New #CTF research highlights impact of pandemic on working mothers

New research commissioned by Vodafone for the international #ChangeTheFace Alliance ahead of International Women’s Week 2022 has highlighted the continued importance of employer policies on flexible working, while ensuring that career or pay progression is not limited for working mothers balancing childcare and domestic responsibilities.

The new research is presented by the #ChangeTheFace Alliance, whose growing membership of international organisations are working together to share industry insights and best practice on diversity and inclusion for the wider global technology sector.

In partnership with the numbers lab @ Firefish, Vodafone commissioned research for #ChangeTheFace to understand the impact on working parents during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, plus the role of their employer in providing support and their post-COVID plans and ambitions.

The numbers lab @ Firefish surveyed nearly 3,000 working parents across UK, South Africa, Italy, Germany, Spain and Turkey online during February 2022, with mothers representing around two-thirds of those responding.  The research found that:

  • Mothers are almost twice as likely to agree that they take the lion’s share of childcare pressures and 1 in 4 spent less time on paid work as a result – but most said the time spent with children was a positive.
  • Nearly half of mothers felt their work performance was negatively impacted due to increased childcare pressures, and 3 in 4 felt that it was crucial to plan ahead to achieve a balance.
  • Three in four mothers wished that they had more support through the pandemic, demonstrating that employers play an important role in future to offer both emotional and functional support mechanics to all parents.
  • Mothers remain resilient – three in four are confident that they’ll be able to maintain a work-life balance in future and the majority have a sense of positivity and ambition in themselves and their future careers.

Serpil Timuray, CEO Europe Cluster at Vodafone said: “Although most parents have enjoyed spending greater time with their children during COVID-19, working mothers assumed more childcare and domestic responsibilities and this impacted their work performance and – in some cases – their career progression.

“As we move beyond the pandemic, employers must sustain flexible working and other support policies to ensure they maximise this opportunity to nurture a diverse and inclusive workplace for all employees at all levels.”

The research looked at four key topics for working mothers (M) and fathers (F) during the pandemic and beyond:

The impact of COVID-19 on childcare and household management

  • 69% of mothers agreed they took on most of the pressure when it came to childcare, and 62% felt stressed about balancing childcare with other elements of their lives since the pandemic started.
  • Parents particularly spent significantly more time looking after or doing things for their children (M:72%, F:73%), managing their children’s education (M:69%, F:68%), general household management (M:67%, F:65%) or other caring responsibilities (M:66%, F:64%).
  • The pandemic has had a positive impact on the sharing of childcare and household responsibilities, with the gap closing from the start of the pandemic to present. Taking on these responsibilities has negatively impacted mothers most, who spent less time to themselves (M:36%, F:30%) and on paid work (M:27%, F:19%) as a result.
  • Despite the challenges of the pandemic, four in five parents said that they had enjoyed spending more time with their children.

The impact of COVID-19 on working patterns

  • Two in five parents had made changes to their working patterns because of the pandemic, and more than one in five had made changes to their career or type of job.  A third of parents had made a change to their workplace, and a fifth were considering a change.
  • Both mothers and fathers felt that balancing childcare and work had negatively impacted their performance at work (M:44%, F:47%), but were polarized on whether the pandemic had improved (M:32%, F:35%) or worsened (M:33%, F:25%) the situation.
  • The research found that 53% of full-time working mothers and 46% of full-time working fathers had been working from home as a direct result of the pandemic, and that very few parents (M:8%, F:10%) who wanted to work from home are not currently doing so.
  • For those who worked from home full-time, mothers tended to have to improvise in a common area (M:21%, F:16%) while fathers were more likely to have a dedicated workspace (M:25%, F:30%).
  • There has been an impact on career progression across the board during the pandemic.  More fathers said their greatest loss was in achieving a pay rise (M:23%, F:32%), while more mothers found that the pandemic stopped them from becoming more successful in the current roles (M:22%, F:23%) or getting a new job (M:17%, F:14%).

The role of the employer

  • Two in five parents said more general support was needed to balance work and childcare than they received during the pandemic, with the majority receiving more support from partners (M:60%, F:64%) and family (M:52%, F:23%) than their employers (M:23%, F:27%).
  • Both mothers and fathers agreed that they would have wanted more support from their employers (M:30%, F:35%) during the pandemic.
  • Mothers highlighted only relatively moderate availability of employer policies on flexible working (44%), paid sick leave (51%) and paid parental leave (40%), but their uptake of support offers was relatively low, likely as a result of financial or workplace restrictions.
  • Parents agreed that their employers understood that they had to be more flexible to accommodate working parents’ needs (M:77%, F:80%), cared about supporting employees with children (M:71%, F:70%) and had family friendly policies in place (M:70%, F:71%).

The post-pandemic plan

  • Parents remain positive about their ability to maintain a balance of work and home responsibilities (M:76%, F:81%), with only 3% of mothers stating that they definitely won’t be able to balance both.
  • There is acceptance that flexible working will play an essential role during the next year, with more than a third of parents intending to work unusual or flexible hours (M:36%, F:37%), from home or away from the usual work location (M:36%, F:34%).
  • Despite the challenges of the last two years, parents remained positive about career progression (M:62%, F:67%).

» Click here to find the research assets and read the full report

Discussing these results on International Women’s Day

Over the last two years, our lives have been reshaped by the pandemic. None more so than working mothers. Changing work patterns, children’s educational needs and blurred boundaries between work and home life has raised the question ‘Has the pandemic set back equality?

On the 8th of March on International Women’s Day, Serpil Timuray (Vodafone), Sherry Coutu (Digital Boost), Anneli Karlstedt (Nokia), Stephen Bereaux (ITU) and Emma Birchall (Ericsson) discussed the recent wave of #ChangeTheFace research findings and how #CTF Alliance members are fighting for a diverse and inclusive tech sector.

» Click here to watch the full event recording