WBW2017: Moms Share Their Support SystemsAug 03, 2017
Julia Beck takes a look at the essential role a woman’s support system plays in her breastfeeding success, however she defines it.
Read the article here.
Welcome to the It's Working Project Blog - where we continue to follow the evolving story of back to work with baby in America.
We're committed to providing a comprehensive, honest view of what back-to-work looks like for American working parents. The It’s Working Project Blog is where we share what’s making headlines and sometimes, making heads spin! Join us as we make sense of what it means to be back to work with baby - join the conversation, share your story and invite others as we continue to explore what It’s Working means.
Julia Beck takes a look at the essential role a woman’s support system plays in her breastfeeding success, however she defines it.
Read the article here.
This article was originally published in the Washington Post on January 24, 2017
Breast-feeding is a very personal choice. However, the realities of breast-feeding and, later, returning to work as a pumping mother present a new set of very real challenges for a woman.
Workplaces that support a mother in her return to work by bringing her back with ease always win. Committed employers are not only supporting infant health, they are also establishing a powerful statement of collaboration, underscoring how much they value their employee. Although the repeal of the Affordable Care Act might mean organizations no longer legally have to provide the space or time for women to pump at work, many companies know that providing this is not only kind, but also simply a smart business move.Birch Box, for example, offers hospital grade pumps, snacks and a comprehensive booking system for its growing population of mothers in the workplace.
Lauren Pfeiffer was out for 12 weeks after the birth of her second daughter. When she returned to New Jersey-based Association Headquarters, she was greeted with brand new private “mother’s room” that held comfortable seating, a sink, refrigerator, a mirror and even a shared calendar for booking the space. The space made her return to work much more seamless, and the fact that her company set it up made her feel supported and grateful. The room was set up for quiet but also allowed for Pfeiffer to catch up on emails as she pumped breast milk for 20 minutes two to three times a day.
[Did you or do you pump at work? Tell us about your experiences below.]
It is this piece of the puzzle that is my focus at the It’s Working Project. Not only do we gather and share stories of how parents in the U.S. transition back to work, the project also partners with workplaces to help them establish easy-to-execute programs to support working families.
As was the case with Association Headquarters, not only was the pumping room a wise thing for her company to do, but it’s also the law.
Washington D.C. has recently passed legislation and joined 18 states to pass enhanced pregnancy and nursing protections that offer strong protections (and also serious penalties for offenders) for a wide range of workers and situations. Many of these state statutes, including D.C.’s law, also clarify and strengthen the rights of nursing mothers.
“Unfortunately, there is still a tremendous amount of confusion about the rights of pregnant workers,” said Dina Baskt, co-president of A Better Balance, an organization that works with lawmakers to enact legislation to help pregnant and nursing workers. “Thankfully, a growing number of states and localities, including D.C., have stepped in to guarantee pregnant workers a clear, statutory right to reasonable accommodations — the same standard in place for workers with disabilities. Many of these statutes also clarify and strengthen the rights of nursing mothers. Ensuring that pregnant workers and new mothers can avoid the impossible choice between a paycheck and a healthy pregnancy is undoubtedly a win-win for women, families and our economy,” she said in testimony.
But smart businesses are many steps beyond just compliant. “We know it can be a challenging for parents to transition back to work and want to do everything we can to make the transition as smooth as possible,” said Annie Lavigne, human resources director at Edelman Inc. This is “one of the reasons why we are committed to providing a pumping space for nursing mothers that is private, clean, and comfortable. The happier our employees are, the more likely they are to stay. We can’t achieve our business objectives without retaining our talent, and our employee’s ability to manage family and work effectively is a key part of that equation.”
So how do you get what you need at work?
“Employees should emphasize the bottom-line benefits to employers of providing first-in-class benefits to nursing mothers,” advises Baskt. “These programs increase retention and productivity, while also demonstrating the company’s commitment to working families.”
It takes very little for an organization to move from simply compliant to best is class. And the effort and results in a high level of return in the form retention and continued commitment.
What does a pumping room look like anyway?
First, and most critical —
It does NOT look like a bathroom stall, not only is this not legal it is disgusting.
So, what does “compliance” mean:
And what about best in class:
We checked around to learn where some of the best pumping rooms could be found:
Julia Beck is the founder of the It’s Working Project and Forty Weeks. Beck is based in Washington, D.C., where she is the matriarch of a blended family that includes a loving husband, a loyal golden retriever and four children — all of whom are her favorite.
This article was originally published in the Washington Post on January 24, 2017.
Nikki Little gave birth via C-section at 33 weeks to her sons Nolan and Evan, this after five-and-a-half weeks in the hospital on strict bed rest. The premature baby boys stayed in the NICU for an additional 13 days. During that time, Little, a director of social media at a Detroit-based firm, benefited from being able to work with a lactation consultant, had access to a pump and accessories in the hospital, and another rental pump once she left to go home. Little took an eight-month break from work and returned to her agency, which offers a private space for pumping.
The majority of her care, the care of the babies, her pumps, the lactation support, and the space to pump along with break times were all provided thanks to a single paragraph in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
When President Obama signed the highly complex bill into law in 2010, the ACA opened a new world for new mothers. Now that it appears the ACA may be repealed the provisions that aim to benefit new moms and their children may disappear forever. (There is a change.org petition to keep the provision.) While we don’t know what will happen, we do know the support that Little and millions of other breast-feeding mothers have had with ACA resulted in greater success in breast-feeding rates, as well as the ability for employers to bring pumping mothers back to work with ease and success for both the companies and their families.
The ACA includes a singular clause that is specific to breast-feeding and covers:
* lactation support and counseling, such as lactation education and consulting services;
* equipment and supplies, such as pumps;
* infrastructure, such as pump rooms and break time.
The equipment and the space and time to pump became an embraced standard that leaned right into the surgeon general’s Healthy People 2020 objectives. The objectives include increased breast-feeding initiation and retention rates, as well as workplace lactation spaces. This leads to healthier mothers and babies and reduced absenteeism at work, and provides a path for keeping families in the workplace.
The fine print within the ACA that points to infrastructure is critical: This guarantees a private space for pumping (not a germ-infested bathroom, for example), complete with a lock and access to a sink and a refrigerator. A space like this not only keeps a baby’s food safe but also helps women decide that breast-feeding can be continued. This was originally part of the Fair Labor Standards Act and was moved over as an amendment to ACA.
What do nursing mothers, and, therefore, families, stand to lose without the ACA? I spoke with some of the most respected leaders in lactation for insight about breast-feeding to help make sense of what the ACA has meant for breast-feeding in the United States, and what might come next.
Diane Spatz, Director of Lactation at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, is a nurse researcher and director of the lactation program at CHOP. She also shares an appointment as the Helen M. Shearer Term Chair in Nutrition and Professor of Perinatal Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing. In addition, Spatz sits as a representative on the United States Breastfeeding Committee. She characterizes that organization as woefully underfunded and underrepresented in terms of lobbying power, compared with the formula industry, and she feels this lack of power resulted in ACA breast-feeding provisions being not as carefully constructed as they should have been. “The services were not set up to meet the specific needs of the mom,” she says. For example, a hand pump is not an electric pump, and an electric pump is not a hospital-grade pump, and the nuances between them further define what a woman might need to meet her breast-feeding goals. A woman who has given birth to a preemie and needs a strong, hospital-grade pump might be given a weaker, much less effective hand pump that would lead to her premature infant not getting a reliable milk supply. “So perhaps there is positive change on the horizon,” Spatz speculates. However, Spatz says, “A pivot could go in another direction, too.” She said she is nervous with the majority Republican Congress “regarding services for women and children.”
Cheryl Petran, CEO of the Pump Station & Nurtury, Santa Monica, Calif.
The Pump Station, established in 1986, is known as the West Coast’s answer to all things for new mothers. Cheryl Petran is an industry elder statesman who has been focused on the well-being of new mothers for the last 10 years. In general, Petran feels that ACA was good for breast-feeding. The level of dialogue and care around issues central to the lives of new, nursing mothers rose. But despite all of that, Petran felt that the ACA and its breast-feeding provisions were far from perfect. “The lines needed to be much more clearly defined. What is covered needs to be explicit and spelled out, there should be more options, and more attention to actual maternal needs.” In some ways, the ACA made her job of helping families more difficult. “Less powerful pumps were suddenly in the hands of our customers — pumps we were not trained in meant we could not provide the high level of support we are known for. It is difficult to train a new mother on a pump [if] neither you nor she has ever seen the model or even the brand before.” Also, the ambiguous level of reimbursement became a major undertaking for the Pump Station. “We learned how to assure our clients had the care and attention they needed at such an important time. But it got tricky.” Still, Petran notes, “ACA kept the breast-feeding conversation top of mind, kept the initiation rates high and continues to keep employers well aware of what new mothers need to pump and feel balanced in the workplace.” A major plus within the law is that it requires employers to provide adequate break time and a private place to express milk. “No more pumping in bathrooms or broom closets!” And, yes, that is a major advancement.
Amanda Cole, founder of Yummy Mummy, New York
Amanda Cole is not only a leading voice and advocate for breast-feeding, her New York City retail operation is certified as a “Durable Medical Equipment” (DME) shop, which means she is able to provide insurance-covered pumps and services. This has put her at the epicenter of the new ACA normal. She has seen moms take advantage of the ACA benefits that have created supports for nursing women. And she has seen the immediate rewards of this greater access, which she describes as both good for business and good for moms. Cole finds it hard to imagine that the positive cost savings of healthier babies as a result of consuming breast milk are lost on anyone. “Just think — one fewer trip to the doctor or ER for an ear infection. This means mom doesn’t have to skip work and baby can skip a trip to the doctor and antibiotics. Considering the cost savings associated with breast-feeding, it makes sense for plans to keep the benefits intact.” This fact, she says, is what she believes will protect the clause. “I’m confident the preventative benefit will outlast a repeal if such a thing happens. Access to breast pumps and support are creating healthier moms and babies.”
Regardless of what comes next, the standard of care and the quality of conversation around pumping has come a long way since 2009. Increased societal transparency has led us to elevate our expectations of employers, airports, restaurants and even retailers when it comes to nursing or pumping mothers. Private sector employers, for example, understand the economic value of developing internal policies to regularly cover pumps, lactation services and certainly pumping spaces — no regulation required. The public now has a much greater understanding of why we must keep pumping women out of bathroom stalls and other ill-equipped spaces that are unsanitary, demoralizing and lead to greater drop-off rates.
We have already agreed that the progress that has been made should not be lost. But even more essential is the protection of our national care to support parents in a way that keeps the Healthy People 2020 momentum going for all of us, not just a lucky few.
Julia Beck is the founder of the It’s Working Project and Forty Weeks. Beck is based in Washington, D.C., where she is the matriarch of a blended family that includes a loving husband, a loyal golden retriever and four children — all of whom are her favorite.
When The White House convened the White House summit on working families three years ago they asked a broad range of policy wonks, advocates, thinkers, leaders and dreamers to join and to consider what would come next for the American workforce. They asked me, in particular, to take at look at the private sector — and so exploring I went.
Funny thing — I landed on an answer that was not about regulation, but rather about economics. The truth about corporate growth and the private sector’s ability to retain, recruit and elevate women was obvious. By ignoring (neither asking nor responding) the needs of women in the workplace was itself a large roadblock on the path to long-term success. I suggested that the answer was in supporting the private sector to find ways to bring families back to work with ease, as a matter of course and with a sense of pride. And while I was full of respect and admiration (and support!) for those pushing for regulated change which was both needed and necessary, my bet — at least in the short term was on enterprise.
Three years ago I made a bet. From my bio:
While Julia is “all ears” and interested in the policy debate, she remains squarely committed to the idea that the shortest path to much-needed solutions lie in partnerships and private sector commitments to paradigm shifts. Her rich history of building successful public-private partnerships and promotional programs has led her to this moment of change.
But in the end, it is the economy stupid. And as an economic imperative, the private sector will rise up to create better environments for the whole person, the parent (or child) in the workplace. The basic economic truth is simply that there is no possible way to recruit and retain the quality of employee that builds long-term success without re-imagining the workplace. Simply, that women need to be represented well throughout an organization but certainly within the C-suite in order for long-term success to be assured. This is about men and women, though the catch-up game is clear.This is not a simple fix but certainly a viable and necessary long-term strategy.
And they have — Ikea, Union Square Hospitality Group, Chobani, Netflix, and most recently American Express to name just a few. And those who have not gotten quite “there” yet have made oaths to get there in time — organizations like EY and Campbell’s Soup have committed building robust programs that respond to real need, build loyalty and shift cultures.
WHY? Not to be nice. Not to be popular. But to continue to grow and thrive. Regardless of administration or legislation, cultural commitment, an honest curiosity and focus on who works for you and why -and building a culture to address that — will continue to be the answer. Beyond words or promises comes complex, integrated shifts, real-time progress that not only wins the war on talent but secures longest term successes for enterprise and employee.
This is the premise of the It’s Working Project —and, that is my bet!
Where are you in this shift? Share your story with the It’s Working Project.
I cannot assemble even one thing from IKEA.
IKEA on the other hand has built something remarkable.
They have taken a bold move, made a real-time investment in their workforce and continued their commentment to parents. They join a small handful of organizations that listened well enough to create meaningful change, making a long-term investment in workers and in partiucalar, families.
As of January 1, IKEA will offer it’s 14,000 salaried and hourly workers in the U.S. up to four months of paid parental leave. The policy applies to mothers and fathers who are birth, adoptive, or foster parents, and it expands on Ikea’s previous policy that gave fives days of paid leave to new parents, plus up to eight weeks of paid disability leave for new moms, according to the Associated Press.
Lars Petersson, president of Ikea’s U.S. division, told The Associated Press the parental leave expansion will give employees a better feeling about the workplace and will mean better service to customers.
“We want them to take time off,” he said. “The home is our arena. We think the home is the most important place for people.” Petersson has really nailed it.
