According to a new report by Gallup titled "Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived," disillusionment and frustration are rampant among working women in the U.S., especially moms.
Some 54 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 say they would rather be at home than in the office, and only 40 percent of mothers with young children say they are employed because they prefer to be.
By contrast, 45 percent of working moms say they are angling for a leadership position in their workplace.
Gallup's researchers surveyed 323,500 U.S. adults. Their findings suggest that widespread dissatisfaction among working women leads many of them to opt out during what are called the "prime" years of their careers and "certainly calls into question the appeal of U.S. workplaces and what they provide for women."
Researchers point out that "gender diversity also leads to better business outcomes," including "improved profits and revenue."
Businesses have an incentive to do more to hold on to their female workforce. Right now, though, they are failing. Gallup's summation is blunt: "Too many U.S. organizations continue to follow policies created in the 1990s, if not the 1950s." Those outdated policies do not suffice to retain some of their most talented employees.
Gallup reveals that employers tend to cluster at the extremes, being either extremely good at or not at all interested in encouraging work-life balance. For example, 33 percent of mothers report that their employers do "very well" at giving them the opportunity to work from home on occasion; another 33 percent of mothers say their employers do "very poorly."
The ability to work remotely when necessary, Gallup notes, is "the greatest pain point" for working mothers. Other important issues for this constituency include flexibility on hours, paid-time off, health insurance, salary, and opportunity for advancement. A majority of women report being dissatisfied with what their employers have to offer in those areas, especially health insurance and salary.
Most women (84 percent) report that they work for the financial independence it affords them, but there are motivations beyond a paycheck. "A majority of women consider other non-financial factors to be 'major reasons' for working," according to the report. "Three-fourths of women say they enjoy the work they do, and two-thirds say they enjoy the social aspect of working."
Put another way: "While income is important, women want more out of a job."
They are not alone. Another recent investigation by Gallup into Millennials found that "nearly six in 10 members of this generation say that work-life balance and well-being in a job are 'very important.'"
Businesses that can make the changes necessary to accommodate both women and younger employees, Gallup's researchers suggest, will have a much easier time retaining workers and succeeding in general.