HR Leaders Rethink Strategy as Working Moms Quit Jobs Due to Lack of Childcare Options

Dive into the critical issue of working mothers leaving jobs due to childcare challenges. Discover innovative HR strategies to support working parents and retain valuable talent.


The modern American workforce is undergoing a critical shift, propelled by the increasing exodus of working mothers due to inadequate childcare options. This phenomenon, often termed the “Mommy Tax,” is a key factor contributing to 80% of the gender pay gap in the U.S. This article delves into how unfair work structures are driving mothers out of the workforce, with a significant 18% making job changes or exits in the last year. The focus is on how HR leaders can rethink strategies to support working mothers, emphasizing collaboration with online childcare and educational platforms.

Understanding the “Mommy Tax”:
The “Mommy Tax” is a systemic issue in the United States, where working mothers face a significant income gap compared to women without children. This disparity extends beyond mere wage differences to encompass career progression opportunities and workplace flexibility. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a substantial wage gap between men and women, with women earning only 82 cents for every dollar earned by men as of 2022​​. Further, working moms earn 5% less per child then women without children.

The cost of after-school programs further compounds the financial challenges for working mothers. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average cost of such programs can reach up to $1,000 per month in some areas. Single Black mothers find themselves disproportionately impacted with their cost burden reaching roughly 50% of annual incomes. This cost, combined with the existing wage gap, places an additional financial burden on mothers, making it difficult for them to balance work and family responsibilities effectively.

Impact of Inadequate Childcare:
The lack of childcare options has severe consequences. A McKinsey report reveals that companies lose valuable talent as working mothers are compelled to make drastic career decisions. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this crisis, highlighting the fragility of the existing childcare system and its impact on working women’s career trajectories. In their recent report surveying working moms, up to 37% suggest they will change jobs or leave the labor entirely further expanding the $57B economic impact to the US.

HR Leadership in Addressing the Crisis:
HR leaders are now at a crossroads, requiring innovative approaches to retain and support their female workforce. In a world where families with children aged 10-18 represent the largest population of working parents, the need for companies to expand the definition of traditional childcare to support all working parents is imperative. This involves re-evaluating traditional childcare benefits and exploring collaborations with online educational marketplaces and options for parents with older children, so this group too are able to more easily balance work and home. Such platforms offer diverse courses, providing flexible and engaging life-skills building enrichment programs that can ease the burden on working parents.

The Role of Online Educational Marketplaces:
Online educational platforms have emerged as a lifeline for working parents of school-age kids. These platforms offer an array of courses and activities that not only engage children but also provide educational value. This approach not only supports working mothers but also contributes to the children’s developmental needs.

Corporate Strategies for Childcare Support:
Prior to the pandemic, after-school care was already a critical need for working parents. According to the Afterschool Alliance, in 2020, for every child in a program, two were waiting to get in. However, the advent of COVID-19 caused a seismic shift, exacerbating these shortages. National reports now indicate that for every child in an after-school program, four others are now waiting. Not only did this drive up the cost of care, making it unattainable for many families, the ripple effect saw women’s workforce participation reduce to a 33-year low, per a National Women’s Law Center report. The result? A twofold impact: squeezing an already tight market for after-school care and pushing many mothers out of the workforce due to the lack of support.

Solutions include subsidizing access to online educational platforms, offering flexible working hours as easily adoptable, affordable, and turnkey options. By doing so, businesses can create a more inclusive environment that acknowledges and addresses the unique challenges faced by working mothers.

Online marketplaces for after-school programs are revolutionizing the way educational and enrichment activities are delivered, making them more accessible to a wider range of students. A significant benefit of this digital shift is the enhanced accessibility, particularly for students in remote or underserved geographic areas, as well as for children with disabilities who face additional challenges participating in traditional in-person activities.

A recent survey by EdWeek Research Center highlighted the positive role of digital resources in after-school learning, with 73% of teachers acknowledging that these tools complement traditional learning methods. This adoption of virtual learning platforms not only bridges the geographical gap but also allows for customized learning experiences catering to individual learning styles and needs, including those of students with disabilities.

This democratization of access to educational resources is a pivotal step in ensuring that all children can engage in meaningful after-school learning experiences. It is essential, from a legislation and employer perspective to recognize and harness its potential to create more equitable and accessible educational environments.

Economic and Social Benefits:
Supporting working mothers through enhanced childcare options presents significant economic and social benefits. It ensures the retention of skilled workers, promotes gender equality in the workplace, and contributes to a more diverse and innovative business environment. Furthermore, it supports the overall well-being of families and the community at large.

The issue of working mothers leaving the workforce due to the lack of childcare options is a clarion call for HR leaders to innovate and adapt. By embracing collaborations with online childcare and educational platforms, and rethinking traditional benefits, businesses can create a sustainable and supportive work environment. This approach is not just beneficial for working mothers but is essential for the economic and social fabric of our society.

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Carleen Haylett

Carleen Haylett,

CEO of EnrichedHQ

Carleen Haylett is the CEO of EnrichedHQ. In 2020, single mother and technology leader Carleen Haylett witnessed pandemic-driven gaps in the U.S. educational space when her fifth-grade son began to thrive with homeschooling. The schoolwork was manageable, but the lack of affordable virtual extracurricular programs available, which would stimulate his development as a student preparing for middle and high school, was a shock. Torn between motherhood and her career, corporate pressure mounted, she left her job. She founded EnrichedHQ to solve the logistical nightmare of finding and managing options for kids who no longer need day care or a sitter, bridging childcare through high school. Leveraging her 20+ years in technology development, product management, and sales, she developed a platform that offers virtual extracurricular programs for middle and high school age children that enrich and prepare them for life. Working parents are able to find an immediate remedy for this common parental stressor through their employers. EnrichedHQ handles all the logistics, letting parents easily find, book, schedule, and pay for multiple virtual programs for multiple children across multiple providers. Both corporations and parents benefit from EnrichedHQ’s commitment. Visit