But this did not happen overnight. And that is the impressive part. IKEA started in 2015 by making a clear and honest commitment to raising the quality of employee experience. They did not do any of this quickly, and that is the admirable part. They took their time. They listened.
What did they hear? They heard about wages. They heard about the challenges of inconsistent scheudles on all workers and especially those with families and/or second jobs.
In 2015 they began to raise minimum hourly pay to align with local living wages. This was remarkable in more than half of their workers received an immediate pay bump. In 2016 they raised wages again. At this point hourly workers at IKEA make over $15 an hour.
Additionally, they made a commitment to offering store workers more consistent (now employees can know what to expect) and even fuller schedules (possibily resulting in less of a need for second or third jobs). According to the Wall Street Journal, Three-quarters of employees now work more than 20 hours a week, up from 66% in 2013.
All now parental leave — the jewel in the crown —
According to Fortune, The new policy is remarkable in that it treats salaried and hourly workers the same. The U.S. division of Ikea, the quirky Swedish furniture retailer, is expanding its paid leave benefits for new parents in an effort to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market.
Oh IKEA how I adore you. One of just a handful of organizations to slowly, carefully labor through the complexities of developing parental leave as well as on and off ramp policies that speak to both hourly and salaried employees. I am most impressed by your pragmatism. You took your time and you continue to make every effort to get it right.
Let’s support IKEA — planning a pumping lounge for your work-place? Designing a nursery at home? How about showing a little IKEA love and following their lead (and even their directions!) to build spaces that make us all feel at home!
Do you have a story about your experience with leave or return to work after baby? Please share it with us!
There is no grace to be found — but I suppose we can bask in the memories of what it was to have a voice and to be a part of a system in which honesty and engagement were valued. And one’s skills — private sector or otherwise had a home within the biggest solution strategy — making sense of all the moving pieces, together.
The one that got me, the one that lifted me was a straight forward one.
In 2010, After ACA brought breast pumps to all women, the White House Summit on working Families, The Labor Department, States and Cities like New York all asked:
How will we protect and keep our mothers, our parents thriving in the workplace?
So many brilliant minds there to consider the question — my own words joining a chorus of those who believed the answer was there and who held a deep-seeded desire to see it sing out, make sense of and eventually change the game.
And so I worked. My teams worked. My own passion joined the challenge of those who were also eager to join in the solution. It was a remarkable time. And one that I never want to forget.
I began to gather stories. First person, raw narratives asking simply — “what is it to be a parent working and raising children in a country without parental leave and limited childcare”. We asked, gathered and listened.
From these stories, it began to spark for me. My answer was this –
I will launch the It’s Working Project to help the private sector develop strategies to bring families back to work with EASE as a matter or COURSE and with a sense of PRIDE.
And I did.
I still will.
I don’t think I will ever be able to express my gratitude as well as I would like. My years as a strategic consultant married with a distinct public need through a call to action from our remarkable Commander-in-Chief and the powerful men women that surrounded him. What an honor. What a moment.
I am grateful to this remarkable administration on so many levels. And the cavernous hole of connection and care that will be left feels like a non-negotiable heartbreak.
So for today — I will just be thank you. Thank you, President Obama, for the gift of your leadership, your family, your humor and most of all, your hope.
You think a haunted house is scary? Try going back to work after baby. That is arguably the scariest, most intimidating day of any parent’s life. The sheer unknown of it all combined with the lack of simple yet necessary supports from employers makes “day one” a potential disaster. And, according to our on-going research through the It’s Working Project, one that leads to new parent attrition in high numbers.
And it is not getting better in terms of time or support. Or even in terms of curiosity on the part of the private sector — “hmmm, I wonder how we can make small, high-return investments in the name of supporting parents and course-correcting the challenges at hand?”. No, not that.
Assuming that the amount of parental leave is stagnant (for now) the answer to better support lies in the on and off-ramp policies and practices on the part of the private sector. Simply, how to set parents up for success white on parental leave and then again upon return? How to create and support a workplace culture and ethic that not only acknowledges and understands the off and on ramp but also takes pride in doing it well?
According to one of our favorite infographics, produced by the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, women are heading back to work sooner than ever before. This means that support needs to address the needs of all parents, including parents of the very young. With this comes the obvious need to support pumping of breast milk in the workplace. Lucky for the private sector and for employees, the answers are quite straightforward.
Consider these areas of inexpensive focus with high return for new, pumping mothers as outlined in our tools for HR Professionals. Note the low-cost, high-impact strategies that are designed to proactively cover the full spectrum of the relationship between and the needs of employer and parental employee. And the bonus -it is a great brand story well worth sharing. Here are a few of the things you can offer to help support new, nursing mothers in the workplace.
- Well-equipped pumping spaces
- Pumped milk shipping services
- Lactation support services to teach skills, problem solve and prepare for all circumstances (can you say airport security?)
- On-site peer support
- Secondary equipment (to reduce stress and strain, a “work pump”) including pumps, etc.
- Nursing wardrobe allowance
These basics go a long way, speak volumes and drive a shift in earnest. What have we missed? What do you have to support your pumping at work? Wish you had? Please share it with us here.
And of course, share your back to work with baby story with our It’s Working Project.
The first time I thought about Parent Zero was ten years ago. My now friend and then new client (fun fact, she became a client because her mother read about me in Baltimore Magazine and thought we should connect) was quite busy redefining corporate social responsibility and digital engagement for Graco which, prior to being acquired by Newell Rubbermaid and moving to Georgia, was headquartered in Pennsylvania.
During Lindsay’s time at Graco, she became a mom and was determined to nurse her children as long as possible. She worked hand in hand with Graco’s Human Resources department to build what became a state-recognized and award-winning lactation program in hopes that every mom would have the opportunity to breastfeed their child after returning to work. She was able to breastfeed both of her children until nearly a year which, in her own words, “took every bit of help and humor she could find”.
Lindsay was Parent Zero.
These were before laws and mandates. Before ACA required pumping spaces. Before the It’s Working Project was listening, before A Better Balance and a remarkable field of like-minded organizations around the country were successfully advocating, before States and even cities such as New York raised the bar through legislation in support of pregnant and nursing working women, elevating the expectation for care and experience. Before the Department of Labor drove programs such as #LeadonLeave urging the private sector to understand and embrace the business case behind supporting families in the workplace.
Before all of this there was the slim chance that a parent with enough will, clarity and confidence would “go there” and ask for a space to pump, flexible schedules, and other key supports of working parenthood. And beyond the will, the odds remained slim that an individual employee carried enough value in the eyes of the employer, empowering them to state their needs and make them a requirement of staying. And of course there was not only the question of asking there was having ones needs met and the execution beyond that…
Lindsay was a Parent Zero. She was the parental employee who asked for more and stood in partnership with management to build a symbiotic, strengthening policies and thoughtful support systems that will serve to support all. We read about them over and again in the Portrait Project. Stories of Beth, Tatiana, Manon, Emma, Warren and many more.
When I am out speaking and participating (thank you DOL) — I hear over and again about what it was to be Parent Zero. This week, after a brilliant job moderating several panels at New America, Jonathan Cohn said that he was that Parent Zero, the father within his organization who moved the needle.
And now to hear Hillary Clinton share in Fortune Magazine and in her own words her experiences as well. That helps to further illustrate, and bring to life a rich narrative around what we knew then and what we still know, there is no status-quo but there is a new normal. The difference is how we understand the business case for leave, how we embrace the realities of the economic case for mending our chronic leak and how willing we are to course-correct via complicated maneuvers that ultimately create a cultural shift that leads us to change.
As Anne Marie Slaughter, of New America likes to say, it is time to leapfrog and I could not agree more. Now is not the moment for a band-aid it is a moment to look honestly at the wound and begin to invest in the healing. Labor Secretary Perez summed it up beautifully when looking at the intersection between private and public sector in this process — it requires, leadership, data, investment in partnerships, a relentless commitment to being the change and finally, an orchestrated effort of cross the finish line and maintain the vision for generations to come. Be it leave, childcare, pumping — the support is possible and probably the best bet we have for getting where are going.
Were you a Parent Zero? Been mentored by a Parent Zero? Seen your organization shift under the weight of a singular individual’s needs? We would love to hear more. Share your story with the It’s Working Project and we will make sure your experiences become part of the rich, candid mosaic of stories that are the Portrait Project. Thank you!
How did the impulsive candidate begin to notice not only other people but also develop a highly publicized new focus on families? Where does his sudden interest in women in the workplace come from anyway?
A daughter, a pollster, and a faux-politician walk into a room…Oh, I am sorry let’s get back to this issue.
How did Donald Trump decide to pick up the issue of women in the workplace where we left it eight years ago? I say the answer is tricky, but let’s take a peek at his lexicon of “issues”. Keep in mind this is Trump Talk — nothing here meant to stick for more than a news cycle or two and lives far, far from where the truth may live but of course — he said tomato…
What is this Maternity leave?
This one is for you Ladies. You know what I mean, don’t you little lady? Simple enough — you make the baby and then you care for the baby. Oh wait, Trump is so evolved he now includes adoption, yes really — you adopt the baby, then you can care for the baby. While papa, virile, manly, valuable papa, goes back to the workplace. You know the work place, don’t you? This is the one that has a track for men and an obstacle course for women. The one that super values male contribution and begrudgingly tolerates the other voters — oh wait, I am sorry, female workers. And plays around with some imaginary pool of money to cover the costs of the whole of the train wreck. Pandering is not progress.
Gwynn Guilford sums it up well in her September 18 piece in Quartz, “the centerpiece of his plan calls for new mothers to care for children, not Dad”.
To me, this new childcare creates a U-turn back to a place we’ve finally moved past.
So this one is about credits of some sort — once a year, lump-sum tax credits that favor a small segment and do little to support the full spectrum of workers. In other words, these new “bold” ideas around childcare are old, dated news, and do very little support those lower and middle income workers who need the support as well. So….
Where are we? We are in a news cycle where Trump was able to use the words “maternity leave” and “childcare” and gets attention for it. And now, back to your regularly scheduled program….
According to Baby Center data from 2013, more babies are born in August than any other month. The second, third, and fourth most popular birthday months were July, October, and September, in that order. What can I say — we get cold, we make babies — it makes sense.
But August has a new distinction. Recent research out of the University of Washington establishes that August is also one of the two highest months for divorces in the US (March is the second highest).
In Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 April Come She Will (also of The Graduatefame) masterfully and succinctly written by Paul Simon, we are walked through the months of the year. April is ripe and promising as are the warm and lusty spring and summer months that follow, until August. “August, die she must” I always thought this was about the end of the summer season, longer days, less bounty and frivolity — more structure and chilly winds blowing in.
But maybe not.
We lose so much in August
From childless to parent (and according to this new research from married to single).
We send them (with such trepidation) off to kindergarten, middle school, high school and later to college with increasingly higher bills and expectations — but the loss of our children to the expected and natural course of independence is a loss and a shift none-the-less.
The pulse and precision of our work-self takes on a new, less familiar groove. The former competent master of our career gives way to a new creature. We are on our back, on the bottom of a learning curve, sometimes lonely and even lost — learning the early ropes of parenting. Old skills feel irrelevant, and while quickly mastered, there is so much to learn before the game changes (daily, weekly, monthly) right before our eyes.
I suppose that is right -August die she must.
And yes — YES — there is joy in so many of these moments — beginnings, remarkable firsts and discoveries — not only endings. With these August days, these new parent days, can also come optimistic new views, roles and perspectives — yet to be discovered, and new, unchartered terrain to explore. Days and nights filled the newness of it all -fragrant with sweet smells of baby, sweet with delicious, squeezable thighs and connected via a perfectly pudgy hand holding your single finger — amazing days indeed.
And then what? A return to the workplace. Or not. A confusing fifth trimester in which support in imperative and questions and doubt run rampant.
And still, I cannot help but wonder, are we set up to succeed as we lose and gain? Is the American workplace ready or even aware of how little it will take to create cultural shifts that offer true support? At the It’s Working Project — that is how we spend our days — considering how it can work well. We strive help the private sector successfully bring parents back to work with ease, as a matter of course and with a sense of pride. We listen to parents as they share their experiences of back to work after baby in the US and we support the employer with simple, cost effective, easy to execute but high return strategies that work — making sure that we don’t loose the remarkable parents of our workforce as they journey into parenthood.
August, we are ready for you!
There are a lot of people celebrating the 5 year anniversary of National Breastfeeding Month. And good for that — it is progress and progress is good.
In the end, (remarkable progress aside) the very personal, real-time, real-life challenges of back to work after baby defy explanation. That “day one” of being a working mother, of bringing one’s new self with a new maternal identity, responsibilities and concerns back to one’s old role in the workplace can be both traumatic and taxing. It is stressful. Add pumping milk to the equation — and the level of strain becomes overwhelming. Again, the experience is confusing and isolating — complex and filled with bumps in the road.
What can help to ease the way? The key is support at home and in the workplace. Our research at the It’s Working Project underscores again and again the power of a supportive supervisor (and peer) within the workplace and of course a willing and able partner — committed to helping a woman find success, however she defines it — makes all the difference in the world.
I spent some time with the JPMA discussing the role that product plays in back-to-work after baby success. And in particular, the ways in which innovations have led to a softer re-entry including the challenges and hurdles associated with pumping at work. We all agree the connection is there.
But how to get what you need at work? Dina Baskt, Co-President, A Better Balance shared a bit of insight on getting both support and tools in the workplace; “Employees should emphasize the bottom-line benefits to employers of providing first-in-class benefits to nursing mothers. These programs increase retention and productivity, while also demonstrating the company’s commitment to working families.”
Here are some of my picks for products to keep in your back to work after baby tool box. Proven partners that aid in navigating the complex and confussing new world of pumping in the workplace.
Work Pump Repeat — written by Jessica Shortall — This is a must read (and must gift along) for any woman in the world of well, Work Pump Repeat! Consider this part how-to, part hack guide and all about support for working mothers everywhere.
