Even the Best Companies Aren’t That Great for Moms

I always look forward to seeing Working Mother‘s annual list of 100 “Best Companies” for working moms. It’s exciting to read about what the most forward-thinking employers are doing to help attract and retain top talent–including those of us who just happen to be women and parents.

But then Ms. had to go and harsh my buzz, as my coworker Dennis likes to say. In its Feminist Wire Daily Newsbrief yesterday, Ms. reported:

24 percent of the Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies of 2006 provide four or fewer weeks of paid maternity leave and 52 percent provide six weeks or less. Seven percent offer no paid maternity leave whatsoever and another seven percent provide only one to two weeks. Almost half of these companies do not provide any kind of paid leave for paternity or adoption.

Daaaaamn. If that’s the “best,” then I guess we know how lousy the “average” and “worst” companies are for working moms. (Hell, let’s face it. We already knew it. But it’s still a bummer to face reality.)

This is why I don’t buy the argument that the “free market” will magically incentivize corporations to treat their working-parent employees right. It hasn’t, and it won’t. Without some federal laws and enforcement in place to mandate better benefits, the current “best” will be all we can hope for.

Cross-posted at Work It, Mom!


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Susan
Susan Wenner Jackson is a writer and mom who gets paid to obsess over Pinterest and blogs for Ahalogy, a Cincinnati-based startup. She lives in her hometown of West Chester, Ohio, with her husband, two young children, and their dog.
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Comments

  1. BirdieRoark says:

    I work at one of the companies on this list. And, yes, there are those programs available (work from home, domestic partner benefits, etc.). But that doesn’t mean that every working parent gets the benefit. WFM is really limited and is up to the discretion of your manager.

    I wonder why Working Mother didn’t poll some of the working parents at the companies to see if the questionairre (filled out by some distant HR person) is actually aligned with the company’s actions.

  2. Selfmademom says:

    I’m not that surprised, actually. Most of these lists are just PR BS, if you know what I mean. And I work in PR so I know. Same with the Fortune 100 “Best Places to Work” – it’s all pretty much a crock, really. I wish it weren’t.

  3. You’re right. I know you’re right. Sigh.

  4. Laptop Television says:

    I hope you don’t mind a plug here… but I work for a 40-person PR and marketing firm in Silicon Valley where we choose to honor the full extent of FMLA. I also took 5-plus months off after the birth of my daughter without question from my colleagues. I work from home when necessary. I never miss a school function, even when it’s at 10 a.m. and I am “supposed” to be at work. In the end, I just get frustrated that the only companies listed in these stories are big brands, when there are plenty of small and mid-sized businesses that really try to create family-friendly environments (even in the Silicon Valley where we all work crazy hours). Regardless, it’s important for moms like us to help cause change where we can!

  5. I feel like I work for a really family-friendly company. Of course, there are just a few of us, and I know the owners work *their* butts off, often at the expense of their own family time. But being lean and mean, I think, contributes to the ability to be flexible. Plus, they just seem to go out of their way to respect the personal and family time of those who work with them.

  6. Sometimes, it seems that the best places “support for working mothers” usually consist of one breast pumping room that is constantly booked, and, a shelf of parenting literature mixed in with the occasional lunchtime seminar.

  7. How depressing. And quite frankly, I’m pretty tired of those lists.

  8. All the information comes from the companies, NOT from employees, whose input is not required (except for hand-picked “success stories” from winning companies). Last year’s October issue with the “100 best” had advertisements from 64 of the winning companies. Overall, more than 80 of the companies advertise with Working Mother in some form or other.

    The advertising relationship is just the beginning. Many of the companies have been sued for discriminatory practices against women (especially mothers), and some of those have resulted in court-ordered judgments. Most, if not all, of the “benefits” on the 100 best list are window dressing. I’ve just started going through this year’s list (and the hundreds of press releases), and much of it looks familiar. Here’s an article I wrote about last year’s list.

    http://www.unitedprofessionals.org/blog/2007/02/23/100-best-companies-for-working-mothers-%e2%80%a6-are-they-really-the-best/

    I’ll be writing more about this year’s list on my blog.

  9. Thanks for the link, Becky–though it may show up as cut off in some readers’ browsers. Click here to read the post she’s referring to.

  10. SapphireLizard says:

    I work for one of those companies on that list. Being on the inside, I can (sadly) say that it still leaves something to be desired. Yes, our company as a whole is “family friendly”, but my line of work is not. SO…taking advantage of some of the lovely work/life balance “perks” that my company brags about is not as easy as I would like.

    I am fortunate that I am able to work only 4 days a week, but I had to fight quite a battle to get here. I will never forget the look on my former manager’s face when I told him that I wanted to work part-time. At that point, it was practically unheard of in my area. Yes, my company does offer a lot of perks, and their placement on these lists is a result of the statistical representations of how many people take advantage of these perks. Problem is…there are pockets of the company where many of the perks don’t even apply.

    And to specifically address the maternity leave issue…any paid time off that a pregnant woman takes prior to the child’s birth counts towards your 6 paid weeks. I’ve always thought this to be a manipulation of FMLA.

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