Working Moms Face Higher Stress Levels During Pandemic, Utah Study Finds

SALT LAKE CITY – National studies have shown that many mothers of young children face disproportionate impacts in their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new study illustrates how mothers in Hive State are doing draw from it.

“Raising children has been difficult during the pandemic, especially as schools and daycares have closed and parents, especially women, have been forced to adapt to this added pressure to balance this work and the life, ”said Susan Madsen, founding director of Women and Leadership Project at Utah State University.

A previous report from the National Women’s Law Center found that women dropped out of the workforce at a rate four times that of men during the pandemic. In Utah, jobs held by women declined at a rate more than double that of men between 2019 and 2020, according to data from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Researchers from the Women and Leadership Project hoped “to obtain clues on the long-term impacts and try to bring women back into the workforce and into leadership roles, but also on the impacts of companies that discover that remote working maybe works ”. said Madsen, lead author of the new study.

“We’ve heard stories from women, but here we have statistics to really look at the differences,” she said.

About 3,500 women responded to a survey distributed by the Women and Leadership Project with assistance from nonprofits, chambers of commerce, government agencies, universities, churches and other organizations. . The survey was provided in English and Spanish.

Stress levels

Many women agreed in the survey that “the pandemic is more difficult for mothers than for fathers,” according to Madsen.

When asked if they agreed with the statement “I am exhausted from my extra responsibilities at home”, those with children at home were more likely to agree than those with children at home. without children.

Those with children under the age of 18 were also more likely to agree that they found themselves “struggling to balance work and family responsibilities” than before the pandemic, noting “the difficulties and the additional stress associated with raising children during the pandemic, especially when schools and daycares closed, and parents (women in particular) have been forced to adapt to this added pressure to balance work and life. family ”, according to the researchers.

But mothers with children aged 12 to 17 reported experiencing less stress – even though they also had younger children – than those with only younger children. This meant that parents in many households depended on their older siblings to care for the younger ones, Madsen said.

“The women with children at home are the ones who have the most difficulty and are the ones who have really said that they are more exhausted, and it makes sense, if they are more exhausted and have a hard time balance their professional life, ”she said.

While many women worked remotely, some in industries like healthcare had to continue to work in person and at the same time meet childcare and home schooling needs, she added.

The study also highlighted the ways in which women of color were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, as they were more likely to agree that they were exhausted and “struggling to balance work and family life,” according to the study. ‘investigation.

Unsurprisingly, women who worked with young children were more likely to say they found childcare issues at least somewhat stressful, while women with older children (aged 6 to 11) considered childcare as less of a concern than the Internet and schoolwork for their children. The data also showed that concerns about “adequate computer / internet access” became stronger when a participant’s reported income was lower.

Single mothers “at all levels” have shown “higher levels of agreement regarding negative COVID-19 results,” the researchers said. But this was especially true for Hispanic and Latin mothers, who were more likely to report being a lone parent, at 21% versus 13% of white respondents.

“If you’re a single mom, of course it all goes up when you don’t have what we call a partner’s presence at home… that stress and emotional exhaustion and all of those things increase,” he said. noted Madsen. .

Support in the workplace

The study also looked at how women perceive their culture at work.

Women with children were “more worried about being judged negatively because of the challenges of balancing work and roles at home,” according to the survey, and they said they felt less secure. comfortable sharing these challenges. They were also more likely to consider quitting their jobs.

“These fears demonstrate that employers may not know what challenges working women face without being proactive in gathering information, and employees are unlikely to show up unless they are convinced it doesn’t matter. will not have a negative impact on their career. Therefore, without taking action to foster trust and inclusion, employers can risk losing valuable employees, ”the researchers wrote.

But the pandemic hasn’t been all negative for moms. Many have found the move to remote work a welcome change and believe it has “increased inclusiveness,” according to the study. Madsen noted that many companies will continue to allow remote work or a hybrid work schedule due to successes over the past year.

The researchers encouraged the mothers’ partners, when present, to share household chores and childcare; employers to foster an “inclusive” environment and initiate conversations with employees to understand the challenges they face; and state and local governments to implement policies “that support positive changes in childcare, flexible working hours, family leave policies, the gender pay gap and programs. career boost ”.

Madsen noted that the Utah legislature, which commissioned the study, is working on a policy to help with child care issues.

“A lot of times you think these are women’s issues, but that’s really an old way of looking at it. They’re really family issues and social issues,” Madsen said.

The researchers noted that the survey results are not representative of the state as a whole in some respects, as women of color, women with less education, and women with lower incomes were downsampled from. the demographics of the state. The survey may also over-represent women in education, according to the researchers.

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