Loyal Hana — for the look that says “ready” and means business — this line is designed for your return to work — easy to use and stunning to wear. Complements are guaranteed!
Nursing Bras — Bravado is synonymous with nursing bra form and function. Their Body Silk Seamless is as comfortable as they come. Take the time for a proper fitting and then stock up on enough bras to keep you from adding washing to your daily “to do“ list. And might I also add — keep it fun with a pop of color to balance out your black and ivory staples.
Nursing Pads — Keep an ample supply of Nuk Ultra-dry Disposable pads at the ready. These are slim and lightweight — easy to store and keep handy. Make sure you have an ample supply at work, in your bag — anywhere you go!
And extra shirt — just in case — see above for our pick, Loyal Hana!
Soothing Lansinoh cream and Breast Therapy Packs will do the trick to keep irritation and discomfort away — and there will be days when you will need it.
Milk Storage Bags — fill your freezer with Purple! Lansinoh bags are a cult favorite. I have to admit I love seeing images of freezers full of these bags.
Hospital Grade Pump — a small investment for your employer and a time and energy saver for you! Yummy Mummy is a great source for a Medela hospital grade pump for your workplace pumping room.
Speaking of pumping rooms — Keeping it comfortable and private are a must! I am a big fan of Monte Chairs, chic, simple and oh so supportive! Couple with an ottoman or poof for an ideal space for workplace pumping.
Fill-er-up — Skip Hop just launched a new version of insulated diaper bags — complete with ice packs and adorable food containers this bag perfect for taking snacks to fuel your workday and then transporting pumped milk back home!
More on the daily commute — ‘Bébé au Lait’ has workhorse Wet & Dry bags -these are ideal for keeping pump parts and other accessories close by and ready to go. Their whimsical designs will bring a smile to your face as will being super organized and ready to take on the day!
Day is done — what better way to reconnect with baby then adding Boppy to the mix — take off your shoes, settle in, take in that beautiful baby and enjoy the moment of ahhh!
That is my list. Now of course, I am wondering — what is on your must-have list for the newly back-to-work mother? Share with us here!
Oh Mama — the Amazing First Lady that Could!
What a remarkable night in Philadelphia. Sure, I am proud of my hometown. Still, the story goes much deeper than that.
I am just feeling hopeful and could not agree more with the now infamous words of Michelle Obama;
“Don’t let anyone tell ever tell you this country isn’t great”
Really that is the premise of the It’s Working Project — we will listen well and we use our insights carefully. Our mission remains the same —help the private sector bring families back to work with ease, as a matter of course and with a sense of pride. And, in the spirit of Mrs. Obama’s words — our goal is to optimistically support the private sector to not only reach compliance but better still, to create simple solutions that allow us all to rise.
Monday night, inspiration came in a remarkable array of shapes and sizes — personal experiences, universal expectations and a bold view of what will come next with Hilary Clinton at the helm.
I was moved, as so many of us were by the powerful words of Cory Booker, the way in which the crowd responded to his compelling and passionate words and even getting a laugh or two out of the duo of Franken and Silberman.
But what really got me? The view of parenthood shared by the remarkable Michelle Obama. And she was not alone, though she captured the crowd in ways that echoed into day two and likely for years to come. She reminded us of her early days in the White House as a mother first, and of course, the concerns and doubt that accompanied moving her family to DC, her girls starting their first days at Sidwell Friends School and their secret service escorts to that first day as new students in a brave new world. I identified and smiled broadly from the way in which Kirsten Gillibrand identified herself as a mom at pick-up. And from the rich candor with which Linda Sanchez spoke of finding her work-life fit. It was honest and yes, it was optimistic.
I left Philadelphia in 1985. I was bright-eyed, ambitious and hungry for life’s experiences. I left behind friends and a way of life that would never be mine again. Though the way life works is funny, and sometimes these things circle back. The very sweet silver lining of losing a beloved friend to a terrible disease this summer was reconnecting with a childhood friend in a new way. This weekend, Julie came to DC to bring her daughter to look at colleges. Funny circle that was created — my leaving point was our reconnection point. The power of that was not lost on me as I made plans for a day doing some of what I have always loved, followed by an evening reconnecting.
Bob and I made plans to visit my all-time favorite art-space in DC — The Phillips Collection. There, we would enjoy the Van Gogh exhibit — interestingly enough called Repetitions (an exploration of Van Gogh’s repeated study of the same subject matter). It is a worthwhile show and a very engaging way to connect with some some of my favorite Van Gogh subjects (the towns of St. Remy and Arles as well as the families that filled his world).
As we wandered thought galleries on 21st Street, I made my way to another old and very dear friend. I have been visiting Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party at the Phillips Collection since I arrived in DC in 1985. I have powerful memories of standing in front of this majestic, lush painting with my mother, my friends, various dates and certainly alone. I would dive deep into the narrative of the painting — paying close attention to the characters. I saw myself in the painting — that was clear. I was (or longed to be) the flirty, alluring woman in the top right. She had a twinkle in her eye was surrounded by two rapt men. She did not lack for company or attention. She did not lack for anything it seemed. Though yesterday when I stood in front of that painting, I allowed myself to look not though my old lens but with fresh eyes. And as I did, tears began to flow from my eyes as I realized with complete clarity that I was not that girl. I may have been, and that may have once worked for me — but that “moment” seemed far away. I looked harder, wondering if I was even still at the party. And I was….my eyes connected with the woman sitting confidently alone, sipping her wine and taking in the scene with a quiet strength. This is the actress, Ellen Andree. I did not realize that I was crying until the lovely, young docent walked over and asked if I was ok. I explained what I had been considering and she said clearly, kindly and with total conviction — “that is who you want to be — that other woman had a messy, complicated life — the actress was the best of the guests”. I will take it…
This weekend was about revisiting. And while backwards is not my preferred trajectory — I am glad I did.
Maybe just maybe I watched the season finale of Silicon Valley without my husband last night (shhh, please). It was a fantastic season finale. Among the long list of zings, barbs and quotables was this one:
Face it, Jared, being too early is the same as being wrong (Richard, S03 309).
This is from the Julia playbook/bible. Frankly, the base premise of any entrepreneur — timing is everything.
Like the time I wanted to sell water out of a Coleman cooler in little Dixie Cups in 1974 and my mother said it was wrong to try and sell something that could be had for free. Yes, I was too early.
Like the time I launched a line of personal care products that I currated to offer the best of what one would need for labor & delivery and life as a new mother. Again, too early — and frankly Birch Box does it better than I did.
Like the time I was busy writing advertorials before they were respected enough to be called branded or native content. Thank you Washington Post, InStyle and others for trying along with me, but early is as early does.
But with those being too early failures come learnings that while not lucrative in the cash in the bank sense are remarkable in what they provide as a base for the next venture.
Among these lessons— there are simply factors that cannot be controlled. And these factors, while uncontrollable, still cannot be overlooked or ignored.
So lucky for me, timing is spot on for helping the private sector bring families back to work with ease, as a matter of course and with a sense of pride. And this time the timing, traction and commitment around this concept is bigger and frankly more authentic than anything I’ve experienced to date.
So much so — that being too early is the goal — early to advance the ball, raise the bar and you pick your metaphor — and improving the culture and ecosystem for working parents, being “the one” to identify what benefits and life-fits have value and meaning — that wins.
So how will you and your organization win? Start by listening. New data from Mercer shows how dismal the picture really is. It will take 118 years for us to correct the pay gap for example. And worse, we are loosing women at critical moments in their careers meaning simply — organizations end up loosing on their investments in highly qualified, skilled women as fast as they make them. So what now? Now is about listening and building a culture in which your women stay — making sense of what that looks like and creating and supporting a new normal. It is not an easy exercise. It requires paying attention, not dismissing what you don’t want to hear and leading — with the goal of being early to the game.
It was a whirlwind of a day at DOL. The room was filled with individuals briming over with remarkable energy and the highest, most authentic level of engagement led by Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez. The men and women in the room were a who’s who and what’s what of inspired leaders, ideas and commitment to to progress starting with a focus on worker voice (if you were really listening, you might have heard Anat Shenker-Osorio share why that word choice in itself was holding progress back). As Anita Dunn shared “As we hold the mirror up to ourselves, we begging to do better- that is the power of the personal narrative” and reminded us too that “Paid leave and equal pay were not women’s issues or family issues they’re American issues”.
Days later, my head is still spinning. Ideas, opportunities and angles — how we will make progress and make the most of thee days…My tweets from June 15 do the best job of summarizing not only what was shared, but bigger still — the context and the amazing passion of the day. Note the reference to Hamilton (extra points and props to Secretary Perez) as well as the “hello-baby” moment with Cooper Kaye.
The day ended with the ever-candid and driven Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett urging us on, reminding us of our power and responsibility and moreover, vowing to help us cross the finish line.
Want a place to start — share your story of back to work after baby in the US story via the It’s Working Project/Shareyourstory. Onward…
This week Washington, DC hosts the United State of Women Summit in Washington, DC. Today President Obama, in a rousing and vibrant speech to a packed house of optimistic game-changers, leaders and determined visionaries, encouraged us to support companies who are truly creating workplace policies to work for everyone. “It would help if more women were in congress and in the C- suite (“I have a corner office, the Oval office”, he grinned!)” POTUS shared, “we also have to change the way we see ourselves”.
“Right now we continue to be boxed in by stereotyping. It has consequences for all of us. We need to keep changing the attitude that got us here. It is why we are encouraging and highlighting women trailblazers — because it is hard to be what you cannot see”.
With his words and his remarkable and contagious passion POTUS urged that we be more intentional about how we get there — supporting companies who do the right thing.
And how do we do this — in real-time, how do we support the shift? As we see culture changing — not only on paper but also in practice, how so we cast our vote, and show our appreciation for those getting it right — or at least better?
Looks like this week team Target played their role exactly the way that POTUS urges. This video of a sea of Target employees protected a breastfeeding mother being harassed in store is a remarkable example of an integrated cultural mandate — one that exists both on paper and in real-time — in this case — in the café of a Torrington, Connecticut Target store. At time of publishing, this video shot by the nursing mother has over 3 million views.
According to an article from the Huffington Post in 2015, Target’s employee handbook states that “guests may openly breastfeed in our stores,” and further adds that “Target’s policy supports breastfeeding in any area of our stores, including our fitting rooms, even if others are waiting.”
This week a breastfeeding mother, harassed by a Target customer while with her baby in the cafe, was quickly and confidently protected by store employees. A ring of red Target shirts surrounded her and helped her to feel safe and protected when she was shaking from the experience. No drama, simply an appropriate, even reaction to inappropriate hatred and vitriol which has no place in Target as communicated through the whole of the organization.
We need to applaud and support Target for not only creating this policy but also for being an organization that actively supports these cultural guidelines — making the protection of a mother in the café a seamless and obvious response to the luncay of the man harassing the guest. And we need to show that not only with shares but also with shops — meaninging shop at Target to underscore how right they are.
#UntiedStateof Women was about how we will get where we envision — and this story of a Target café in Connecticut hits the bulls eye.
I know, I know — we are all gathering in DC next week to talk the important talk, move the needle and make it happen. And we will!
It is the United State of Women Summit after all and we are creating change. Yes we are. But if this lovely social media access has done anything, it has brought us all closer. And what my nearest and dearest asking about the time in DC — you know they are: food, libation and getting around. So thanks to Medium, here you have it too — Julia Beck’s inside line on a week of being all about DC.
2. Find a rooftop — we love a good rooftop here is DC. POV is my favorite view but perhaps my least favorite staff — if a good challenge is your thing then go for it. And really the striking panorama is worth the ‘tude (maybe). I am a fan of Marvin (food, vibe and not too precious) as well an old school moment at Perry’s. If the Watergate should open ASAP I would make the dash — history plus scenery is never a bad thing.
3. Use UberX — black cars are too silly expensive and our metro is under some sort of super-overdue fix-up…just X it.
4. Dine Al Fresco — barring crazy afternoon storms — days in conference halls and government buildings call for late days outdoors enjoying the elements. Add in good bites and libations and you will be just fine. My vote is alwaysIron Gate. If you are feeling like carbs and money are no object, Fiola is another perfect bet. The sidewalk at Mintwood makes me happy, always AndBlue Duck is a corner, with a fountain and with a much loved menu. Ella’sPizza, Doi Moi and Lincoln all offer tables that promise to get you back to feeling the love.
5. Quick Fix — Blue Mercury is all over town — stop in and get yourself back in order — that is why they are there.
6. Traffic — plan on it — simply put.
7. Thank you for being here — for your commitment, spirit and passion. We can’t wait to part of this moment together.
I had a great lunch date — the same one I had for breakfast actually. This particular date seems to take for granted that I will be keeping my eyes on the action around me. And we are both OK with that.
Today, at lunch, I saw a young mother, confident and quite lovely. The mother was pushing a baby girl in her stroller though one of the new restaurants in Bethesda, Maryland.
This mother was was confident (which I always love to see) and making her way to a table for four in the corner. Next, I see her get up, move her entire set-up to the ladies room with the manager leading the way.
I ask the manager to stay a second after he delivers my crudité and dips.
“I am wondering — I saw you show that mother to the ladies room… Did she ask to use the ladies room to feed her baby?”
He smiles, “No m’am she did not”. We don’t have our changing table installed yet. I offered to create a make-shift one out of a beverage cart and napkins”. “And, I would never suggest a woman feed a baby in a bathroom”
(He is proud)
(I am thrilled)
And that is what progress looks like on this Monday…
Or expensive or newsworthy –
Well not unless you count our culture shifting right under our feet on this Monday in May particularly newsworthy.
At the It’s Working Project we most certainly do!
Sometime I fantasize about being someone else.
Fantasy is a part of the human experience.
I see you, you appear you have it all: fame, fortune, beauty a winning lottery ticket. I don’t feel quite that way. I would like to be you. I pretend…
I like the realm of fantasy – there is much to be said about having one’s own personal mirage of fabulousness.
