Working hasn’t worked well lately for many moms. About 3.5 million American mothers living with school-age kids lost their jobs, took leave or left the labor market between March 2020 and December 2021.
About 40 percent of employers beefed up child care assistance during the pandemic — mostly through remote work and flexible schedules, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation researchers found. Still, only 1 percent of employers provide direct support such as backup child care or on-site facilities, according to the foundation’s August 2021 report.
But a Nashville-based technology company was ahead of the pandemic push for work-place child care.
Darvis, an artificial intelligence company that recently relocated its headquarters from San Francisco to Nashville, made a commitment to parents from Day One: on-site child care for all. The company, founded in 2015, provides on-site child care and allows parents to bring older children who don’t necessarily require hands-on care at all four of its offices — Nashville plus locations in Germany, England and Pakistan.
More than half of Darvis’ 90 employees are women. According to company leaders, Darvis retained all of its female employees during the pandemic, an impressive feat considering one-in-three women between the ages of 25 and 44 who left their jobs during the pandemic cited child care demands as the primary reason for their departure.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that employers were sometimes unwilling to invest in women who left the workforce to care for their children “because they will view them as less committed to their jobs.” Because of these patterns, the study predicts disruptions from the COVID era will continue to affect careers for years to come.
The in-progress recovery of the economy has helped women regain some ground, but the setbacks of the pandemic have stalled career progress for many. While the share of mothers of school-age kids who are actively working has increased by 30 percent since last spring, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, those figures don’t reflect the quality of the jobs landed and don’t include mothers with children under the age of 5, who need the most hands-on care.
“Women are making decisions out of need,” Darvis co-founder and COO Jan Schlueter says. “Those decisions aren’t necessarily in the best interests of their career.”
Schlueter says he recently hired a female project manager who left her high-paying job during the pandemic to take care of her elementary school-age children who, like many, were forced to learn virtually. After months of looking, she found a full-time sales job. The company gave her child care flexibility, but it paid only $40,000 a year.
“A mom with two children can’t survive off that,” Schlueter says. “That amount can barely sustain one person.”
While he declined to disclose exact figures, Schlueter says that mother is earning nearly double the salary from her last job and has access to on-site child care and can work from home if her children are sick or learning virtually.
The caregiving crisis is universal, but it is more severe in some places, according to Schlueter.
“If not for on-site child care, I don’t know that we could have recruited any women to work at our Islamabad office,” he says.