity and motivation. It’s important that women are represented in all sectors of the workforce in order to create gender equity.
In fact, companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Women are essential to a productive and successful workforce.