Fantasies are meant to be private, fleeting and did I mention not for publication? Follow these rules and we are good.
It is not OK when the fantasy is based on such profound miscommunication and lack of understanding that it becomes painful to bear witness to, insulting and frankly horribly revealing about the person behind the swill.
But never mind, let’s look at what real truths came out of this Meternity-fueled moment in the history of working parents in the United States:
And then my favorite part happens…
“I came away wondering if the article wasn’t somehow emblematic of the entire problem our nation has with mothers in particular, and parents in general: i.e. we aren’t curious about their lives, we do almost nothing to support them, and we consider them an unwelcome burden on all fronts. We are a nation that hates children, parents, and families — as a matter of policy, not just in bars and airplanes.”
– Laure June, The Cut
“Maternity leave was one of the most challenging, exhausting things I’ve ever done. It’s not “me” time.” – @RebeccaRuiz on Twitter
“I completely reject her concept that parental leave is “a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs. Don’t mistake this for ‘Eat. Pray. Love.’ There is no period of rejuvenating self-discovery. I’ve seen maternity leave. Three times.”
– Mike Schaffer, The Best Dad blog
“Official rules and guidelines for maternity leave without kids:
– Elizabeth Bromstein, Yackler Magazine
“Have you recently had your body split open by a screaming, red, nightmare-lump of writhing humanity? Wanting to order a case of chardonnay and settle in to binge-watch the new season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” isn’t in the same category.If you’ve got a case of the sads, or sudden-onset reflectivitis, that’s just a personality problem — not a reason to take off work.”
– Kyle Smith, New York Post
“Using up all of my PTO time back when I had an office job for their zillion gross viruses and doctor’s visits and days where daycare closed early — my life was totally teeming with flexibility. I could do anything. I’d have to say the pinnacle of my flexible life as a working parent was the day I went to a 9 am meeting with fresh kid barf on my dress because I had no time to run home and change after leaving my sick son with his grandmother so I could get to work on time. You could literally smell the flexibility wafting from my person. Or baby barf. Sames.”
– Valerie Williams for ScaryMommy.com
“You might not realize those same parents were probably looking at you — as they packed up their bag of breast pump parts and unfinished paperwork — with the same level of jealousy. ‘She gets to leave whenever she wants! She gets to walk out of the office and go wherever she wants!’ That’s what we can’t help but feel as we clock out and head to our night shift.”
– Kate Schweitzer, Editor, Pop Sugar Moms
“Um. Hey, lady? That ‘part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs,’ is a child. It’s not a portrait-painting aspiration, it’s another person, and there is nothing ‘me’ about it. I may be childless, but I’ve seen enough episodes of 16 and Pregnant to know that women often have to give up many of their own interests when they have kids.”
– Katherine Timpf, National Review
So far 2016 has been full of landmark, groundbreaking and remarkable shifts in the parental landscape. Week by week we see, celebrate and positively reinforce the ways in which the private sector is addressing the needs of their existing and future employee base via parental leave and other related benefits programs.
This week started off with Coke sharing their news of newly expanded parental leave and the ways in which they are actively improving leave (and we hope return as well) for their team. New York and San Francisco joined the leave wave, adding public sector power to the shift of the century.
So leave, yes – we are excited and motivated by it.
But I propose that really we have begun to do is to let go.
Let go of shoving our lives into the confines of a one-size-fits-all workplace.
Let go of the lingo – old, antiquated phrases that never quite moved us anywhere anyway. We’ve let go of the concepts of:
By the private sector letting go, we have given rise to a whole new vocabulary and a much more personal and celebrated story of employer and employee. A story full of twists, turns and options to give it even more color. This is the more honest story, one about parents who have full lives that include work, and not the other way around.
This is the new view, one that includes the tale about the person who became Mom or Dad and how they do what they do. It’s a view that encompasses families, parents and the ways in which they work and play without losing sight of their own goals, values and aspirations, as well as the workplaces that love and respect them.
This is stunning because in letting go of what we knew, employers are providing a generous amount of blank canvas that then allows for each employee to paint the truest picture of their work/life fit – how they define it and how they find their own, very personal version of success.
In this week’s New York Times, Frank Bruni stops to notice what is newly acceptable and commendable – the renaissance of our connection to all we hold dear, not only a singular, monetizable element of it— rather that elusive “and identity” — one where we are this and that. And while this one piece is father-focused, we all know the picture is much bigger than that.
With this new, bold blank swath of canvas a few new truths and question begin to reveal themselves. For starters, where can you find the canvas on which you can boldly, proudly and highly individually paint your own masterpiece? That is about where you invest your professional energies and time, And, that is your own beautiful choice.
Because after-all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And the canvas is in the court of the employer. Today, choosing that employer is now much different than it was.
The mosaic of what this looks like for today’s parents, well that is on the pages of the It’s Working Project.
Photo by Alice Proujansky
There is nothing new about images of American mothers, especially those addressing the intersection of wage earner, provider and caregiver. Famously, Dorthea Lange’s 1936 portrayal of a migrant farm mother and her children, named by CNN as one of the most iconic images of all time, is burned in our memory. Portraits of the American familial experience continue to captivate us. Historically, these powerful glimpses connect and remind us, decade to decade, of the determination of the American mother and the power of our overwhelming desire to do better by the next generation.
This is a concept that never fails to engage and intrigue, deeply resonating with each of us, reminding us of the increasing complexity of our lives and the challenges at hand. When we see images of working mothers as captured by documentary photographer Alice Proujansky featured on PBS Newshour, we see in the photos ourselves, our wives, our own mothers. We see our struggles and we see our successes.
Projansky’s photo project Women’s Work provides visual storytelling of the beauty and the struggle of modern mothers in America striving to serve both their careers and their families. The images are compelling and deeply familiar. What an remarkable project and product. We at the It’s Working Project applaud this project and we feel a deep connection with its mission
IT’S WORKING PROJECT’S PORTRAIT PROJECT
The stories that we are collecting from our Portrait Project parents provide insight through first-person accounts, richly candid narratives that tell the stories in a way that only one who has lived it can. Our mosaic is made up of words, and the hundreds of unique stories from working parents reveal honest details of parents’ failures and triumphs.
Words are powerful, as FairyGodboss is likewise proving. At this site women can anonymously provide feedback about workplaces, providing a transparency of work cultures that is improving the workplace and changing work cultures. Collectively the women’s voices collected by FairyGodboss are identifying the top companies and industries for gender equality at work and women’s job satisfaction.
The answer to “how” and “when” is as unique as the parent who is defining it. And like all the trajectories, support is the key to success. This is why we love the mission of Path Forward, the nonprofit focused on bringing women back into the workplace who have been on formal work hiatus due to family caregiving, and bringing return to work programs to companies. Through midcareer internships, Path Forward offers returning professionals the opportunity to restart or refocus their careers with companies that appreciate the skills they offer, the perspective they provide and the contributions they can make. Path Forward shares these stories of re-entry via their quickly growing blog.
STORYTELLING BEGETS CHANGE
We encourage all parents to keep sharing these stories of the changing landscape for working parents in America. Pass them forward, and of course, encourage your friends, work associates and fellow parents to share their very personal tales. Stories, images and personal narratives are what keep this issue front and center in the media and in conversations. Stories spark solutions and provide a new standard of transparency that takes us to the change of tomorrow.
Please share your story of working parenthood with the It’s Working Project. Your contribution is a valuable step forward toward a modified workplace culture in this country. Your stories directly speak to the changing needs of working parents in a way that supports all stakeholders in this highly complex and shifting workscape.
Photo by Jessica McFadden.
This past week First Lady Michelle Obama invited 150 parent bloggers to the White House to learn about the Let’s Move! programs for families and schools. The It’s Working Project’s Jessica McFadden was in attendance.
An invitation to The White House. For me and 149 fellow parent bloggers, this was not our typical morning meeting. Rather than schlepping kids to school and conquering deadlines at my desk, I was ushered into the most iconic of American settings to discuss the issues closest to my heart: the well-being of our nation’s children and families. Within that gorgeous architectural symbol of history, our relatively new media of “mommy and daddy bloggers” was recognized as a group important to communicating ideas and goals to the parents who read our posts.
But as a staff member of the It’s Working Project, I could not help but see the morning not only through my parent blogger lens, but through my It’s Working glasses, too.
We were first greeted by Deb Eschmeyer, White House Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition and Executive Director of Let’s Move! One of the first housekeeping items she mentioned was to direct us to the designated lactation rooms, if we needed them. At this, a collective “Ahhh” arose from the parents who packed the East Room. As I realized several mothers in attendance were wearing their babies, I marveled at how incredible it was that this Administration would address the working parenting needs of those who visit the White House.
The White House East Wing lactation room offered to visitors of the Let’s Move! Media event. Photo by Jessica McFadden.
One of the next speakers was Dominique Dawes, three-time Olympic gymnast and Co-Chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. She confessed to all of us that this White House morning was a much-needed break for her, as she is currently parenting her two-year-old and six-month-old baby daughters. She spoke of the “beautiful struggle” of being up all night and nursing and trying to balance her work with her duties as a mom. She’s working hard, and she’s making It Work.
Photo by Jessica McFadden.
Then Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, shared a story that embodies what we at It’s Working Project not only identify with, but strive to communicate every day. She says that as a working parent and DC veteran, she has never seen an Administration or work environment that is so welcoming to expectant parents and parents of young children. She says that there are often two or three expectant parents at a time in her office, and when they come back and are bleary eyed, they have fellow staff who can relate to their completely changed lives. She also mentioned the nursing rooms established for working moms in the White House and Administrative offices.
Photo courtesy Stacey Ferguson of Justice Fergie Lifestyle Media.
And then, the woman we were all waiting for took the stage. If there is anyone who personifies the It’s Working Project philosophy of “bringing parents back to work with ease, as a matter of course and with a sense of pride,” she is First Lady Michelle Obama. She addressed her deep, dual commitments to her family as well as to her job as First Lady and leader of the Let’s Move! Initiative.
As First Lady Obama spoke of her goals for healthier families nationwide, she also related to all of us parents in attendance with stories of when her daughters were little and she was a “busy working mom with a job as an associate dean and eventually as vice president at the University of Chicago hospitals…life back then was a constant juggling act for our family. Barack was traveling all the time. He was going back and forth to Washington. And at the time, the girls were little, and they had those little-kid schedules, boy, filled with soccer practice and birthday parties, playdates and dance classes.”
And with that story, the room changed from 150 parents with hearts beating fast with First Lady hero worship to 150 parents who claimed her as one of our own: a parent striving to make It Work.
Photo by Jessica McFadden.
We listened and learned from First Lady Obama about the more health-focused daycare centers for working parents, the healthier school meals, the increased physical activity in schools and then we had the chance to tour the White House Kitchen Garden, as well as learn how we can initiate Kitchen Gardens for our own children’s school cafeterias.
I know First Lady Obama was referring to the Let’s Move! Program when she said the following words, but I took it to heart on a much deeper level as a working mother:
“Make no mistake about it, what we’re doing is working.”
Jessica McFadden is an It’s Working Project staff member, a communications consultant, a freelance writer and a proud parenting blogger at A Parent in Silver Spring and A Parent in America. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband and their three children.
I was asked to comment yesterday on the story that is Adam LaRoche’s potential retirement from baseball. Amy Joyce did a fantastic job of considering the whole of the story in On Parenting in The Washington Post. A former Washington National, LaRoche took a step back from the White Sox in a move that many feel is related to his being asked to limit his 14-year-old son’s time with him at practice.
With the exception of Major League Baseball — which offers three days of leave upon the birth of a baby– the rest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States (NBA, NFL, NHL) are without policies that provide for parental leave. Decisions about parental time off are player and team-driven. This feels to be an interesting parallel to the bigger-picture challenge of moving from the boss lottery (when you have a boss who is invested in your success back to work as a new parent and onward) — which is the club, to full-on organizational commitment which really requires an intentional cultural shift- which in this case is the the league.
And while we consider, how about a walk down memory lane at these “for the records” sports-daddy moments:
As I shared with The Post, without a clear team policy it is not surprising that LaRoche attempted to define one for himself. He worked to find his own personal success, to combine both his identities of player and parent. And in this case, perhaps the result was a swing and a miss….
And who cannot identify with that?
When I started Forty Weeks in 1999, there immediately came to life a category of emerging products that I called “the nasties.” At the time, marketing to new and expectant parents was still a relatively new venture, and these brands had deep pockets and were going after new and expectant parents with fear at the very core of their messaging.
Perhaps they didn’t intend to be fear mongering. Many launched their brands or products simply to address an unmet need. By simply tying their products to a parent’s fear — is my baby eating enough, is she sleeping enough, is he crying too much? — there was a sudden wave of nasties flooding trade-show floors and retailers. A fear-based product category that assured a parent could “get it right” was born. These products promised a child’s safety and well being, and played directly into the narrative that a child needed a perfect upbringing to be a satisfied adult. I believed that “the nasties” were predators, they were making it harder for a parent to feel successful, and creating unnecessary stress and fear.
But now, a few years older and wiser, the lens I am looking through has changed (perhaps now more of a prism than a crisp, inflexible view). I understand that new parents will have fears and concerns regardless, it’s common to question how to meet your baby’s needs, and babies aren’t always the easiest to communicate with nor is parental confidence easy to access. There are still some extreme products that I feel are unnecessarily fear-mongering, but most speak to meeting need — that of freeing parents from their own personal stressors by addressing their deepest concerns head on.
So now, years later, I say, whatever gets you out the door. What does it take for you go back to work, to engage, to access your “self” to get you at your peak level? Finding what you need is the opposite of fear mongering. It’s empowering.
At the It’s Working Project, we understand that success is different for every person. Products that you could construe as fear-mongering do wonders to liberate a different person. Not everyone needs those things, but if having access lowers anxiety, then that creates success.
