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Happy Mother’s Day to all tech workers who are also caregivers

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter, and Happy Mother’s Day. (Hi, mom!) Today: my editor Meg Morrone on how to win back working mothers, Anna Kramer on how HR handles workplace harassment issues that happen outside of work, and the latest from Gartner on what’s keeping your employees from wanting to return to the office.

— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)

Normalize being a mom

I’ve been a working mom for nearly two decades, and I do my best not to make this my entire identity. But it’s Mother’s Day, and it’s been a tough week for reproductive rights, so calling out the plight of working moms is my gift to me. I also like flowers.

Being a working mom is crazy hard, and it starts from the very beginning. I suspect things have changed since 2002 when a co-worker said that I was only disagreeing with him because of my “pregnancy brain,” or in 2005 when my boss bet one of our colleagues that I wouldn’t return to work after giving birth to my twins. He lost! Sadly, things haven’t quite changed enough, and the pandemic erased many of the advances that working moms had achieved.

  • According to 2017-2018 data from the U.S. Department of Labor, 33% of mothers do not have access to a single day of paid leave.
  • Pregnancy discrimination is against the law, but it still exists, whether you’re a travel blogger or a manager at Google.
  • If you work in tech, alcohol is everywhere. Consider activities that don’t revolve around drinking. Nothing is worse than being forced into early pregnancy disclosure because you don’t want to participate in the work wine tasting.

The work of mothering and mothers at work are undervalued, and this is particularly true for women of color. According to Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, 70% of Black women are the sole breadwinner and the sole care provider for their families. While Asian and white women have also yet to fully recover from pandemic pressures that pushed them from the workforce, Black women are faced with even bigger struggles because of child care constraints.

  • 1.1 million women are still missing from the U.S. workforce since the pandemic began. And those who continued working are suffering.
  • Although women are fighting back against inequities, there’s still a significant gender pay gap. And that’s a bigger problem for moms, because child care is expensive — and it’s getting worse.
  • Pay equity is relatively easy to fix. But what if everyone at a company is paid the same for the same job, but moms make less than men overall? That’s an opportunity gap, and experts say you can solve it by building a stronger promotion pipeline internally and fixing your leaky bucket (that’s the people you manage to hire, but can’t keep).

There is no one-size-fits-all way to win moms back to the workforce. Zoë Harte, chief people officer at Upwork, said companies need “a variety of truly flexible work models for working parents that meet mothers where they are in their professional and parenting journey.” Also, enough with the mom guilt. Harte said policies should “allow working mothers to take the time off they need without having to plan too far ahead, feel guilty or worry about unexpected parenting, school or household responsibilities popping up.”

Some other benefits Upwork offers its employees:

  • A virtual administrative assistant for returning moms for their first 90 days back at work.
  • A child care subsidy and subscription to
  • Membership with Cleo, which provides new parent support.
  • Mental health services through Modern Health.

Harte warns managers against using WFH requests against their employees: “Avoid measuring engagement by where and when people work. Mothers have different schedules, so trust and empower them to do their work at a time that works best for them.”

Consider the four-day workweek. Leah Reynolds, principal at Buck, an integrated HR and benefits consulting firm, said remote work, predictable hours and flex time are key. And if it works for your company, a four-day workweek might help. She also suggested:

  • Removing bias from the recruitment process.
  • Broadening PTO and parental leave policies.
  • Introducing “returnships,” or “phased return-to-work programs to re-onboard women returning as new parents or those with gaps in their work histories.”

Support all moms. Holly Faurot, chief sales officer at Paycom, recommends focusing on all kinds of family-friendly benefits, not just maternity leave. “Support through family planning, pregnancy, adoption, surrogacy, postpartum and/or new parenthood can go a long way in helping these employees feel seen,” she wrote in an op-ed for Protocol.

Normalize motherhood. Allow workers to “parent out in the open,” Harte said. “We’ve encouraged parents to block their calendars when they’re in parent mode, and ‘guest stars’ are always welcome to make cameos in our video calls: In fact, it brightens up our day.”

Hiring and supporting caregivers in the workplace isn’t a gift we give to the mothers in our lives: It’s just good business. “When people become mothers, they don’t stop being amazing creative directors, project managers or coders,” said Harte. Moms have the soft skills, but we have the hard skills too. Nobody gave me a training manual, and yet I somehow managed to onboard, manage and promote my kids to almost-adults. I don’t want a medal. But I could use a nap.

Workplace harassment … outside of work

Let’s say, hypothetically, that your employees are dating. But then it gets ugly. Is this your problem? In her latest story, my colleague Anna Kramer explored the complicated HR dilemmas facing companies when their workers get into conflicts outside of the workplace. What she discovered is that the solutions are not as straightforward as they seem.

Read the full story.


The digital revolution is already here – transforming the way we live, work, and communicate. Smart infrastructure is a key part of this revolution. It brings the power of the digital world to physical components like energy, public transportation, and public safety by using sensors, cameras, and connected devices.

Learn more

What other execs are thinking

(Some) companies want their employees to return to the office. Their employees want child care support and flexibility. At least, that’s according to an April Gartner survey of more than 150 executive leaders across industries.

  • On average, 54% of employees of executives surveyed are coming into their offices at least once a week as of April, an increase from 44% in March.
  • 47% of employees told leaders that a lack of child or elder care was a cause for concern in returning to the office, an 18% increase from March.
  • Only one in five companies surveyed said they would plan for more frequent salary reviews in response to rising inflation.


The digital revolution is already here – transforming the way we live, work, and communicate. Smart infrastructure is a key part of this revolution. It brings the power of the digital world to physical components like energy, public transportation, and public safety by using sensors, cameras, and connected devices.

Learn more

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Inside TikTok’s relentless work culture.

“Hiring is hard enough. Now new workers are vanishing before they even start.”

Thoughts on how to hire (and retain) a diverse engineering team, from six engineering leaders.

Workers’ rights aren’t a “Democrat or Republican” issue, Amazon Labor Union’s Christian Smalls tells the Senate.

Job growth and wages were strong in April. Why were workers still leaving?

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to Have a great day, see you Tuesday.

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