Supporting Working Parents: 100 Companies Who Are Doing Just That
Working Mother just released its annual list of the “100 Best Companies” for working mothers, and it’s no surprise that the top-ranking companies offer paid parental leave, childcare assistance, and flex-time options. But some of the findings were a surprise — like the rise of gender-neutral parental leaves, and how these companies stack up to traditional HR benefits packages (hint: there are some stark differences).
I dug into the report and asked Subha Barry, President of Working Mother Media, to share her thoughts on where we have to go from here. Here’s what companies like Deloitte, McKinsey, Bain & Company, and IBM — all companies that made the Top 10 — are offering the modern worker, and why it’s so important. (1)
The Top 10 companies offer an average of 15 weeks paid maternity leave.
While only 35% of companies nationwide offer any form of paid leave, 100% of the companies on the list offer fully paid leave to their employees. Currently, the national Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires only that employers be allowed to take unpaid, job-protected leave, limited to twelve weeks. Because of the stipulations of the law, however, it only applies to a certain fraction of workers in America, and many women and parents don’t get access to any leave at all.
The number of companies offering gender neutral leave (the same number of weeks for maternity and paternity) almost doubled from 2015 to 2018.
While companies are still short on paid paternity leave in equal amounts to maternity leave, only 10% of Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies offered equal leaves to both parents in 2015. In 2018, 18% of companies offered equal leaves to both parents. Adoption leave is still in progress as well: the report shows that the Top 100 offers seven weeks, on average, of paid leave for parents who adopt. Yet even when paternity leave is offered, it’s not fully taken. “If you want to help women’s careers, ensure that men are taking time off when offered,” said Barry.
The Top 100 companies see childcare as a joint solution, not a parent-only problem.
Of the Top 10 companies, nearly all of them offer sick childcare, back-up childcare, and more than half of them offer on-site childcare. In addition, nearly half of all the companies that made the Top 100 offer before and after school childcare, school holiday childcare, summer program childcare, and before/after-hours care.
Patagonia, for example, has long made headlines for finding ways to solve the childcare puzzle of today’s modern worker. In 1983, they brought childcare on-site, and saw retention skyrocket once they did. It’s not rocket science to figure out that having doubling your commutes at the start and end of the day (one to daycare, another to work) makes for a scheduling nightmare, or that school schedules simply don’t align with work schedules. While not a company on the list this year (likely because you have to apply to be considered, and not all companies apply), their model of on-site childcare has long been a model for other companies. (2)
Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of the New America Foundation, penned a viral op-ed called “Why Women Can’t Have It All,” and shared a sentiment from her assistant: if we could align school schedules and work schedules, much of the angst of being a working parent (or the shame for “not being accountable” when school suddenly closes) — would be eliminated, and parents would have far more productivity at work. In fact, research has shown that aligning schedules or offering sick and flex leave programs for working parents doesn’t just make the lives of working parents better — it makes everyone happier at work. That’s right, these policies make your life better at work, regardless of whether or not you have kids. (3, 4)
But what about flex time policies, and helping mothers re-enter the workforce after leave? And do these policies actually help all employees, or just parents?
At the Top 100 companies, flex time is taken nearly equally between men and women.
For the Top 100, 79% of women and 76% of men used some form of flex time scheduling in the last year, making it less about gender, and clearly something that the majority of the workforce wants. This means the company offers career flexibility options: formal policies that allow employees on management or leadership track positions to move on and off the track when they are ready, as life demands.
Companies are now starting to focus on helping moms re-enter the workforce after taking a period of leave.
About a third — 37% — of the Top 100 companies have created programs to identify and rehire re-entry moms, defined as “women who have left at least three years ago and want to return to work.” The number jumps to 70% for the Top 10 companies. Helping women who want to work be able to re-enter the workforce is not a problem for women alone to solve; it’s a puzzle that companies and parents can figure out together, although only the top echelon of companies are tackling this puzzle.
Subha Barry, President of Working Mother Media, said that this is a place where we still have a fair amount of work to do: “Many companies still focus on the parental leave time off and not what happens when a new mother comes back to work,” she said. “They need to figure out how to manage that vs. throwing her headfirst into the pressure cooker, which could make her more likely to quit. There is a growing need for phase-back periods, more telecommuting and flex time, better backup care and time off policies for sick kids and sick caretakers.”
The world of work is changing, not just for working parents, but for everyone in the work world.
We’re not going to have fewer women or working parents in the workforce. We’re going to have more. Practices like flexibility, childcare, and dedication to the advancement of women are practices are increasingly being put in place by top companies, and they’re reaping the talent reward as a result. Overall, says Barry, “Companies need to be more agile, innovative and empathetic in looking at their programs and policies to be talent magnets as well as committed to talent retention. Turnover is enormously expensive, and with 15,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day for the next 15 years, this is a here and now issue.”
This means that it’s not just about working mothers. “All people — men and women, younger and older — should care about the wage and opportunity gap,” she said. “Today’s new dads want the time off to bond with their babies and to help their partners more at home. If their companies don’t grant them that, they might leave for an organization that does.” And for women, the bare minimum of a partially paid disability leave isn’t enough to attract and retain talent. “Women are a key factor in keeping businesses profitable so leave is a workplace issue because women have more leverage than ever to quit a job that doesn’t care for them.”
Small companies or startups might struggle to offer the same perks as larger, more established companies, but it doesn’t mean they can’t stay competitive. “While they may not be able to offer the same number of weeks of maternity and paternity leave as large companies, they can offer flexible work opportunities,” said Barry. Allowing people to work remotely, providing lactation rooms with refrigerators, bringing babies in to work, and offering part-time phase-in programs can go a long way.
The question isn’t whether or not you can afford to implement these policies, but whether you can afford to miss out on nearly half to the talent pool if you don’t.
This article was originally published on Women@Forbes.