In our Portrait Project, where men and women have shared their back-to-work after baby stories, we can see anxiety coming up over and again. “I was scared to leave my baby at daycare”, was what Peter S. of Brooklyn told us. “ I was still a mess and trying to get a firm grasp on this whole parenting thing” Melissa D. from Boston told us. The anxiety is there, it’s real and palpable. And anxiety gets in the way of getting out the door, on your feet or to a place of confidence.
So when I see a product out there… be it a highly sophisticated line of nursery monitors such as Project Nursery’s new system for VOXX which according to their press materials:
“The system also serves as a digital clock, timer and room thermometer, things mom and dad need to see at-a-glance. Extra benefits allow parents to send lullabies, voice communicate with their baby and capture digital images of special moments”.
Or perhaps a look at the new line Hatch which offers a monitoring changing pad and highly sophisticated app which promises to “keep track of the information that you and your pediatrician care about” — leaves me encouraged by the possibilities.
I am optimistic that these highly evolved products will move parents to a place of strength. And from strength we hope will come a very personal victory — be it small gesture or a game-changing moment. Whatever that success it, we applaud it. Because really, success looks different for each one of us. And part of understanding what is it to be back to work after baby in this country is understanding and accepting that.
Will you share your back to work after baby story with us? We would love to hear from you!
The New York Times is once again considering how we get from here to there in the American workplace. This week’s Magazine featured an in-depth, well-considered view of the American workplace, and how it’s changing for the better.
What caught our eye, specifically, was Susan Dominus’ “Rethinking the Work-Life Equation” . The complex challenges of this question have been on our minds for nearly 20 years, first at Forty Weeks and now at the It’s Working Project where we ask: what is the ideal, the gold standard — how does one build a work culture that successfully launches and nurtures careers and all versions and stages of family and self? And if we can better understand what is working, what can we do to support employers who know who they want to succeed but cannot understand how to get from intention to execution?
One of our biggest takeaways — and one that Dominus echoes and articulates in her article — is the need for flexibility. And we agree. We’ve found that there is no true work-life balance. It is a myth. This is not yoga: there is no balance, no active leaning, no fancy juggling. We were so glad the NYT piece used (and credited) Cali Yost’s “work-life fit” as their terminology. And also that they quoted friend of IWP Rachael Ellison on her work dedicated to coaching employers and employees to help both manage leave and explore flexibility, both of which are critical for back-to-work after baby success.
One thing that feels strong and getting stronger is the recognition of the value and the necessity of an active support system. This is not a question of flex-time or childcare planning — both are essential to the success of parents and work. But we need to build complex relationships on both sides for the equation to work.
It’s a full range of support, including childcare.
Families are not doing it alone. Even in the most enlightened of workplaces — and there are many that are leading the way in changing the workplace culture — there is the issue of childcare. We did not notice any mention of this in the NYT and we are not sure why. Any work conversation begins and ends with who is taking care of kids, both as a regular child care arrangement and on an emergency childcare basis. Life happens: kids get sick, snow closes school, or even the best childcare arrangements have wrinkles where they don’t work. If we truly want to make family-friendly, flexible work arrangements the norm, then we need to begin with the childcare conversation.
Success will look different for every family and different for that same family as life happens, but childcare is the common question we all ask. I hope more workplaces will use the New York Times’ Magazine feature as a starting point to ask what else they can, what they will bring to the table to show and actively offer support for all that their valuable employees value.
The Parenting Penalty (formerly known as the Motherhood Penalty, perhaps progress!?) is no longer just a workplace buzzword. Now both moms and dads are facing serious challenges at home when work culture does not align with familial expectations. Simply put, when work doesn’t cooperate, things can go bad fast.
We at It’s Working Project are hearing from parents that their workplace cultures are affecting their primary relationships at home. This was part of our discussion this past weekend at the Dad 2.0 Summit where I was part of a panel and shared new survey data from the It’s Working Project.
This impressive panel, “The State of Shared Parenting: So Much Done, So Much More To Do” was lead by a journalist and author I have long respected, Brigid Schulte. Schulte, the author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play and Why No One Has the Time, has long talked about the need for work-life balance, and how workplaces and policies can shape what our work, home lives and successes look like. Schulte knows from her own experience: juggling two kids and a demanding job at The Washington Post. She shared her now-famous Thanksgiving anecdote of coming home ready to cook a big meal with her husband, only to watch him reach for a beer and announce he was going to a friend’s house. Even for those of us who live and breathe the work-life balance discussions, we still have moments that ask: How did we get here?
These unique personal experiences and professional priorities are what drives all of us, in different ways. Fellow panelist, journalist and radio host, NPR’s Guy Raz, spoke about his role in joint parenting. Josh Levs spoke about his book All In, and what it means to speak up for paid parental leave. Blogger Chris Roulty spoke about the changing language, and how “Stay At Home Dad” encompasses much more than just fathers who wait in line for preschool pickup.
I was there to talk about our experience at the It’s Working Project, and how we’ve learned through the rich, personal narratives of the Portrait Project that the policies at the office can affect and change the primary relationships at home. We’re not just talking career trajectory and the parenthood penalty. What’s happening at work is directly affecting a relationship trajectory, and not for the better.
At the conference, I shared some newly released data that the It’s Working Project has produced. In a survey of parents this month, nearly all our respondents (86 percent) reported that their own work culture affected their primary relationship, and over half of those respondents (44 percent) said their primary relationships were affected “a great deal.” Similar numbers held when we reversed the question and asked about how a spouse’s work culture affected their primary relationship; nearly all (89 percent) agreed that it did, and nearly a third (28 percent) said their primary relationships were affected a great deal.
Much of the conversation has focused on the parenthood penalties that men and women face in their careers, but our study is one of the first looks of how workplace flexibility and culture are affecting lives at home starting with their primary partnership.
So what does this mean? This means we need to start viewing workplace culture through the lens of the whole of parents’ lives — attempting to align the policy and culture to reflect the way we live. More couples are splitting their responsibilities 50/50, but we don’t yet have a workplace culture that recognizes or supports that division of labor. The economy is also driving these conversations, as more employers will look up and see the crisis in their pipeline. Employers are realizing they will not be able to staff their organization unless they provide the family-friendly policies millennials are demanding.
The It’s Working Project continues to make back-to-work conversations a priority, and we know our work is far from done. But conversations like these are a powerful — and effective — place to start.
When we hear “back to work” after baby, so much of the conversation immediately turns to women. There’s good precedent for this: for generations it was the women who made the complex decisions and carried the burden about how to manage work and home, and if going back to work was an option, mandate or privilege.
But expectations and understandings around partnerships are changing. Paternity leave continues to make headlines. Millennials are moving up in the workforce to senior positions, and their revised expectations for work-life balance are drastically different than previous generations. Dads are playing bigger roles: actively raising their children, taking paternity leave in earnest, and speaking up at work about their personal standards and goals for both work and play.
I was asked to join the Dad 2.0 Summit taking place in Washington, D.C. The conference convenes thought leaders and interested participants to discuss a topic which is drastically gaining momentum. I’ll be part of a remarkable (understatement) panel, moderated by Brigid Schulte, of passionate, informed individuals each with a unique take and focus on the shifting landscape of parenthood. Together we will explore what the shifting landscape really looks like, each bringing our unique views to the dialogue.
My viewpoint stems from the It’s Working Project and our question of what does “back to work after baby” look like? What is the “new normal”? Is there a range? A standard? Are we going somewhere fast? Are we on the slow train? Or worse, are we in the middle of some Sisyphean exercise of pushing the same boulder up the hill over and again?
Here at It’s Working Project we have been involved in research to make sense of the impact of the workplace on the state of the primary relationship. What we’ve found is that more parents need a workplace culture that is reflective of the setup of their family. If the family is in a 50/50 split, in which both parents, man and woman, are both contributing to the household income, then workplaces need to recognize and try and support that. Partners have a working infrastructure before the baby comes along, and the successful workplaces able to retain and recruit millennial talent are the ones that recognize the partnership.
We have heard this before from the men who have shared their stories with the It’s Working Project. Aren Platt of Pennsylvania told us, “Before becoming a dad, I would regularly work 80 and 90 hour weeks. After my son came, I felt the need to try to keep up that same pace (while trying to be a dad, which is what I really wanted to do) and that really took a toll.”
Peter Slutsky of New York echoed the sentiment. “Having a baby is a really good time to ask yourself important questions and rethink your priorities. You want to feel like you can do it all, but the truth is that you have to work in an environment that values that same thing you do.”
Dad 2.0 Summit is an ideal conversation-starter. What can companies do to support a better work culture for dads, and what can dads do to find meaningful work while supporting their families and playing an active role as a partner in raising their children?
I’m thrilled to be a part of the summit this weekend. For those of you who are there, let me know at @TheJuliaBeck and @ItsWorkingProject, and follow the conversation at #dad2summit and #itsworkingproject.
It is the morning after the big game of social consciousness and homage to the legacy of the game (that is what I saw from my perch). The endless hours of seamless connection to the past and commitment to the future, they seemed authentic enough, ok maybe that was my too many pigs in the blanket talking and still…
If these priorities made the short list of precious air-time….
Enough to build a narrative, enough to invest in costly campaigns, enough to hire in, amplify out and proudly boast “look at us”….
Enough to host a Women’s Summit. Enough to attempt to tackle (yes I did) issues that haunt and plague the league….
If this matters enough, then when can we expect to see actions and not just words?
Put me in coach (mixing sports metaphors, maybe I am off base?!?!) — let’s quickly make it so that Super bowl babies and those remarkable fan parents of theirs can make their way to the game. This year, Change.org and the It’s Working Project launched #ParentsChangetheGame — the goal was simple — create spaces for families to enjoy the game — install spaces (actual rooms) in which parents can nurse, pump and change diapers while enjoying the game with other parents and outside of the vile and nasty reality of existing Family Rest Rooms or First Aid spaces. We asked. We had over twelve-thousand signatures. Not one of the stadiums was game for supporting parents via simple changes (worth noting, during the all-star break this summer, Washington Nationals put a space in that fits the bill and then some in result to a similar petition). Not one team — Not New England. Not Philly. Not San Francisco. Not Pittsburgh. Not Washington, DC. Not Detroit.
We are ready now. Now works! So how about it NFL, are you ready to step-up for parents and change the game?
New Transparency Identifies Parent-Friendly Workplaces
Two years ago, we sat at the White House Summit for Working Families listening to company leaders such as Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein share how their companies were striving for working families. A few, isolated cases were actually hitting home runs for working families.
It was good news. But there were many women, in the audience and elsewhere, who were hearing it for the very first time. And as consumers, none of us were sure how to access that information again. Such an event inspired our founding of the It’s Working Projects’ Portrait Project, a mosaic of compellingly candid portraits of new parents in the American workplace. Our comprehensive view is possible through the sharing of personal narratives by parents, the honestly of which which uncover a rich depiction of American families navigating work and parenthood.
But we were certainly not the only ones.
It has been only two years, but the landscape is shifting. As family-friendly workplaces receive more ink on their maternity and paternity policies, organizations are sprouting up with the goal of sharing what the leave and back-to-work experience really looks like. These organizations are pointing out those workplaces which are true to their commitment of supporting parents’ returns to work (and to what degree) and others who are not. Thanks to these organizations’ research, we now have both qualitative stories and quantitative data. Websites are launching with transparency and community as their goals, some going so far to suggest where a new parent would want to work or what pivot they should make.
It’s the big share. And it’s going to keep growing.
It is a far cry from the guessing game that women very recently had to go through to figure out what might work for them. Or the well-intended but often misguided whisper-down-the lane (and we all know how that game goes.) Instead, information can now be honest, candid and openly accessible.
THIS is what we’ve been waiting to see (and read and share!).
At the It’s Working Project, we know that workplace culture is one of the defining aspects of how a new parent views his or her return to the workplace. A supportive boss and a family-aware work environment can make all the difference between an employee who stays (and thrives) after their parental leave, and one who leaves. Fairygodboss helps women by sharing company statistics and real stories, so women (and men) can see how their company compares. It assists women in making more confident job decisions, and introduces them to others who can give them advice and the inside scoop. At Glass Ceiling, women are benefitting from articles and interviews, start-up advice for women entrepreneurs and workplace know-how from experts in the field. And at InHerSight, women are rating their workplaces, looking at score cards and finding their match.
Expectations are changing, too. This is what progress looks like. Although it may be unfamiliar to older generations, a generation of millennials are taking the helm in more management roles in more organizations, and this is the change they seek.
In order for this change to take hold, we need people who are focused on creating better work environments for parents. It’s not about soapboxes anymore, it’s about transparency and proactive progress. Today we at It’s Working Project and the organizations mentioned above are squarely focused on real change and real-time approaches to a pervasive problem. Perhaps this will be addressed legislatively in the future, but until now we have only ourselves on which to rely.
Let us continue to make information transparent and more greatly available to one another in ways that can be useful, meaningful and certainly sharable! We invite you to share your story with us at the It’s Working Project’s Portrait Project. Add your honest perspective of what the back-to-work experience looks like for families today.
People are talking. Workplaces are changing. And we are getting there together.
At the It’s Working Project’s Portrait Project, we hear over and again through the intimate and insightful stories new parents share with us, how mothers and fathers have made very real shifts in their career trajectory as a result of parenthood. We hear too from employers a very sincere interest in finding ways to meet obvious and immediate needs of new parents in their organizations, including parental leave coverage and other services to support both the on- and off-ramp of parental leave.
It comes as no surprise that some of our ever-resourceful, entrepreneurial and frankly optimistic Portrait Project Parents have made their own contribution to this omni-present question of how to best support new parents in the workplace. We see how a few have started down a path to meet the gaping needs of new parents in the workplace. Be it issues of childcare (and related costs), leave coverage (and a complete dearth thereof) or concepts that support the need for flexibility.
