Support for carers starts with better data


Research has shown that 73% of all employees have some form of informal care responsibilities. However, because the majority of employers do not track the status of informal care, they do not provide the supporting infrastructure – such as the right benefits and policies – to support this large segment of their workforce. As a result, US companies lose $35 billion annually by failing to attract, support, and retain these critical employees. The authors make four recommendations to help close this data gap.

Technology continues to fuel America’s fourth industrial revolution, and with it, data analytics has fundamentally changed the way business leaders manage people. Never in history did companies have so much information to shape decision-making.

But as much as corporate America relies on real-time insights, it’s missing a key segment of data that, if captured, will help the US narrow its huge gaps in gender equality — data on working families.

The White House recently recognized this gap. One of President Biden’s first executive orders on his inauguration day was the creation of an Interagency Working Group on Equitable Data. And in its October 2021 National Strategy for Gender and Equity, the government pledged to “include data collection on factors such as pregnancy and parenting status to identify barriers in education, the workforce and other sectors.”

The data we have proves that maternity bias in corporate America is the strongest and most prevalent form of gender bias in our economy — a self-inflicted block on becoming a global talent competitor. Sociologist Shelley Correll’s groundbreaking 2007 study found that female job seekers with children were rated as “significantly” less competent, less intelligent and less likely to be hired, compared to an equally qualified female candidate without children. Recent studies by law professor Joan C. Williams show that these negative perceptions of mothers still exist in the workplace. And an analysis by Bloomberg Law illustrates that the number of applications for pregnancy discrimination has risen since 2016.

Companies rarely measure maternity bias in their hiring and retention reporting, or even mention it in their diversity and inclusion strategies. And it’s not just moms: Employees of all genders who have caring responsibilities — for children, the elderly, spouses, relatives, friends or significant others — are likely to face bias.

Yet most employers are in the dark about how much of their employees care for others at home. Research by Harvard Business School professor Joseph Fuller shows that business leaders drastically underestimate both the number of caregivers in their workforce and the impact they have on bottom line. Fuller found that 73% of all employees have some form of caregiver responsibility. However, because the majority of employers do not track the status of informal care, they do not provide the supporting infrastructure – such as the right benefits and policies – to support this large segment of their workforce. According to Fuller, this results in US companies losing $35 billion annually by failing to attract, support and retain these critical employees. Again, it’s not just mothers who are affected. A third of men change jobs when they become carers.

Here are four actions business leaders can take to close this data gap:

1. Learn from business leaders who are already measuring health status.

Companies that have adopted this practice recognize the value of discovering how many of their employees have care responsibilities. Technology security firm Cloudfare started tracking this data earlier this year. “We believe caregivers are a critical part (of) the workforce,” said Janet Van Huysse, Cloudflare’s Chief People Officer. “And like all team members at Cloudflare, we want caregivers here to have the career of their dreams. We need to look at this data to fill any gaps in representation and ultimately work experience.”

Oyster, a global employment platform, also collects data about healthcare providers in its workforce. “At Oyster, we have employees in more than 70 countries, which means we need to consider the implications of caring for many different demographics,” said co-founder and CEO Tony Jamous, noting that the company plans to explicitly address the issue. health care status when it evaluates equity across recruitment, retention, promotions, compensation and engagement.

2. Collaborate with employees on a holistic measurement vision.

The best way to understand the needs of your caregivers is to talk to them. They will help you identify what your culture needs to create an equitable experience for caregivers. Employee surveys are one way to do this. Your company’s parenting or caregiving employee resource group (ERG) is another good place to start.

3. Share your data publicly to build transparency and trust.

EEOC reporting regulations require employers to collect data on certain employee segments, such as gender, race and job class. Recent surveys have found that 73% of Americans want companies to share their diversity data publicly, and companies that do so outperform their stock market competitors by 2.4%. The pandemic has made it clear that it is time to add caregiver status to this list.

4. Advocate for more companies to measure and share their data.

Our organizations, TendLab and Parents in Tech Alliance, have teamed up to ask employers to fulfill the Tending to Care promise to track the health status of their employees and address its impact on hiring, retention, promotion and compensation . Fuller’s research finds that “few employers are aware of the magnitude of the career-versus-care challenges that employees face.” Taking the pledge ensures that you do not operate in the dark.

Last month, EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows noted a rise in Covid-19-related discrimination complaints by health care providers, as the agency released updated guidelines on how to avoid discrimination against health care providers.

We can’t solve a problem we can’t see, and we can’t manage what we can’t measure. Companies must collectively begin monitoring health care status to design targeted interventions to maintain and improve the productivity and engagement level of their health care workers. The data will reveal that the US cannot compete in a global market when our companies are so disadvantaged compared to our counterparts in other countries with invested solutions such as subsidized childcare and paid family leave.

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