The best companies for working mums

What makes a company great to work for? New and stimulating challenges, for one; a collegial and professional atmosphere, for another. Regular pay increases and good training opportunities are also key. But if you’ve got small children at home, the answer may not be so clear; other things, such as a flexible work schedule, onsite childcare and generous insurance benefits are more of a priority.

Working Mother magazine has published a list of the 100 best companies for working mums – or parents really – in terms of family-friendly benefits. Let’s first consider the fact that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 72 per cent of women with children under the age of 18 participated in the workforce last year in the US. This is compared with approximately 47 per cent in 1975. But although the figures have increased, they are still far behind the 95 per cent of working dads.

In its survey, the magazine examines the support firms provide for parents. Only companies that complete all 658 questions on issues such as the access and usage of flexible work arrangements, parental leave, childcare, and health support will be considered. Many questions also focus on the representation and advancement of women. This year, the top 10 scoring companies in alphabetical order include: Bank of America, Deloitte, Discovery Communications, Ernst & Young, General Mills, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Prudential Financial, TriHealth and WellStar.

Jennifer Owens, editorial director of Working Mother magazine, says:

“The list started in 1986 at a time when women were coming en masse into the workforce. It was started as a way to make companies compete against each other and serve their employees better. The hope today is that readers are inspired to look at the things they could have, and ask: ‘Why doesn’t my employer offer this?’

“Back in the ‘80s, the focus of the list was on benefits such as parental leave and onsite childcare. Those are still important, but things are a lot more complicated today. Now we have questions about what kind of backup childcare companies provide, whether they provide reimbursement for overnight childcare if an employee is asked to travel, [and] whether they provide reimbursement for before- and afterschool care. We also have a section on work/life. We look at company culture, and ask how much flexibility companies give for workers. The application evolves every year.”

Owens argues that the best way for companies to retain more women is to offer flexible work schedules.

“If you give people the tools to decide when and where they work, then they will get the job done. And studies show that they’re healthier for it, they’re less stressed, and they’re more productive.”

The way for companies to get more women to the top is to think more long term about their employees’ careers, she says.

“Maybe you’re not gunning for the chief executive job this year because you’ve got little kids at home or you have other family issues that you’re dealing with. But you still want to contribute to your company, learn from your company, and you still want your company to invest in you. And after two years, maybe you are gunning for the chief executive job because your family situation has changed. You should not be stigmatised for [the two years prior.] For most companies, this is a very progressive way to think.”

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About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.