So when journalist Rebecca Traister explained in a New Republic article “Why Women Can’t Break Free from the Parent Trap” how being a woman in the workforce can be punishing, we found it more than familiar. When she pointed out, “What goes less noticed is the way pregnancy and immediate postpartum life itself plays a serious role in slowing professional momentum for women for whom the simple—and celebrated—act of having a baby turns out to be a stunningly precarious economic and professional choice,” we thought, “Yes” followed by “then what?”…
The challenges are real and universal–cutting across racial and socioeconomic lines. That’s why we are so heartened to see several entrepreneurs have given birth to an entirely new strategy for supporting women in the workplace. Creating new models for working, coverage, and support.
On the employment side we’ve seen co-working spaces that offer childcare popping up in major metro areas like New York, New Jersey and San Francisco. Work and Play NJ was conceived by Deborah Engel who left her job as VP of public relations firm The Lippin Group after the birth of her second child and found working from home isolating. There’s also Women’s Plaza, which takes it a step further, and asks you to imagine “a place where work and childcare, networking and nurturing, all happen under one roof.” As founder, Glaucia Martin-Porath explains of the impetus, “I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home Mom … It was isolating and crazy-making. I went back to work, but I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I wanted to be a mother and develop myself. Why did I have to choose?”
Business networks like Inkwell and The Second Shift are facilitating targeted contract work for women in their fields of expertise, while Montage Legal provides industry specific flexible work, and Emissaries, targets the parental leave market.
And these are just a few. With others still to be conceived or currently gestating. We applaud and encourage the growth of this essential next generation of tools to support and make sure It’s Working for all families.
If you have a story to share about your struggles of making it all work, or want to share with us the solutions you’ve created for yourself and others as a business owner, we’d love to hear your story at the Portrait Project or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Be the Powerball of Bosses
Powerball fever is spreading across the nation as the lottery jackpot climbs to over $1 billion. With a big “B.” Go ahead, buy that ticket (or 10), dream a little dream about what you’d do with your riches, and then focus on the lottery you might actually win (or maybe you’ve already won): the Boss lottery. With a huge “B.”
What is the Boss lottery? It’s when you have a boss who understands how to bring new parents back to work with ease, as a matter of course, and with a sense of pride. It is a commitment to getting it right by setting employee and employer up for success. That means respecting time, boundaries, and genuinely caring about how to make it possible for parent employees to be their best at work and at home.
We hear story after story through It’s Working Project’s Portrait Project about how having the right boss makes or breaks the reality of back to work after baby in the American workforce. So in this time of Powerball mania, we’ve been thinking about the parents who have hit the jackpot–the ones who got lucky enough to work for someone who takes seriously their commitment to parental return. That is winning!
One thing we have seen, those who win often pay it forward (and with amazing amounts of pride). Sometimes winning the Boss lottery means becoming that boss.
Lainie from Cincinnati explains being a great boss is about flexibility, “Most of the contractors I hire are moms who regret leaving the workforce. I’ve hired some on full-time. I’ve always given the flexibility to work hours that are convenient to them. I’ve always covered for someone who had to take a kid to an appointment. I’ve never asked someone to work a typical schedule and have to pay for daycare without paying that person a wage that would allow them to afford a high caliber of childcare.”
And Claire from Kentucky shows us the importance of support, “”I am a mentor for new lawyers and active with women’s groups in my area, in part because I am a parent. After having my daughter, I also started a Lean In Circle in my region for women attorneys, in large part because working and being a mom is tough in the early years.”
While Erin from Houston shows us how changing workplace culture is pivotal, “I have someone right now whose wife is pregnant with their first and have worked with him to determine leave & encouraged him to both consider taking all the time we pay for (now 16 weeks for him) and offered flexible leave solutions if that works better (flex time, work from home, etc). It’s incredibly important to me that I normalize taking maternity and paternity leave from my position as a leader & that I advocate.”
So sure, you’ve got to play to win. And being that boss is winning — winning loyalty, commitment, recruitment, engagement, and retention. Best part, it doesn’t even cost a penny to play, and we guarantee your odds of winning the Boss Lottery are definitely better than 1 in 292.2 million.
If you have a story to share with the It’s Working Project’s Portrait Project about how you’ve won the Boss lottery or have been that boss, please get in touch with us through our site, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
It’s not every weekend you get to see one of the country’s most-recognized families out for a stroll in New York City. But indeed, just after Christmas, I caught a lucky glimpse of the Clintons strolling with their family along lower 5th Avenue in Manhattan as I strolled along with mine.
And while Daily Mail captured it for the world to see, my family and I had a unique experience of our own.
I’ve worked with my share of celebrities and have been fortunate enough to provide support to all kinds of families, first through Forty Weeks and our beloved brand partners, and now through the It’s Working Project. My view is that we all–famous or not–need support and pathways to our own individual success, however we define it.
So, this weekend’s sighting struck me, not because it involved celebrities, but because it exemplified our mission. Three generations of a legendary American First family walking, a young mom with her hands on the stroller, the grandmother helping to guide it, smiles on faces. As someone who has dedicated her life’s work to supporting women and families, getting an up-close and personal view of the Clintons demonstrating their version of It’s Working success was beyond expectation, but also quite familiar. So many of the stories in the It’s Working Project’s Portrait Project speak to how critical it is to have family support.
As I strolled with my (slightly older) family past the Clintons in New York on December 26, what made this vision of Hillary, Bill, Chelsea, husband Marc and baby daughter Charlotte so noteworthy was the way in which familiar bonds of support and care momentarily overshadowed the layers of ambition, professional commitment and political drive. I was thrilled to see Hillary and her clan take a much-deserved break from a hectic campaign schedule to spend time with family. Like all of us — the Clintons were making sure it was working during precious down time.
The fortuitous street-side scene underscores for me the importance of support–for all families–at work and at play. Not the traditional support of staff and secret service that one associates with a front-running candidate, but the homespun breed that comes with multi-generational support systems, lessons handed down and the success strategies that allocate time and space for families to take care of–and joy in–one another. The Clintons may have been out for a brief holiday walk, but their stride tells a very different story. One that can have a positive effect for generations to come.
What a year for back-to-work after baby! As the United States woke up to find itself at the bottom of the graph when it comes to paid leave among industrialized nations, the tech industry began offering paid leave as the perk du jour, spurring a benefits race across the private sector as a whole. As Emily Peck points out in her Huffington Post piece, This Was The Year We Finally Started To Care About Working Parents.
The issues of paid leave, and return, have also made their way onto the presidential campaign trail. But perhaps the most impressive shift in the burgeoning national conversation about parents in the workplace came from Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld whose NYTimes piece, Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace a Toxic Work World showed us it’s less about the benefits and more about the culture. In fact, it’s all about the culture. Garnering over 5k comments, the game-changing expose became the most commented-on NYT piece of the year, and shattered the previous record from 2013 for the most commented-on news story at The Times in general.
For taking parental leave and return from the sidelines to headlines, we applaud Kantor and Streitfeld’s “Inside Amazon” as the pivotal article in back-to-work after baby for 2015. In addition to this groundbreaking piece, here are our top picks for the powerful moments in which the media captured the public’s attention, kept the dialog on the front-lines and paved the way for new parents to get back to work with ease, as a matter of course, and with a sense of pride.
The New York Times (Business Day)
Aug. 15, 2015
Why it matters:
By shining a light on a workplace culture that places a premium on the employee and fails to take into consideration the person (and often times parent), Kantor and Streitfeld created a robust dialogue around an issue that affects every working family in this country, 5000+ comments worth.
How it moved the conversation forward:
A workplace culture that values people, not just employees, makes it easier to give your best at work and at home. In an era in which there is no legislative mandate to do this, it falls on the private sector to lead the way in successfully supporting American working families.
July 30, 2015
Why it matters: Mothers who feel unsupported in the workplace often end up quitting. Even in the C-Suite, where women climbed the ladder and broke the glass ceiling, there is a lack of support around maternity leave and return. A network of executive moms has taken to helping each other navigate back-to-work after baby, filling the void left by HR policies and benefits.
How it moved the conversation forward: If executive moms are parent-hacking from the C-Suite for their back-to-work after baby needs, what hope does that leave for the rest of the women in the workforce? Replacing these executives is costly to company bottom line, morale, and culture.
The Washington Post
August 5, 2015
Why it matters: Good benefits are good for attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent, but they are great for PR. Perhaps motivated by headline-grabbing announcements about family friendly benefits, more companies this year modified their parental leave and return benefits.
How it moved the conversation forward: Whether they’re doing it for the PR or the genuine consideration of their parent employees, when companies try to keep up with the Netflixes, it’s a win for parents who could use some much needed help navigating leave and return.
May 11, 2015
Why it matters: On a day when people across the U.S. were focused on how to show their mothers they appreciate her, comedian and political commentator John Oliver demonstrated our national hypocrisy by pointing out the useless things we buy to honor our mothers (plant pots, purses, professional baseball tickets) and the one thing they truly deserve (paid leave).
How it moved the conversation forward: In 12 minutes and 21 seconds, John Oliver entertained Americans with a well-reasoned and well-supported argument for why they should care about paid leave.
The New York Times (The Upshot)
September 1, 2015
Why it matters: While we are in the midst of a parental benefits revolution, if employees don’t feel that their workplace culture legitimately wants–and expects–them to partake of such benefits, they become null and void. This negatively impacts the parents, of course, but also the companies who will not see a sustained improvement in attraction, engagement, and retention of top talent.
How it moved the conversation forward: Here, too, by shifting the focus of the conversation from workplace perks to workplace culture, Cain Miller and Streitfeld encourage people to think about what makes parental leave not only plausible, but successful.
November 23, 2015
Why it matters: Common sense tells us that fathers taking time to spend with their partner and new child is good for the partner, good for the child, not to mention good for the father and his work. Studies also show us that this is true. Yet up until recently paternity leave has suffered a perception problem.
How it moved the conversation forward: Zuckerberg taking two months (up front) of his company’s allotted 4 months parental leave over the baby’s first year sends a message to Facebook employees that fathers can and should partake of this benefit. It also sends a message to the public that real, successful men take real time away from work to support their partner and bond with their new child.
What started for us with the mega-spark of the call to action from the White House Summit on Working families in 2014, has progressed into a wonderfully compelling and lively fire burning around issues of parental leave. This was the year that the sheer number of Millennials eclipsed Boomers at work. 2015 was also the year in which we saw key private sector leaders find new, innovative ways to support families in the American workplace.
At the It’s Working Project, we have watched (and often times, proudly played a role) as leaders committed their organizations to bringing families back to work with ease, as a matter of course, and with an authentic sense of pride.
As 2015 draws to a close, here are the top trends we’ve seen making headlines and dominating the biggest view of parental leave and back-to-work after baby.
In the new year, join us as we continue to play a role in the thriving back-to-work after baby conversation. If you’re a parent in the workplace, share your story. If you’re an HR leader, let us show you how to make it possible for parent employees be their best at work and at home. And now, to 2016, onward and upward!
Paid parental leave has been the topic du jour of 2015, but we can’t miss the point that parental return is the real make it or break it point–for employers and employees. At the It’s Working Project, we are committed to helping new parents get back to work with ease, as a matter of course, and with a sense of pride. As we’ve learned from listening to new parents through our Portrait Project, where parents chronicle their back-to-work after baby experiences (or their back out of the workforce experiences in some cases), flexibility is the one key factor that makes for a successful return.
Flexibility is the thing our struggling parents have told us they want most, and what our thriving parents have credited as pivotal to their successful return. And the companies we are talking to about ways to better attract, retain, and engage top parental talent are all ears when it comes to flexibility, too. An amazingly common reaction we hear from employers is not questioning, “Why?” when it comes to creating more flexibility, but inquisitively and earnestly asking, “How?!”
The It’s Working Project is proud to be taking the lead in showing the private sector how to execute this on the granular level, while at the same time building a strong corporate culture that supports it: gradual on-ramping, flexible hours, and the ability to work remotely. These low-cost, high-return benefits demonstrate that an employer is committed to making it work and go a long way toward ensuring that great employees stay happy and stay on.
Mom, Amy O’Brien, who works for the Denver Nuggets, attributes her parental return success to a flexible and supportive office, where she was able to work from home two days a week. As does dad, Mike Schaffer Vice President, Digital Corporate Reputation, Edelman, who says, ”My managers at the time of each child’s birth were wonderful in supporting me and clearing the way for me to take as much time as possible.”
As pleased as we are when we hear stories from parents who feel like they have won the “boss lottery,” it’s important to us at the It’s Working Project to shift the focus from single, supportive individuals to wholly supportive organizations. This is why we are focused on helping to create smoother off- and on-ramping via cultural shifts that permeate the whole of an organization. As mom Rachel Sobel points out, ““Be flexible. But really flexible. Not the kind of flexible where you offer work from home days or modified schedules that come with sideways glances and resentment.”
If you’re a parent who’s making it work, or who thinks it could be working better, share your story, lend your voice, and help affect positive change in the private sector when it comes to parental leave and return. You can submit your story online, or contact an editor on our team through our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages–we’re flexible!
What does real change for working families look like to you?
We know that life as a parent is an amazing juggling act. It requires support. And creativity. And patience.
We know small changes go a long way. Our partner, Change.org, knows it too.
We have joined together to create positive changes for parents. Our new Movement page #ParentsChangeTheGame allows parents to petition their way toward better outcomes and drive much-needed attention to the issues of our day. Change.org is an amazing leader – uniquely positioned to help make these changes happen in real time with their online petition system.
At the It’s Working Project, we gather stories from moms and dads about their experiences of going back to work after starting or expanding their families. The stories in our Portrait Project are powerful — the details of financial angst, children with medical conditions compromised by day care, the pumping in janitors’ closets and bathrooms. They are powerful alone, as compellingly honest first-person narratives that strike a chord. And together, as a mosaic of the biggest picture of back-to-work after baby in the US, they are undeniably poignant. When you read the shared experiences of the nurse, the teacher, the corporate executive, the professor, the bar worker, you see the unique people in unique situations with the unified call for a way to get back to work with ease, as a matter of course, and with a sense of pride.
