With women making up nearly half of the U.S. work force, and most children living in families with an employed mother, helping families balance work and family demands is an increasingly pressing priority. Few families have a “stay-at-home” parent to take care of health emergencies, look after the kids, or help with homework, yet workplace policies have not kept pace with this reality.
Many workers do not have the basic work-family supports to provide the flexibility to deal with unforeseen events, or the predictability to meet caregiving responsibilities or to pursue education. This reduces economic opportunities, diminishes the health and well-being of mothers and their families, and pushes some women out of the workforce altogether. This briefing paper summarizes research on women’s employment and family responsibilities, and discusses three areas of workplace policy that provide opportunities to better support women and families: leave policies, child care and elder care supports, and access to workplace flexibility and predictability.