Recode recently published a state of the union about how moms in tech felt returning to their jobs after having babies. The results were encouraging with 50% of women surveyed rating their experience returning to work post-baby in tech as a great one and 80% reporting that they have stayed at their jobs since returning. The tech industry is finally waking up to the needs of new parents and all is fine and dandy, you might assume after reading this survey.
Yet new mothers still face a major hurdle with one of most essential needs for working parents. One mom reported, “Childcare has been my biggest struggle. It would be wonderful if work site offered onsite childcare.” The majority of respondents to the survey gave their childcare options the lowest ratings: 1 (horrible) or 2. How are mothers supposed to advance in tech when their options for one of the most basic parental needs is more often than not, “horrible”?
How are mothers supposed to advance in tech when their options for one of the most basic parental needs is more often than not, “horrible”?
At Winnie, the company I started that’s building technology for parents, we know that this pain is more acute than ever with 90% of new parents now being millennials. Millennials are the first generation of parents where the majority of households do not have a full-time, stay-at-home parent. With all parents in the household working, we hear over and over again from parents using Winnie that childcare is one of their family’s biggest stressors. Moms and dads everywhere need to figure out who is going to look after their children while they work.
While the problem may be clear, the solution is not. On-site childcare is often cited as the answer, but for a variety of reasons, it is not feasible for most companies: you need the space for it, there are nontrivial licensing and regulatory requirements, and it takes a lot of upfront capital. These hurdles make on-site childcare all but out of the question for small businesses and startups. On-site childcare is a wonderful benefit if you can offer it, but it can’t be the only solution to the problem or we will not make enough progress as evidenced by this area lagging behind all others in the survey.
So if on-site childcare is not the best solution, what is? At Winnie, we realized that childcare is, in many cases, an information problem. As many as half of childcare providers, including high quality in-home providers, have no web presence and can’t be found with a Google search, which leads parents to think they have fewer options than they do. Finding providers with available space is even more challenging — with so little information available online, you could be spending days on end making calls to find an open daycare or preschool slot for your child.
To address this problem, we built winnie.com/childcare: a comprehensive, searchable and free directory of all licensed daycares and preschools including detailed descriptions, photos, tuition information, availability data and more. This free resource is currently available in the San Francisco Bay Area and is rolling out in the next couple months to all 50 states.
Employers too need to step up to the plate in providing childcare solutions even when on-site childcare is out of the question. As an employer, you can take responsibility for creating a family-friendly work environment that supports working parents. Do you have internal documentation pointing people to resources like Winnie? Do you afford employees returning to work the flexibility to ensure they are comfortable with their childcare arrangements? Do you respect that parents have childcare responsibilities outside of their work hours and allow them to focus on their families during that time? Most childcare arrangements are 9 to 5 deals and extended care can be very expensive. Even an employee who has found quality care will need the support to leave work in time to pick up their child. Asking an employee to stay late at the last minute can take an enormous toll on parents.
When you relieve parents’ biggest stressor, you not only win parents’ loyalty as employees, you also have more productive employees who can devote more of their headspace to their job. And despite what the Recode survey would lead you to believe, this is not just a burden for mothers. Millennial dads are sharing the parenting workload and feel this pain too. Finding high-quality, affordable, available childcare is one the biggest issues that this new generation of parents face and we need to implement practical solutions rather than wait for the panacea of on-site childcare.