New report says mothers are paying a “motherhood penalty” in the workplace nationwide

A new report says working mothers lack support in workplaces all over Canada.

A study by Maturn, a Vancouver-based organization that supports working mothers, showed that 50 per cent of mothers expressed dissatisfaction with the support provided during maternity leave and one-third of mothers considered leaving their jobs due to inadequate support.

Sonja Baikogli Foley, Co-Founder of Maturn tells CityNews that women are paying a ‘motherhood penalty’ in Canada — this includes the wage gap that prompts women to leave the workforce and hinders their chances of ascending into leadership positions.

“Our aim with this is for employers to implement policies that better support working mothers, and cultivate a more inclusive and productive workplace for everyone,” she said.

Maturn’s report pulls out five different themes from their findings and recommends actionable results that can help guide organizations on what they can do to support working mothers.

The five themes include career development, mental health, schedule flexibility, child-care support, and better maternity leave support.

The report says 47 per cent of mothers felt organizations could have had a better communication and transition plan for mothers going on and coming back from maternity leave.

Fiona Walsh, a corporate woman turned self-employed mindset coach, and a mother to three, says she found it hard to balance raising her children and going back to work.

“I left the corporate world because I wasn’t able to find the balance…and holding senior positions, and responsibilities,” she said.

“I went out on my own and set up my own business to create what (a balance) that looks like for me.”

Walsh says because of the barriers that mothers are facing in the workforce, she is seeing many of mothers do the same.

“I’m seeing mums who don’t want to take a side road or go backward in their career create their career on their own terms,” she said.

“Be the best mom that they want to be for their kids and partner and you know everyone else in their life.”

Walsh says she was faced with little flexibility in her workplace. She did not have the option to share responsibilities, work part-time, or work shorter weeks — especially in senior positions.

The study says, 50 per cent of the mothers needed help juggling motherhood and leadership, and 43 per cent said flexibility at the workplace would have helped them transition better.

Walsh says that Vancouver is also an expensive city to live in. The cost of childcare and daycare is another reason many moms leave their jobs.

“You are sort of looking at anywhere from you know $40,000 a year so it’s a lot of money to have your kids taken care of,” she said.

She acknowledges that the government of B.C. is working towards making childcare more accessible, but it’s still not good enough because of the lack of availability in those daycares.

“You are on so many waitlists and some of them charge you money just to have your name on the waitlist,” she said.

“That taken off your plate would be helpful and then also just being able to not to need to do multiple drop offs in the morning.”

Walsh suggests that if workplaces offered childcare support, that would help not just mothers but both working parents.

Foley tells CityNews that it’s important the narrative that mothers are the primary caregivers of children starts shifting. She says it’s important that the government, the workplace, and the community start putting the onus of taking care of children on both parents.

“We need our government policies to be more family-focused, and more modernized in a way that supports not just mothers, but supports all parents to take leave so that the burden of taking leave is not just on mothers,” she said.

Foley says it’s important to understand how maternal bias might be showing up within organizations because maternal bias is the “most pervasive form of gender bias and most people are unaware that they even have it.”