Though always considered a critical part of the employee experience, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have gained traction in the last couple of years. In fact, as of July 2022, all Fortune 100 companies have publicly committed to DEI.1 According to Culture Amp’s 2022 Workplace DEI Report, 85% of HR and DEI professionals surveyed believe their organizations are building a diverse and inclusive culture. 81% of respondents see DEI initiatives as beneficial to their organizations, and 71% reported that their organizations are doing more than just meeting compliance requirements.1
However, these positive perceptions and public-facing commitments aren’t necessarily indicators of real DEI progress. Diversity is often the only thing people pay attention to. For employees, specifically women and people of color, the lack of meaningful action to improve equity and inclusion in the workplace has far-reaching consequences on their mental and physical health, career trajectory, financial stability, and many other areas of their personal and professional lives. There’s an undeniable need for organizations to offer work-life benefits—and a strong business case for doing so.
In part one of this series, we looked at the disparities people of color face at work and how women taking on the bulk of caregiving responsibilities affects gender and racial diversity in the workplace. In part two, we’ll explore how childcare and eldercare support can impact diversity, the importance of redesigning the workplace to better support women and people of color, and solutions for bringing these much-needed work-life benefits to your workforce.
How childcare and eldercare support impacts workplace diversity
Even before the pandemic began, the United States was facing a childcare crisis,2 with over half of families reporting difficulty finding childcare.3 The health and economic impacts of the coronavirus have devastated the childcare industry, making it even harder for parents to find affordable and reliable childcare.4 Without access to childcare, working parents typically have two options: work fewer hours and make less money or leave their jobs entirely.5
Just as women shoulder most housework and childcare responsibilities, they are far more likely than men to suffer unemployment or reduced hours due to a lack of childcare.6 53% of working mothers reported lack of childcare as a top reason for leaving the workforce,7 compared with just 20% of working fathers.8 Additionally, 57% of working mothers with young children said they received fewer professional opportunities as a result of their childcare responsibilities. Only 38% of working fathers said the same.7
Single mothers and women of color disproportionately experienced a partial or total loss of income because they couldn’t find childcare. 23% of Black women (versus 15% of non-Black women) and 22% of non-married women (versus 15% of married women) reported that their work hours were reduced due to childcare issues.6
Like the unequal distribution of childcare duties, women also bear the most eldercare responsibilities. An estimated 66% of caregivers for elder relatives are women.9 While men provide some assistance, women spend as much as 50% more time providing care. 20% of women in the workforce provide elder care in addition to their full-time jobs.10
Women caregivers provide unpaid caregiving services worth an estimated market value of anywhere from $148 billion to $188 billion annually.11 Due to the conflicting demands of work and eldercare, women sacrifice their careers and, subsequently, their earnings to support their families:
- 33% decreased their work hours12
- 29% passed up a job promotion, training, or assignment12
- 22% took a leave of absence12
- 20% switched from full-time to part-time employment12
- 16% quit their jobs12
- 13% retired early12
Beyond the immediate financial hardship caused by lost wages, leaving the workforce, or making job changes due to caregiving duties has significant consequences for women’s long-term earnings. Women who took just one year off work earned 40% less than women who didn’t take time off, on top of lost retirement savings and benefits.13 Because people of color are more likely to have low-wage, blue-collar jobs and are twice as likely as white people to live in poverty,14 women of color who have to take time off to care for their children or elderly relatives face even more dire economic consequences.
Redesigning the workplace to better support women and people of color
Today, an estimated 50 million workers, about a third of the U.S. workforce, have a child under the age of 14, and 30% of those workers have children who are all under the age of 6.15 In addition, projections show that, by 2030, 73 million Americans will be 65 or older.16 42% of U.S. workers report that they’ve provided care for an aging relative or friend in the past five years, while 49% expect to be doing so in the next five years.17
This data makes it clear that the traditional work model—established some 70 years ago by and for white-collar white men—of long hours and rigid schedules does not work today.14 In other words, it’s time to redesign workplaces to support everyone, especially women and people of color.
Here are some modern workplace benefits to support employees with caregiving responsibilities:
- Flexible work hours. Flexible hours improve the hiring and retention of women and people of color and their representation in management.14
- Paid family leave. Employers can expand standard maternity leave policies to include paid leave for new fathers and any employee who needs to take time off to care for or support family members.
- Remote and hybrid work policies. Offering parents and other caregivers the flexibility of working from home when needed makes mitigating the impact of caregiving issues easier.
- Childcare support. There are many ways to support workers with children, from subsidized on-site childcare to referral programs to back up childcare benefits. And doing so can lower absenteeism by 30% and reduce turnover by 60%—in addition to boosting employee productivity.18
- Eldercare support. Eldercare benefits can include help with finding nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and other living arrangements, support organizing meal delivery, medication delivery, senior transportation, and other services to help caregivers.
- Mental health care. Caregiving is stressful, whether for children or an aging or sick relative. Providing comprehensive mental health and wellbeing support is an essential benefit for diverse and inclusive workforces.
- Other work-life services. Financial help, legal services, EAP counseling, and other work-life benefits help support the whole person.
Uprise Health helps members balance work and home life with referrals to family care and parenting support and services, as well as assistance navigating and obtaining the services they need. For aging adults, referral services include everything from assisted living arrangements to meal delivery to in-home support. For members with children, referral services are available for support with finding daycare to planning for college—and everything in between.
Members also have 24/7 access to our robust online resource library with articles, webinars, and important forms on a wide range of caregiving topics. Plus, our EAP solution provides whole-person support to members with access to legal services, financial help, on-demand mental health modules, short-term counseling, and more.