“The First Female Recession Threatens to Wipe Out Decades of Progress for U.S. Women” - Bloomberg 

“Pandemic Could Scar a Generation of Working Mothers” - New York Times

“Women’s Job Losses from Pandemic Aren’t Good for Economic Recovery” - The Wall Street Journal 

We’ve all seen the headlines. And the statistics: 

There’s no question that we’re facing a crisis that threatens to roll back decades of progress for women in the workforce. 

But the reality is, this crisis is part of an old, familiar problem for companies: 43% of women leave their careers within one year of having a baby


In one poll, 61% of women said family responsibilities were the main reason they weren’t working. Indeed, the many reasons—the exorbitant cost of childcare, the gender pay gap, burnout and lack of flexibility in working hours, disproportionate household and caregiving demands falling to women, to name just a few—all point to the unequal burden U.S. society has long placed on women, and moms in particular.

In addition, many companies have made leaps in paid maternity leave policies but leave alone isn’t enough to retain new moms. Companies need to shape their cultures to be more supportive of parents, and they need to step up their return-to-work support—like career coaching, support with pumping at work and breast milk shipping, training for managers, or flexible hours for ramping back. 

Companies need holistic policies, infrastructure, and programs that extend support and benefits beyond leave through the return-to-work transition and into parenthood to show parents that they support them, and to retain talent long-term. 

COVID-19 is creating renewed urgency to retain women 

The latest data tells us that in addition to forcing women to leave the workforce in droves, COVID-19 is also forcing pregnant women to consider major life changes—adding to existing challenges for talent retention.

In a recent survey Maven conducted with 1,000 pregnant women in the U.S., we found that the uncertainty of this pandemic is driving them to consider major changes for work and childcare. Here are our key findings: 

  • Nearly one-third of pregnant women, 29%, are seriously considering not returning to their job
  • 45% are seriously considering working exclusively from home going forward 
  • 38% plan to only use family members for childcare 

These new data points tell us that the problems for retaining women in the workforce exposed by COVID-19 will only continue if employers do not step up their support for parents and parents-to-be. 

What this means for companies 

Employers need proven strategies now to retain the one-third of their workforce who are parents, many of whom are facing a breaking point—along with those who are growing their families. 

When women leave their jobs, it adds up for your bottom line and your company: 

  • Replacing an employee costs employers up to 213% of that employee’s salary
  • There’s a proven waterfall effect when women leave leadership positions: it increases turnover among women and diverse employees at all levels, and slows progress toward more inclusive and family-friendly company culture 
  • Research shows that company profits and share performance can be close to 50% higher when women are well represented in leadership positions 

Parents need continuous care and support—at work, for themselves, for their kids whether they are newborns or toddlers or school-aged—to help them navigate all stages of parenthood at home and at work.

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Here are four proven strategies to retain more women in the workforce through this crisis, and beyond. 

1. Go beyond maternity leave and provide return-to-work support 

Companies that invest in paid parental leave without comprehensive return-to-work support are leaving money on the table: if 43% of women leave their jobs within one year of having a baby, the national average return-to-work rate is 57%. 

But 90% of Maven members return to work. 

This matters. By providing return-to-work support to all employees, you’re acknowledging that life as a new parent is a major transition. It’s often challenging for families to adjust to new routines, being away from a new baby, navigating common postpartum physical and mental health needs, pumping at work, setting sleep schedules, and so much more. With 24/7, on-demand access to doctors and specialists like lactation consultants, career coaches, infant sleep coaches, pediatricians, parenting coaches, and maternal mental health specialists, Maven meets new parents where they are so they feel confident at work. 

“Because of Maven and the providers I met with, I have a plan for going back to work, and I didn’t have to figure that out on my own. It also means so much to know that if it doesn't work or if something is too hard when I do return, I can pop right back on Maven.” - MaryEllen, Maven member
2. Ensure specialized mental health support is integrated throughout pregnancy and into parenthood

In a recent study commissioned by Maven, only 5% of parents said their own mental health was a top concern influencing their decisions about childcare and school as the pandemic surges, even though two-thirds of parents report feeling anxious as they navigate these decisions. As you know, working parents need more support and they are expecting more from their employers to help them through this time. 

In Maven’s virtual clinic for women and families, we saw a 300% increase in telehealth appointments with specialized behavioral and mental health providers in the first few months of the pandemic. And this has remained elevated since. This means more individuals are turning to licensed professionals ranging from social workers to therapists to counselors on Maven who specialize in key areas like parenting and children’s behavioral health, postpartum depression, coping with grief from miscarriage or loss, and more. 

This specialized mental health care can make all the difference for your employees’ health and wellbeing, not to mention your bottom line. 

3. Train your managers to be empathetic leaders 

How your people managers treat and support pregnant women, new parents, or overwhelmed parents trying to juggle childcare or virtual schooling could make or break employee satisfaction, engagement, productivity, and—ultimately—retention.

Yet, in our recent session at The Conference Board Maternity to Elder Care virtual event led by Maven Career Coach Sara Daly-Padron, 67% of the HR and benefits leaders in the audience acknowledged they “don’t ever or don’t regularly” engage or train their managers.

At Maven, we hear this often and we’re determined to change this. We partner with leading companies to integrate manager training as a key component of return-to-work support to empower more parents and managers to feel confident through the critical period before, during, and after parental leave. If you’re talking about more paid leave or flexibility to retain more parents in your workforce, you need to add training your managers to this list.

4. Give parents one thing they always want more of: time

Time is a precious commodity for pregnant women, parents, and everyone, really. As an employer, you know that your employees’ working hours are the key to productivity, creativity and innovation, and ultimately, revenue. 

That’s where on-demand access to telehealth can play a critical role. Maven meets your employees where they are and helps them get the care they need, when they need it. 

On Maven, our average wait-time to see a provider or specialist is 27 minutes.

And our members are engaging with Maven at all hours of the day and night. 

Compare that to a typical doctor’s appointment: the time spent finding a specialist and calling them to book an appointment plus the time spent traveling to and from a doctor’s office, waiting in a waiting room, filling out paperwork, or the like. During pregnancy and the postpartum period, and as a parent with kids of any age, every minute matters.

Saving parents time through Maven so that they can see vetted specialists on-demand through virtual appointments improves their overall health outcomes, drives down costs, and helps make them more engaged and productive at work. 

“During my pregnancy and as a new mom, Maven has made me feel so much more secureknowing that if there’s anything at all I have questions about, I will be able to talk to an expert. It’s incredible to be able to meet with a specialist, get treatment, and have immediate access.” - Donna, Maven member

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