That is why we’ve been sharing the details of our Portrait Project with HR departments across the country, offering our view as a roadmap toward helping parents give their best at work and at home. That is also why Change.org has been so important to us as a way to give our parents a clear, audible voice to change the things that matter most to them at work and now at play.
These issues aren’t limited to work. New parents also travel, go to sporting events, conferences, the mall, the movies and more — places where they need better solutions for pumping, breastfeeding, and changing diapers in a way that gives them privacy without shutting them out from the action.
We’re proud of the Portrait Project moms and dads who have lent their voices to the It’s Working Project, and who have worked with our Change.org partner to change the game at our nation’s football stadiums and national ball parks by starting and supporting petitions calling for powerful, positive change in stadiums across the country. These changes are a call to action to create new policies that support the needs of all parents who want to attend the games with their families.
Every petition brings about a small change that can make a big difference. Please check out our Portrait Project to share your back-to-work after baby story, and visit our Change.org page to see how you can join the #ParentsChangeTheGame movement to make it work better for new parents at work and at play.
The latest topic to fuel the omnipresent back-to-work after baby conversation and one that has been dominating the headlines: do dads take more time off work if they have a son?
According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the answer is YES. New fathers in California are more likely to take paternity leave if they have sons.
At the It’s Working Project, we connect with parents heading back to work – we gather insights with an ear for what is the true state of back-to-work with baby in the US. Our Portrait Project has collected over 200 stories about what the reality of this challenge is for men and women, as well as for those they work for, those who for them, and so on. It’s a rich mosaic of individual stories: the good, the bad, and the starkly honest. Most of the conversations focus on the similar and yet intensely personal and unique struggles new parents face when on-ramping back to work.
Our goal is to take our insights and use them to actively support the private sector as they seek to successfully bring families back to work with ease, as a matter of course and with a sense of pride. This work affords us the opportunity to turn our insights into policy that speaks to the next generation of family in the workplace.
So we were excited to dig deep with our dads and ask, did gender play a role in taking time off for you? Here’s what they had to say:
“I find the notion of a child’s gender playing any role in this decision to be puzzling.”–Matthew Swanson, father of 3
“I actually took more time off when my daughter was born. I have been very fortunate in my career to become a father while working at companies that value and support working parents, from human resources to direct managers. Gender of the baby has absolutely no impact of my parental leave planning.”–Mike Schaffer, father of 2 with one on the way.
“Obviously, this wasn’t an issue for us since we had two little girls but I can’t imagine it having been any different if I had a son. I read that study and I still can’t wrap my head around it. How can a father’s time with a tiny (non-sports-playing/tool-wielding) infant be any more important or “functional” than his time spent bonding with his infant daughter? The good news is, in my personal experience, my friends who are fathers of daughters love them just as much and work just as hard to spend time with them as they would have if they had been born boys.”–Chris Short, father of 2
“I find the results of the study very distressing if not. It’s distressing and unbelievable to me that men would value caring for a boy more than a girl.”–Brett Pipitone, father of 2
“I firmly believe that I would not have taken additional time off for paternity leave if my children were male, but that is solely conjecture at this point. In my gut, I do believe that society is more likely to (unfairly) show preferential treatment to boys – so why would male offspring deserve other treatment. The article itself though does not do a good job backing that emotion up. I would love to see what the study says in terms of absolute percentages as opposed to relative percentages and how the samples break down socio-economically or racially/culturally. How does this study tie into birth defects or other birth related issues. There are several unanswered questions and unknowns. I can understand the concept that men may be partial to taking time off for a boy; however the study doesn’t have enough data or analysis to be convincing.”–Samir Kulkarni, father of 3
While the dads we’ve spoken to were incredulous that fathers would take more time off for their sons, through our Portrait Project we have seen time and again that dads are less likely to talk about their leave and the stress they may be experiencing as a new parent.
As Lydia Dishman mentions in her Fast Company article, “What Marissa Mayer’s Maternity Leave Decision Means for Working Parents at Yahoo:”
In recent research, some fathers revealed that after having children, trading anecdotes about kids around the water cooler was fine, but talking about achieving work/life balance, not so much. “People don’t want to give away that they are feeling stressed out,” one participant said.
At the It’s Working Project, we hear that dads are taking into consideration the fullest spectrum of factors at play when it comes to paternity leave–the needs of their job, the needs of their spouse, and the needs of their children–regardless of gender. We also hear all the things they’re not sharing around the water cooler, about how being a new working dad is hard, stressful, and of course, rewarding. By telling their stories on our Portrait Project, we hope to create a space in which dads can share more of their experiences about going back to work after baby, and that we can continue showing the private sector the specific ways in which they can better support mothers and fathers as they support their families. To do that, we need to hear from more working parents. So share our outrage in the California study that suggests some dads are more inclined to take paternity leave for male children, and then share your story of back-to-work after baby!
As the year comes to an end, there is something to celebrate. More and more industries are seeking out real-time solutions for bringing families back to work with ease, as a matter of course and with a sense of pride. This year alone, we’ve seen tech, hospitality, and financial services begin to ask and answer the essential question of the year: “How will we do better by our families?” And they are being rewarded for the effort with talent, loyalty, and longevity; enthusiastic recruits looking to join the ranks; and the warm glow of positive media attention.
The newly enhanced parental leave policies and soft-benefits signify more than just a trend toward family friendly practices, they signify that these industries and their leaders are exploring, in earnest, the genuine cultural shifts that will support the challenges of back-to-work after baby (and beyond). This focus on employees’ needs and the nuances of what it means to be back to work after baby are both pro- and re-active. Not only are employees asking pointed questions about parental leave and return(retention), but job candidates — young, unmarried, childless job applicants (recruitment)— are asking, as well. Companies who don’t have supportive policies that allow for a long-term future will soon find themselves functioning in a talent vacuum.
Elizabeth Donnelly, Credit Suisse’s head of benefits for the Americas, is hearing a lot about leave during the recruitment process. “I was surprised by the number of individuals—and these are people just entering the workforce—who wanted to know what our child care leave policies are. It came across loud and clear,” she said in a recent Washington Post piece, “Wall Street firms are banking on better family leave benefits to compete for talent.”
Credit Suisse heard what candidates were asking and course-corrected. They did not simply develop a policy and check it off their list. They listened to what top talent were asking, took time to understand the implications, and began shaping new policies to ensure that in the now omnipresent challenge to attract, retain, and engage the most desired candidates, Credit Suisse continues to lead. In addition to their increased paid leave, up to 20 weeks from 12, Credit Suisse is also offering to pay for an employee’s nanny and infant to go along on business trips, and will be introducing “parental leave coaches” to help alleviate the stress of on- and off-ramping.
This is what it looks like to really, truly, listen and pave the way for a new generation of talent.
At the It’s Working Project we know about the serious business of listening. It’s what we do. We’ve been listening to parents across the country who have shared their personal experience of back-to-work after baby in the US. These parents have told us time and again through our Portrait Project what we need to know (and what we’ve shared) about what is broken and easily fixable about back-to-work after baby.
We’ve listened. We’ve quantified the data. We’ve created qualitative insights and made sense of trends. And we’ve taken our full-spectrum view of returning to the workplace to HR departments across the country. Forward-thinking companies are taking note and, like Credit Suisse, changing course not just on policy, but on culture.
The brightest new talent in our workforce is ready to start something amazing, including their families, and we must—all of us—listen to what they are saying they need to give their best, at work and at home
Our Portrait Project just featured its 200th story. That’s 2-0-0 and growing!
To celebrate, we’re giving you a chance to win over $400-worth of fabulous mama swag!
Enter our raffle from 11/11 to 11/18 for a chance to win: a Catbird Mai Tai Carrier from Yummy Mummy, a Belabumbum Strappy romper & cardigan, a $100 gift card to Loyal Hana, a Skip Hop Duet 2-in-1 diaper tote, and a signed copy of Jessica Shortall’s “Work. Pump. Repeat.”
For a chance to win, just point, click (and click, and click!). Entries for liking, following, and tweeting on your favorite social media spots.
We’ll announce the lucky winner on 11/19 and spill the details soon on more fantastic giveaways starting 11/23!
Thanks so much for celebrating with us, and for helping us bring new parents back to work with ease, as a matter of course, and with a sense of pride.
Here at the It’s Working Project, we created the Portrait Project as a means of taking a comprehensive first-look at the picture back-to-work with baby in America. Here, mothers and fathers alike can candidly and honestly share their experiences. As the number of stories grows, the picture becomes clearer- It’s Not Working for new parents in this country, notably when it comes to pumping at work.
A recent University of Minnesota study revealed that most working moms don’t have adequate workplace support when it comes to breastfeeding.
Emily Peck writes in a piece for the Huffington Post:
“Only 40 percent of new mothers who return to work after giving birth have access to the private space and breaks they need to pump breast milk at work, despite federal regulations requiring employers to accommodate them, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Women’s Health Issues. Without support at work, women are much more likely to stop breastfeeding their children.”
As we’ve seen on the Portrait Project, many women are forced to pump in bathrooms or under other unpleasant conditions. For example, Lauren, a teacher from Virginia, was forced to pump milk in an electrical closet- always struggling to find the time throughout her busy day.
When it comes to It’s Working, support makes all the difference. A woman’s choice to breastfeed should never be determined by her employer – It’s time for companies to step up.
Last month, the It’s Working Project had the opportunity to take a first look at the Lansinoh Nursing Lounge at Nationals Park. Major league baseball teams are stepping up to the plate when it comes to taking care of families, so, we wondered, why can’t the NFL do the same?
In the recent weeks leading up to the official start of football season, the It’s Working Project has partnered with Change.org to launch #ParentsChangeTheGame. As a result, petitions have been showing up all over the site. Portrait Project mom Kara Sassone, a Massachusetts native and proud supporter of the New England Patriots, says:
“‘You are marketed to as a family,’ said Sassone. ‘They sell the onesies, the mini jerseys, the mini footballs. They want families to be a part of this. So let’s make it a little bit kinder, nicer, more welcoming.’”
And Gillette isn’t the only stadium where fans want to see change. Steelers fan Stephanie Barnhart is petitioning Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Her petition describes stories of being “frustrated and humiliated” while trying to pump milk in a stadium bathroom stall.
The various petitions- to the Steelers, Patriots, 49ers, Redskins, Lions, and the Eagles, all asking they upgrade their facilities- have received overwhelming support, which does not come as much of a surprise considering we know how passionate and capable parents truly are. Here at the It’s Working Project, we are committed to ensuring the It’s Working both at home and at play, and we are proud to be working with football fans across the country to make bring our mission to life.
Gabby Etrog Cohen is no stranger to finding balance in everyday life. The VP of Public Relations and Brand Strategy at SoulCycle and mother of two recently shared her story with the It’s Working Project- And a lot of good can be taken from what she has to say.
SoulCycle was founded on the belief that fitness could be inspiring, so it makes sense that the company would be built of team of incredibly inspiring employees like Cohen. Holding such a high position in an increasingly growing company while being the mother to two young children isn’t an easy task, but Cohen explains how she makes it work:
“When I am home, I really try to be home. I put my phone down. When I’m at work, unless it’s an emergency, I’m not checking in with my kids or dealing with home stuff, I’m really focused where I am and present.”
With all that she has going on in life, Cohen finds a way to make sure It’s Working. How do you balance career and family? Make sure to share your story with the It’s Working Project- we are listening.
Julia Beck, the founder and visionary behind the It’s Working Project has inspiring words to share with companies lacking family-friendly workplace policies: consumers are watching.
She explains this in a recent article on Medium, “After Amazon: Parental Spending Takes a Time Out”
“More than ever, consumers are looking for parity — brands that sell to them must also speak to them. Consumers who carefully choose how they spend their money and with which brands are asking for proof of aligned values from their beloved brands.
And this is where the ‘Parenting Parity’ comes in to play. Is there equity? If you sell me diapers (as Julia Cheiffetz, former Amazon employee pointed out) you better not be full of crap in how you support families at the home office.”
Here at the It’s Working Project, we have dedicated ourselves to helping the private sector bring parents back to work with ease, as a matter of course, and with a sense of pride. Beck’s words come as a warning to companies lacking in the family-friendly policy department. The message here is clear- take care of your employees, or risk losing a valuable part of your consumer base.
Julia Cheiffetz shares her story of how It’s really Not Working at Amazon.
Cheiffetz, a successful young book editor, was about to begin an MBA program at Columbia University when she was presented with an opportunity others told her would be crazy not to take.
This opportunity was with Amazon, the largest Internet retailer in America. Cheiffetz was drawn to the company’s innovative spirit, but as revealed in a recent New York Times peice, its work culture is anything but glamorous.
In 2013, while on maternity leave, Cheiffetz was diagnosed with cancer. A few weeks later, she received a form letter informing her that her insurance had been terminated. Many frantic phone calls and emails later, her employer blamed a glitch in the system- But Cheiffetz wondered how a company of its size and prestige could allow such a thing to happen. It was only when she returned to work that she began to see what was happening. As published on Medium, Cheiffetz writes:
“I was nervous and excited to return to work, and I showed up that first day back with a big smile and a phone full of baby pictures to share. I figured I’d catch up with folks and get a high-level update on how the business was doing, since the strategy had evolved from the time I was hired. Here’s what happened instead: I was taken to lunch by a woman I barely knew. Over Cobb salad she calmly explained that all but one of my direct reports — the people I had hired — were now reporting to her. In the months that followed, I was placed on a dubious performance improvement plan, or PIP, a signal at Amazon that your employment is at risk. Not long after that I resigned.”
While CEO Jeff Bezos has been desperately defending the claims reported in the New York Times, stories like these give a revealing and honest look at what goes on behind the scenes of Amazon. Having a baby and being diagnosed with cancer should only warrant more support from an employer- certainly not the polar opposite.
