Designing a company for working moms

Norah and I in May.

The spring I took part in an essay contest that asked women to write about balancing family and their career, and what can be done to help. I took a lot of input from the events and comments from the Ag Women's Network (thank you!), and I really enjoyed putting my experience in writing. I didn't win, but I wanted to share my "so what" part of my essay with you, and I'm interested to hear your thoughts!

..."Even though all corporations hope to make money, not necessarily raise families, I don’t think it’s a lost cause. Just as Google is the gold standard for employees who value work-life balance, there is a ripe opportunity for employers to become the ‘Google’ for women with families. A smart company could make generous parental leave polices a selling feature to attract top talent.

If I could design such a forward-thinking company, it might look like this: Full top-up pay for the duration of maternity leave. Offer subsidized day care support, and flexible schedule options. Reduced travel demands on parents with young children, or shorten the length of out-of-town work trips.

This company would also support and encourage fathers to take more active parenting roles, and offer a matching parental leave for dads. Managers would encourage and pay for employees to attend networking events and professional development courses while on leave.

Ideally, young men and women would be given multiple opportunities to learn about their maternity and parental leave options. Employees would be encouraged to openly discuss their family plans with their managers and design a career plan that would compliment it.

New parents would also be permitted to keep their company phones, computers and email accounts while on leave, so they can stay connected if they choose.

It may not make their brochure, but small improvements such as reserved parking for pregnant women could help, too.

Most mothers understand that choosing to have a family can mean sacrifices in other areas. But employers could take many steps to soften the impact child rearing has on their employees’ careers, and instead make the experience as joyful and fulfilling as it should be.

Four months into maternity leave, I’ve tightened my purse strings and am surviving on a reduced income. I’m taking part in networking events as much as possible, and meeting up with my colleagues as often as I can. I’ve subscribed to industry newsletters and read blogs to stay sharp, too.

Significant changes may take time, but I believe progress can happen while I’m in my child-bearing years. By my next pregnancy, I know I will still be willing to go into the office on the day I’m in labour. But I hope, if that happens, it will be a moment to celebrate for both my company and myself."

The winning essay can be found here.

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