Working mothers make up a significant portion of the American workforce. According to the U.S. Census, nearly one-third of employed women have children under the age of 18 at home. That’s more than 23.5 million working women nationwide.
For these women — who already face the challenge of parenting, providing for their families, and maintaining a career — the COVID-19 pandemic has only made being a working mother in the U.S. more challenging, bringing about increasing school and caretaking responsibilities on top of the prejudice and discrimination often faced by some in the workplace. Equally shameful: the country as a whole has made no progress in narrowing the gender pay gap in recent years according to EqualPayToday.org, with mothers making an average of just 70 cents to every dollar earned by their colleagues who are fathers. It’s no wonder then that recent data shows a record number of women have decided to leave the workforce, both because they are more likely to be in positions that are slashed, and because the majority of the family responsibilities at home have also been falling on their shoulders.
We spoke with Ronli Merlis, senior global manager of convention management at Sanofi (No. 28 on The DiverstyInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) about the challenges mothers face in the workplace. A mother of two teen boys herself, Merlis is part of Sanofi’s Parents Connect employee resource group (ERG), which offers support and networking opportunities for parents within the company.