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Inaugural 2023 Mothers Overcome More™ Report Reveals Having a Career is a Luxury that Not All Mothers Can Afford

By Sharla Hooper

Lower-income mothers face a “basic needs barrier” that limits career growth and mentorship opportunities, preventing them from securing the financial means to alleviate external pressures.

Today, the University of Phoenix Career Institute® and Motherly—a platform for storytellers, teachers, shoppers and advocates for mothers— released the 2023 Mothers Overcome More™ or the M.O.M.™ report: a comprehensive look at the barriers American mothers face in their day-to-day lives, and the impact these barriers have on career development and advancement opportunities. The findings of this inaugural study underscore that motherhood presents unique and significant challenges for all moms’ career journeys, regardless of income. However, it finds that lower-income moms face disproportionate external barriers, including acute financial and childcare needs, which compound challenges and often derail career progression entirely.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up more than half of the U.S. population and around 77 million are mothers. And according to Pew Research Center, traditional nuclear families with two married parents are now the minority in our country. The rise of single motherhood is the largest influence of this trend. Better understanding the challenges facing moms is important.

The M.O.M. ™ report is designed to identify the holistic needs of lower-income mothers and inform solutions that support their path to self-sufficiency. It measures the external pressures, avenues for growth, systemic challenges and job-related assets of lower-income and mid/high-income moms across the U.S. who are employed or seeking a job.

The study indicates that to meet their basic needs, lower-income moms require concerted external support to relieve pressures, as well as innovative solutions to break the cycle of inflexible, low-paying jobs.

What Mothers Are Experiencing

  • While both lower-income and mid/high-income moms rank money and personal finance as their top stressors, lower-income moms who report they are stressed about money (74%) are more stressed about it than those with higher incomes (57%). Among those who say they are stressed about money/personal finances, top concerns include having insufficient emergency funds (68% of lower income moms vs. 61% of mid/high-income moms), paying bills like car payments or health insurance (67% vs. 46%), and affording essentials like groceries or gas (57% vs. 37%).
  • 51% of working lower-income moms in the study group say the income they earn from their current job is insufficient to meet their basic needs, and 16% of working lower-income moms currently have more than one job to fill in gaps in their income. Of those who have more than one job, 36% say they need the flexibility of multiple jobs to meet their personal or childcare needs.
  • 65% of lower-income moms say that having a career sounds like a luxury, and nearly the same number (64%) say pursuing a career feels out of reach.
  • Many working moms, regardless of income, feel that being a working mother has held them back in their job(s)/ career (59% lower-income and 56% mid-high income). In the same vein, moms cite family or caregiving responsibilities as the top reason they have missed out on potential employment opportunities (43% vs. 35%).

What Employers and Institutions Can Do to Support Working Mothers

  • Champion Affordable and Accessible Childcare: Childcare is a problem for all moms. A majority (58%) of working moms across all income spectrums cite difficulty finding childcare so they can go to work, and similar ratios (46% of working lower-income moms and 38% of working middle- or high-income moms) say they spend more than 30% of their paycheck on various childcare needs Those needs impose a significant financial burden, with 25% of working lower-income mothers saying they must take unpaid time off to watch their kids – 10 points higher than the share of working middle- and high-income moms who report the same.
  • Lean In on PTO Benefits: Nearly half of all mothers (46% lower-income vs. 42% mid/high-income) agree that more paid time off would help moms balance work and parenting responsibilities. 28% of working mothers need to take time off the job on a monthly basis for childcare or personal reasons.
  • Recognize Skills Acquired Through Motherhood: 89% of lower-income moms and 93% of mid/high-income moms say being a mother gives them skills that are applicable to the workplace – yet nearly half (49% lower-income vs. 47% mid/high-income) say the skills they have as a mother are not valued in the workplace.
  • Increase Opportunities to Build Skills: 3 in 10 lower-income moms report they need help seeking out education programs (29%) or training/skills building programs that will get them a better paying job (28%), and 74% of working moms agree that if their company gave them the opportunity to further their education, they would be more satisfied at their current job.

“In my role at the University of Phoenix, I feel fortunate to serve working mothers on their educational journey every day,” said Chris Lynne, President, University of Phoenix. “Seventy-one percent of our students identify as female, 63% care for dependents at home, and 59% are single parents. We understand the value working moms bring to the workplace – and an appreciation of the challenges they face. Now, in partnership with Motherly, our Career Institute has revealed a foundation for meaningful action to be taken to better serve this crucial but often overlooked segment of America’s workforce.”

Lynne added: “The M.O.M.™ report must serve as a key to unlocking new solutions and partnerships across business, education, and society at large that provide holistic, wrap-around support to drive growth for mothers on the job and beyond.”

Housed within the University’s College of Doctoral Studies, the University of Phoenix Career Institute® conducts research to inform problem-solving and partners with leading organizations like Motherly to break down the barriers Americans face in their careers.

The M.O.M.™ report fuels the flame that’s burned since 2015, when Motherly was first established,” said Jill Koziol, co-founder and CEO, Motherly. “Moms need support – not just through program funding but with innovative solutions and partnerships that enable them to thrive, especially for mothers who wear an employee hat as well. The report reinforces the need for support for lower-income mothers in particular to find mentors, network into careers that suit their passions and talents, and pursue the necessary education and training to get there.”

For more about Motherly, visit

For more information about the University of Phoenix Career Institute® and the complete M.O.M.™ report, visit


The Mothers Overcome More™ or the M.O.M.™ report is one of the most comprehensive studies to date on the barriers American mothers face in their day-to-day lives, and the impact these barriers have on career development and advancement opportunities. The study was conducted by the University of Phoenix Career Institute®, part of the University’s College of Doctoral Studies, in partnership with Motherly— a platform of storytellers, teachers, shoppers and advocates for mothers— in order to provide insights on lower-income mothers and to help identify solutions to support and advance them on the path to self-sufficiency.

The M.O.M.™ report comprised a 20-minute online survey of lower-income moms (n=1,000) and middle- and higher-income moms (n=500). All participants were U.S. adults (age 18 and up) who were employed or seeking employment at the time of research. Researchers conducted fieldwork between July 19 and Aug. 3, 2023. Income categories were determined using the University of Washington School of Social Work’s Self-Sufficiency Standard. A full methodology can be found at


University of Phoenix Career Institute® was created to address broad, persistent, and systemic barriers to career advancement through research-based solutions and impactful partnerships that break down barriers Americans face in their careers.


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


Motherly is the leading parenting brand empowering women to thrive along their motherhood journey. As a woman-centered, evidence-based, and non-judgmental platform, Motherly supports its 40M+ monthly engaged audience from conception to college with expert information, an inspiring community, online educational classes, and commerce. For more information, visit and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter.