Bay Area sees growth in new moms' workforce participation rate
The percentage of San Francisco metro area women who recently gave birth and remain part of the workforce is growing, per new U.S. Census Bureau data — though not at a steady pace.
Why it matters: Motherhood often knocks women out of the labor force, at least temporarily — slowing their career and earnings growth and contributing to the gender pay gap.
By the numbers: Almost 72% of San Francisco metro area women who gave birth in the previous 12 months were in the labor force as of 2022, according to data from the latest American Community Survey.
- That's compared with about 70% in 2021, and nearly 64% in 2010.
Zoom in: Though the tech industry is considered to have some of the best employee benefits, motherhood has long been seen as a barrier to career success.
- Already facing the glass ceiling, many women in engineering leave the profession entirely after having children due to heavy workloads and travel expectations, according to a 2017 analysis published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal.
- In 2016, the Bay's birthrate dropped to its lowest since the 1980s, research organization Joint Venture Silicon Valley found.
- In 2013, former Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg co-wrote the book "Lean In" in a bid to empower mothers while calling on companies to rectify stigma, sexism and demanding workplace policies.
- For women in less well-paying industries, the problems are compounded. Roughly 4 in 10 low-wage workers in California are the sole earners in their families, the UC Berkeley Labor Center notes.
The big picture: Nationally, the percentage of women who recently gave birth and remained in the workforce reached a decade-plus high-water mark last year.
- 66.6% of U.S. women who gave birth in the previous 12 months were in the labor force as of 2022.
- That's barely higher than the 66.5% in 2021, but a significant jump from the 61.6% in 2010.
Of note: The cost of child care has skyrocketed in part due to a lack of supply and low caretaker pay.
- As care gets more expensive, more and more families are put in the difficult position of deciding whether it makes sense for both parents to work or for one to stay home and watch the kids.
- Often, it's mothers who wind up staying home — in part because they likely make less to begin with.
- Vital pandemic-era federal funding for child care centers is also about to dry up, likely deepening the affordability crisis.
What we're watching: Whether this trend continues into the fully post-pandemic years.
- Some employers are trying to get workers back to the office, but are finding mixed success, as many employees embrace a lifestyle that affords better flexibility — whether to raise a family, pursue a hobby or simply avoid a stressful commute.
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