Study: Fathers sharing child care key to keeping moms in workforce

To keep women in the workforce, men need to do more at home, the Harvard Business Review reports.

A new study published in Gender, Work & Organization confirms that in families where fathers do a greater share of child care, mothers were far less likely to suffer negative employment outcomes in the early days of the pandemic. 

Using data collected on 989 parents in different-sex relationships in late April 2020, researchers found that among mothers doing nearly all (80%-100%) of the care of young children prior to the pandem ic, one in two voluntarily left their job or reduced their hours in paid work. However, when child care was shared equally before the pandemic (i.e., fathers did 40%-60% of child care), the probability that mothers voluntarily left jobs or reduced work hours decreased to 15%—a similar probability as fathers (11%).

The average drop in work hours for working mothers of young children early in the pandemic was just over three hours per week, the study found. For every 20% increase in fathers’ share of child care, mothers’ time in paid labor increased by three hours per week.

For the remainder of the pandemic and beyond, the study’s authors predict that fathers who increase their domestic contributions can likely alleviate the burdens the pandemic has had on mothers’ careers and protect their employment.

But that’s only part of the solution. Helping men understand the importance of their participation at home and how it can cushion the negative effects of the pandemic on women must be part of a broader national campaign that implores men to step up their child care contributions, researchers say. Read the full story.