Sales trainer Maggie Mundwiller was one of countless people who lost a job they loved as a result of the pandemic. At the time, her son Mylo was just six weeks old, adding an extra layer of complexity to her job search. With her husband working and childcare costs prohibitively high, Maggie had no choice but to schedule interviews around her infant — which, unfortunately, sometimes meant canceling them when his nap schedule suddenly changed.
Recently, Maggie was invited to a same-day interview at a company because their executives were in from out of town. With no access to childcare, she felt she had no option but to decline. The company’s response surprised her. They wrote back “We’re child friendly,” along with a heart-eyes emoji indicating they’d love to meet her son.
Maggie documented her experience preparing for the child-in-tow interview in a viral video that has racked up millions of views. Dressed in his best suit, Mylo, now one, helped wash his stroller and even brought along his own resume, which showcases key skills like the ability to destroy a clean space in 30 seconds and spot a dog a mile away.
Maggie was offered the job but ultimately turned it down because it wasn’t the right fit. And though her video is adorable, it also highlights some of the challenges that many working parents face. The good news, however, is that Maggie and Mylo’s story also showcases an opportunity for companies to create a more inclusive interview process and workplace. Keep reading to learn more.
To help prevent working parents from dropping out of the hiring process, consider normalizing child-friendly interviews
While the pandemic impacted everyone, it has had a disproportionate effect on the careers and job prospects of many working mothers. Globally, women did three times as much unpaid child care as men in 2020, forcing thousands to leave their jobs or forgo looking for new ones after being laid off.
As a result, the number of women in the U.S. workforce has dropped to levels not seen since 1988, with one study estimating that employment recovery for women will take 18 months longer than it will for men. In turn, this may exacerbate existing salary gaps and create an even steeper climb to the top for women.
To support parents looking to re-enter the workforce, companies can take inspiration from Maggie and Mylo’s story and signal that their interviews are child-friendly, whether conducted virtually or in person. This may require a bit more patience from the interview panel if the candidate needs to tend to a fussy child, but will give an appreciative parent an opportunity to put their best foot forward.
Companies could also consider offering a stipend for candidates to pay for childcare during their interviews. After all, it’s not uncommon to pay for an out-of-town candidate’s travel expenses, so there’s certainly a precedent for easing the financial burden interviews can create. As Maggie told The Today Show in response to some people criticizing her for taking her infant to an interview, “For people who are in transition, it’s not as easy to just set aside money for child care. You have to make sure you’re paying your mortgage, and you’re buying groceries… The reason I brought Mylo with me was because I’m not paying for daycare right now because I don’t have a job.”
To attract and retain working parents, showcase predictability and flexibility
Making it easier for candidates with kids to interview is only the first step in creating a workplace that supports working parents. As offices reopen, some companies are exploring or expanding benefits like childcare subsidies and on-site daycare centers to make it easier for employees to juggle their work-life responsibilities.
Others are allowing parents to work reduced hours when they need to, or offering more opportunities to work from home. At PwC, for example, all employees were given the option to move to a part-time or four-day schedule during the pandemic, and to set aside “protected hours” for family time during which people knew not to disturb them. And at Hilton, where a large proportion of the workforce is part-time and hourly, employees get a “first look” schedule 10 days in advance to ensure they aren’t potentially scrambling to find childcare at the last minute, while also having the ability to easily swap shifts.
This kind of predictability paired with flexibility can help you not only attract working parents, but keep them. At the same time, companies should try to be mindful of practices that may inadvertently push these employees away. After-hours social events, for instance, may leave some parents with a difficult decision: miss out on valuable bonding opportunities with their team, or skip important family time. By approaching everything from benefits to culture through a more inclusive lens, companies can create a workplace where all employees can fit their jobs around their lives — not the other way around.
Final thoughts: Working parents need more support — now, and after the pandemic
The pandemic eroded barriers between work and home life, shining a light on the struggles of working parents. Many companies stepped up to provide more support, and it’s heartening to see that many businesses are planning on extending that support well into the future.
As Maggie’s story shows, working parents often have to be creative, adaptable, and resilient to juggle their responsibilities. These are all qualities that they can bring to their work — but only if companies make sure they don’t have to choose between growing their career and growing their family.
By Samantha McLaren, Content Strategist by Day, Horror Critic by Night
This is a reprint from the LinkedIn Talent Blog