New Marshall Plan for Moms Study Finds Child Care Benefits Key to Attracting, Retaining, and Advancing Women at Work

Marshall Plan for Moms released a new report “The Business Case for Child Care: How Parent-Focused Employee Value Propositions Help Companies Win the War for Talent.” In a historically tight labor market, the report found that expanded child care benefits could further companies’ efforts to attract, retain, and advance women and help bring women back to work following their exodus from the labor force during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report was created by Marshall Plan for Moms to examine the impact of the current ecosystem of child care supports in the US on companies and workers, and how the private sector can play a role in addressing child care needs, while also helping companies win the war for talent. McKinsey & Company served as a knowledge partner for the report, providing research, data, and analysis, including insights from a survey of 1000+ American parents with children ages 0-5.

The study found that for mothers of young children, expanded child care benefits from employers is a deciding factor in their employment. According to the survey, 69% of women with children under 5 would be more likely to choose an employer that offered on-site child care or benefits to help pay for child care. Furthermore, 83% reported that child care benefits would be an important factor in deciding whether to stay with their current employer or look to switch employers. Child care supports were also found to have a bearing on women’s advancement, or lack thereof: 53% of women with young children who left the workforce temporarily, took on less hours, or moved to a less demanding job cited child care as one of the reasons.

“The input from working parents is clear: employer child care supports can improve the recruitment, retention, productivity, and happiness of employees,” said Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Marshall Plan for Moms. “This is not only crucial for the health and wellbeing of individual American families, but also central to American economic competitiveness.”

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The report provides a detailed backdrop showing the United States’ patchwork child care system is in a state of crisis, leaving working parents to struggle across many challenges including Affordability, Accessibility, Convenience, Reliability, and Quality. For a stunning 80% of families, accessing center-based child care exceeds the HHS-recommended affordability level of 7% of household income. At the same time, just 13% of two-year-old children attend childcare that is rated as “high quality.”

These challenges were found to disproportionately impact mothers. Of the parents surveyed, 75% of women reported being primary caregivers at home. 45% of mothers who left the workforce cited child care expense or availability as one of the reasons they left, compared to 14% of men with children the same age. Indeed, recent jobs numbers indicate there were 1.1 million fewer women in the labor force in January 2022 compared to February 2020, even though an additional 100,000 men entered the labor force during the same time period.

Despite the fact that access to suitable child care is key to helping women return to the workplace and stay there long-term, only 1 in 11 parents surveyed reported having access to financial subsidies to pay for child care or on-site child care at their employer. With record numbers of employees leaving their jobs amid the Great Resignation, Marshall Plan for Moms’ report offers guidance for businesses to create their own child care benefits solutions, tailored to employees’ needs and suited to individual business models.

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National Business Coalition for Child Care

In light of the report’s findings and the unique opportunity for business leaders, Marshall Plan for Moms will launch a “National Business Coalition for Child Care.” Coalition members have an interest in pursuing solutions that equitably provide child care supports for employees, demonstrate willingness to take action, increase transparency by sharing their policies, data, and best practices and speak out publicly on the importance of child care to the US economic health and competitiveness and normalize the challenges of working parents.

Leading organizations including Archewell, Athletes Unlimited, Care.com, Fast Retailing, Gibson Dunn, Patagonia, and Synchrony have already signed on, helping to usher in an era of more equitable, productive, and sustainable workplaces that will unleash the full potential of their employees and the broader American economy.

“Families everywhere, and especially working moms, are asked to shoulder so much,” said Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, mom of two and Co-Founder of Archewell. “This has only been heightened by the pandemic, with increased caregiving responsibilities, rising prices, and economic uncertainty. As it’s been said many times, it takes a village to raise a child. Today, we’re sending a message that childcare isn’t just a community imperative—it’s a business imperative. Creating a stronger workforce starts with meeting the needs of families.”

“Athletes Unlimited is honored to be one of an innovative group of inaugural organizations committed to improving the rights of working moms,” said Jon Patricof, CEO and Co-Founder of Athletes Unlimited. “As a network of player-driven sports leagues comprised of four pro women’s sports, we recognize the challenges of working moms in sports and are determined to continue to improve their experience by providing child care services during season helping them continue to play and spend quality time with their families.”

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“Although the pandemic brought this private struggle into the public light, child care difficulties for working parents have always existed,” said Tim Allen, CEO of Care.com. “These challenges will remain unless employers take action. In an effort to be a part of the solution, Care.com partners with employers to supply care benefits that support employees as their needs evolve. We are proud to join the coalition to further advocate for mothers in the workforce.”

“At UNIQLO, Theory and Helmut Lang we are committed to help meet the needs of our employees and their families,” said Serena Peck, Group Executive Officer of Fast Retailing. “The Childcare Stipend policy is an important initiative, providing financial relief for our members as their families grow.”

“At Gibson Dunn, we appreciate the importance of family and understand how critical childcare is to our employees,” said Zakiyyah Salim-Williams, Chief Diversity Officer at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.  “We have a number of policies and practices that support working parents, from providing additional Bright Horizons backup childcare days to enhancing our flexibility and leave offerings.  Last, our Gibson Dunn Families coaching program and Parenting Groups serve as a resource for our employees.”

“Making onsite childcare available and offering paid family and medical leave is not just ethical, it’s foundational to Patagonia’s mission to save the home planet,” said Patagonia, Inc. President Jenna Johnson. “To retain and attract top talent and create a more supportive and productive work culture, we need policies that encourage women to stay here. I don’t even think of this as a ‘benefit,’ it’s a business imperative.”

“At Synchrony, we believe investing in our people allows us to remain an employer of choice now and for the future,” said Carol Juel, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology and Operating Officer at Synchrony. “Providing affordable, reliable and flexible childcare support is critical to meet the needs of working parents and a diverse, hybrid workforce. Together, we will continue to lean into innovative solutions that retain and advance women at work and prioritize flexibility, inclusivity and wellness for all.”

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