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University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies new white paper highlights mental health of mothers in the workplace

By Sharla Hooper

Dr. Jessica Flores and Dr. Marlene Blake explore how worry about children’s safety impacts mothers’ mental well-being in the workplace

During Mental Health Awareness Month, University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies has released a new white paper, “Mothers’ Plights to Protect their Children and the Impact on Workplace Performance,” authored by Jessica Flores, Ed.D., fellow, Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research (CWDIR), and Clery Compliance Officer and Marlene N. Blake, Ph.D., fellow, CWDIR, and doctoral area chair for University of Phoenix.

According to the 2023 M.O.M. Report, lower-income and mid/high-income working mothers are worried about their children’s safety, second only to stress over personal finance.

“Research shows mothers’ worries are valid. Exposure to violence is nearly unavoidable as unhealthy and criminal behavior intrudes on television and movies, social media, and in daily life resulting in increased risks for similar behavior and mental health concerns,” states Flores. “It is important to consider the reasons working mothers worry, along with the impact and options for support in the workplace.”

The white paper explores findings from the 2023 Mothers Overcome More Report (M.O.M. Report) and 2024 Career Optimism Index® study to focus on how working mothers’ concern for their children’s safety impacts their mental health, and what employers might do to provide support.

“Worry is inevitable, but debilitation from worry is not,” states Flores. “Working mothers need space to acknowledge the worry and consider options that will keep their children safe.”

The white paper explores specific safety concerns indicated by working mothers, specifically gun violence and the impact of defensive postures, as well as how stress from worry can be mitigated with goal-oriented action, and through supportive workplace actions such as acknowledgment, and establishing safe spaces to prioritize productive conversation.

“Employers may consider sharing regular resources focusing on all areas of well-being to help with the inevitable worries working mothers’ experience,” shares Blake.

Flores has nearly 22 years of experience as a higher education compliance professional. She serves as a champion on the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB). Her research focuses on underrepresented populations’ experiences and perceptions to recommend and support policy-level change and improvement. Flores earned her doctorate in education (Ed.D.) and her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from University of Phoenix.

Blake brings a 20-year career in online higher education focused on faculty training, development, mentoring, and holistic support to her Fellow position in CWDIR. ACCESS (Advancing Community, Critical thought, Engagement, Scholarship Success) is an introductory course sequence for the Colleges’ doctoral students. As an ACCESS Doctoral Area Chair in the College, Blake’s activities and research as a Fellow resulted in five conference presentations in 2023, as well as enhancing planned student support sessions and this white paper. Her educational background includes a bachelor’s in psychology from Arizona State University, a master’s in education focusing on Adult Distance Education as well as Curriculum and Instruction and a doctorate in Higher Education Administration, both earned from University of Phoenix.

The full white paper is available at the University of Phoenix Career Institute webpage or as a direct link here.

About University of Phoenix 

University of Phoenix innovates to help working adults enhance their careers and develop skills in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, skills-mapped curriculum for our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and a Career Services for Life® commitment help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit

About the College of Doctoral Studies

University of Phoenix’s College of Doctoral Studies focuses on today’s challenging business and organizational needs, from addressing critical social issues to developing solutions to accelerate community building and industry growth. The College’s research program puts students in the center of an effective ecosystem of experts, resources and tools to help prepare them to be a leader in their organization, industry and community. Through this program, students and researchers work with organizations to conduct research that can be applied in the workplace in real time.

About the Career Optimism Index®

The Career Optimism Index® study is one of the most comprehensive studies of Americans' personal career perceptions to date. The University of Phoenix Career Institute® conducts this research annually to provide insights on current workforce trends and to help identify solutions to support and advance American careers and create equity in the workplace. For the fourth annual study, fielded between December 5, 2023-January 2, 2024, surveyed more than 5,000 U.S. adults who either currently work or wish to be working on how they feel about their careers at this moment in time, including their concerns, their challenges, and the degree to which they are optimistic about their careers. The study was conducted among a nationally representative, sample of U.S. adults and includes additional analysis of the workforce in the top twenty DMA markets across the country to uncover geographic nuances. The study also explores insights from 501 U.S. employers to provide comparison between the workforce and those who hire, train, and retain them. Additionally, for the first time, a statistical modeling analysis was conducted to illustrate how employers and employees can benefit financially from investing in career optimism.