The U.S. has been making great strides towards gender equality in recent years. So why is it that women still bear a heavier load than men when it comes to balancing work and family?
A 2013 survey found that mothers with children under the age of 18 were three times as likely as fathers to say that being a working parent made it more difficult to advance in their career. In addition, an analysis of government economic data showed that while young men and women generally start out with similar salaries, women struggle to keep up the pace once they decide to have children.
This data, released in an article from the Pew Research Center, is an alarming reminder that we are not making the progress necessary to ensure workplace equality among both genders. Kim Parker, Director of Social Trends Research at the center, writes:
“One reason mothers are more likely than fathers to say it’s harder to get ahead in the workplace may be that women are much more likely than men to experience a variety of family-related career interruptions. About four-in-ten working mothers (42%) say that at some point in their working life, they had reduced their hours in order to care for a child or other family member, while just 28% of working fathers say they had done the same.”
This motherhood penalty is a very real reality for working women, and it is up to the private sector to change that reality into one where a healthy work/life balance is successfully achieved through supportive and effective policies.
A recent investigation reveals that nearly 1 in 4 employed mothers are returning to work within two weeks of giving birth- and the effects are devastating. In a press call Tuesday, Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, discussed the disturbing findings revealed in an article from In These Times, a monthly news magazine. In reference to the article, “The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now,” Bravo says:
“What we are saying to women is either go back before you heal, before you have time to bond with your baby, or rely on public assistance and face the possibility of being called moochers and takers from politicians.”
With only the highest paid workers such as those at Netflix and Google having access to the best benefits, most women are going back to work out of financial necessity. This choice is a difficult one, and the burden is physical, emotional and economically straining. In the article, one mother opens up about having to pump milk in the parking lot on her breaks from a 12-hour shift, crying as she did so. A Chase banker was forced to quit her job to care for her premature infant.
The article sheds a heartbreaking light on the very real effects of the nonexistent parental leave provisions in the United States – As Sharon Learner, author of the piece, points out:
“Families need paid time off to take care of their new babies. Men, women and children will gain from this basic human dignity.”
The United States is the only advanced nation in the world that does not ensure paid parental leave for employees. Some states have taken matters into their own hands- New Jersey, California, and Rhode Island have all put paid leave policies into place, but access to paid family leave shouldn’t depend on where you live. And despite these policies being proven to be beneficial to or have no effect on business, the United States is still falling short when it comes to taking care of families.
It’s not working at Amazon, where employees are reportedly encouraged to place work above children, partners, dying family members, miscarried babies, and their own health.
In her New York Times piece, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace,” Jodi Kantor explores the ways in which there’s a serious work/life imbalance at the company. The culture is particularly brutal for mothers, Kantor reports:
“Michelle Williamson, a 41-year-old parent of three who helped build Amazon’s restaurant supply business, said her boss, Shahrul Ladue, had told her that raising children would most likely prevent her from success at a higher level because of the long hours required.”
“Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. ‘I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,’ she said her boss told her. ‘From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.'”
Based on the embarrassed response, it seems Amazon may have some thinking to do about how to define it’s workplace culture.
It’s working in unexpected ways for moms in the maternity ward, where flat irons are prepped alongside forceps; and stylists anxiously wait alongside sisters.
In her New York Times piece, “Along With Babies, Hairstylists Are Arriving in Hospitals,” Rachel Felder explores how and why modern moms are preparing for the mother of all close ups by inviting hair stylists and makeup artists into the delivery room:
“I think someone realized, ‘Why should I not look good for that great picture that I’m going to show everybody, the first picture of my child?’ ” said Joel Warren, an owner of the Warren-Tricomi salons.
Ten years ago, the New York Times was reflecting on another delivery room trend in Jodi Kantor’s piece, “Move Over, Doc, the Guests Can’t See the Baby:”
“Just a generation after fathers had to beg or even sue for the right to be present, the door to the delivery room has swung wide open. Even the most traditional hospitals now allow multiple guests during labor, transforming birth from a private affair into one that requires a guest list.”
The bottom line: new mothers have always decided how they want to experience their motherhood (with a blowout, or without!).
The It’s Working Project applauds initiatives that support families in all aspects of life: work, home and perhaps most importantly, play. So, naturally, we were thrilled to get a sneak-peek at the Lansinoh Nursing Lounge at Nationals Park- a project inspired by a petition on Change.org.
We had the opportunity to speak with Gina Cicatelli Ciagne, Vice President of Healthcare and Media Relations at Lansinoh, who shared:
“Moms are fans, too and we want to make sure this is a comfortable place for mothers to come.”
And comfortable it is- The fully outfitted nursing lounge includes cozy chairs, electrical outlets and tables positioned specifically to accommodate breast pumps, privacy drapes, changing tables, room for small children to play and, of course, TVs to keep up with the game. Talk about a home run!
We have to applaud both Lansinoh and the Washington Nationals for making sure It’s Working for new mothers. Whether it’s an outing to the ballpark with family or good friends- everyone deserves to enjoy the game!
Everyone is talking about Netflix and its new maternity and paternity leave policy. But is it a ploy for publicity? Or a step towards real change in the private sector? These are the questions the It’s Working Project and Julia Beck are asking. Amy Joyce reports in the Washington Post:
“‘We’ve hit an amazing spot,’ said Julia Beck, founder of Forty Weeks and the It’s Working Project, who helps companies figure out how to get women and parents back into the workplace. She hopes (as many of us do) that this will be the new norm. But ‘are these going to be flashes of media? Or is it going to be the true new normal?’ she asked.”
Netflix is now the latest company to make headlines for its parental leave policy, announcing on its blog that it will offer one year of unlimited leave to all parents. This comes after similar announcements from IBM, Vodaphone, Virgin and other companies all striving to offer better maternity and paternity leave than their competitors.
Companies seem to be learning that introducing more flexible policies for working parents is getting them favorable attention- We can only hope that once outcomes are positive, the rest of the private sector will follow.
Coming off a recent piece from Fortune on the secret society of executive women– it is clear that women are supporting one another in the workplace. However, Refinery29 confirms that employers are not exactly on board when it comes to pumping on the job. One woman’s testimony:
“So, picture the scene: Twice a day, every day, for the past seven months, I go to the women’s restroom, prepare my pumping pieces, put my shelf on top of the toilet seat, take a seat, and begin pumping. For the next 20 minutes, I stare at the back of a toilet stall door. I did finally figure out how to hold the pumps while looking at my phone, so it did become a bit less boring. Oh, and the real kicker: The lights in the bathroom are on a motion sensor, so after exactly nine minutes, 13 seconds (I know this because of the timer on my pump) the lights go off. Unless someone comes into the bathroom to trigger the motion detector, I am left in the dark for the next 10 minutes.”
Donald Trump also made headlines last week after calling lawyer Elizabeth Beck “disgusting” for requesting to take a pumping break, raising concern that employers simply do not understand the needs of new mothers.
While women supporting women is something to be admired, it is important employers are accommodating new mothers- whether it be through providing a sufficient pumping space, or simply adjusting attitudes (Looking at you, Trump).
Child care now costs more than college tuition. For many parents, the gender wage gap means women are more likely to leave their jobs.
“Miller reports, “We currently pay $23,000 per year in child care, which is 10% of our salary.” When the second child is born, she says the cost will jump to $46,000 per year (or 20% of their two-income household’s earnings). This will exceed that 10% affordability guideline issued by the HHS.
Although costs vary according to where you live (a household with one 4-year-old in rural South Carolina pays $344 a month, but it jumps to $1,472 a month in Washington, D.C.), Miller’s not alone. She’s a member of the working parents platform It’s Working Project by Forty Weeks where other mothers and fathers have reported spending a similar amount and more on their child care.”
Despite Generous Paid Leave Policies, Examples Set By The CEOs Of Facebook And Yahoo May Have A Bigger Impact On How Much Employees Use.
“Mayer’s own post-pregnancy choices made it clear that it was perfectly reasonable to expect a new mother to return to a highly demanding role before her stitches even heal.”
Rather than get “mommy tracked” into a dead-end or slow-growth job, some women are now deciding instead that they’d prefer to create their own career path in motherhood. They’re saying goodbye to big, corporate jobs and instead striking out on their own as entrepreneurs, consultants, or freelancers.
“There is something about this generation of parents that says, ‘If this does not work for me, I’m not going to be penalized,’” Julia Beck says. “When you are penalized, you are a victim, but when you pivot, you are picking up your things and going elsewhere. You’re evaluating your real-time needs and the demands of your current situation.”
A look at the surprising, off-the-radar ways working moms help each other balance families and high-powered careers.
“Moms who feel unsupported often end up quitting. Not only is replacing these executives costly, but when you “factor in her role as a leader, a mentor and a part of a thriving ecosystem” the departures hurt company morale and cohesion, says Beck.”
Is there a chipping away at the lack of paid-leave policies that don’t exist in this country? Piece by piece, perhaps, companies are finding ways to make work work for parents. And, more clearly, they’re learning that it’s getting them some good attention.
“A hugely profitable corporation paying to ship milk from a handful (at most) of women who are pumping and traveling? Not a big hit on the earnings reports. And yet, how much is the company getting from not only offering to do this, but also letting the world know?”
There are things women can do to make sure they get the support they need, should they choose to breastfeed after returning to work.
“Even though she put together a schedule for pumping on her breaks, Lauren had no place to go. She shared an office — and it didn’t lock. She considered quitting nursing altogether, but then decided to talk to her school’s vice principal, who found her space in an electrical closet.”
Babies need to eat, sometimes even in the middle of depositions. Sometimes even if it inconveniences Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. That’s how it works, or how it’s supposed to work.
But when attorney Elizabeth Beck requested a break from a deposition in order to pump breastmilk for her 3-month old, Trump told Beck, “You’re disgusting,” before leaving the room.
In a Babble story about the courtroom incident, Rachel Bertsche reports:
“Alan Garten, a lawyer for Trump who was present at the deposition, told the Times that Trump’s statement ‘was in no way a statement about her decision to breastfeed or pump. It was solely the fact that she was appearing to do it in the middle of a deposition,’ and Garten said Beck was using the pump break as an excuse to get extra time to come up with questions for Trump.”
This kind of response is disappointing enough coming from a man, but from someone running for presidential office, it’s a disgrace.
“It’s out of touch for anyone, particularly a candidate for president, to call breastfeeding disgusting.” Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of CEO and MomsRising, told Yahoo Parenting, adding that all parents are paying close attention to how presidential candidates can represent working families. As well they should. It can—and should—work much better than this!
The UK is often praised for its policy granting up to 52 weeks of maternity leave.
Sounds great, right? But with that generous leave comes another issue for working mothers- pregnancy discrimination.
Over 54,000 women are forced out of a job after having a child, a stat reported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and that shockingly high number was brought to light more recently by a tell-all site, “Pregnant Then Screwed” – where women can anonymously share their workplace nightmares.
Fortune reports on countless women sharing their awful workplace experiences:
“‘When I told my employer, she asked me if I had considered an abortion.’
‘They said that the woman who was covering maternity leave had better skills to take the company forward and they were dismissing me.’”
Maybe it’s the employer’s focus and priorities that need a shift.
After seeing their own mothers struggle to balance work and family life, millennials are taking a new approach to having it all — planning for career pauses.
Claire Cain Miller writes in The Upshot for the New York Times:
“In surveys of millennials who are college-educated professionals by the Center for Talent Innovation, a research group, the young people said they saw their parents struggle while working full time or leave the workforce altogether, and wanted a different option. ‘They felt as if they were learning from generations before them, and saw all of the downsides in both choices,’ said Laura Sherbin, the center’s director of research. ‘Millennials are looking for more of a balance.’”
Employers are beginning to understand that millennials have different expectations. It’s time for the rest of the private sector to catch up.
That simple yet oh-so-complicated question: “Will you be going back to work after the baby is born?”
In a recent article from Cosmopolitan, Lori Fradkin tells her story of being asked the gender-specific question all too many times.
“Policy changes might make it easier for women to remain in the workforce — and some mothers will likely choose not to work regardless — but attitudes matter too. After all, what’s the point of encouraging little girls to work hard in school, get good grades, apply for college, and secure a job after graduation if we then turn around and say to them, essentially, “So, are you still planning to use all that?”
More needs to be done to support women and their working choices, and the right support makes all the difference.
Last Tuesday marked the passing of Marlene Sanders, a pioneering television reporter who epitomized what it’s working looks like. More than an inspiration to the generations of female journalists who followed the trail she blazed, Marlene was a working mom free from guilt, supported by her spouse, and beloved by her child.
“The key to her success in both journalism and in having a family was she didn’t agonize, she didn’t suffer, she wasn’t guilt-ridden. This was her life,” her son Jeffrey Toobin, a staff writer for The New Yorker and legal analyst for CNN, said in Katherine Rosman’s New York Times postscript dedicated to honoring his mother’s legacy.
Thank you, Marlene, for showing moms–and the world–how it can, and should, work!
Making parental leave gender-neutral would go a long way in the climb to workplace gender equality.
There has been little doubt that paternity leave is beneficial for both father and baby, but companies that offer and support these policies are also leveling the playing field for new mothers. And it’s working for both families and employers.
In The Huffington Post, Emily Peck writes:
“Making leave gender-neutral would go a long way toward reducing the so-called motherhood penalty. As one recent study showed, when it’s only women who take parental leave, they’re less likely to be promoted and tend to make less than their male counterparts.”
Not only do leave family policies for both men and women support a more positive work/life balance and employee retention, they support closing the career gap between men and women — something we can all stand behind.
Kristy Kemp, creator of the Facebook page Breastfeeding Mama Talk, posted a photo of Target’s breastfeeding policy and started racking up the “likes” (40,384 at time of writing!). As is Target, which previously faced criticism from breastfeeding moms in 2011 after one woman’s negative experience.
Kemp urged people on her FB page to “Please share this everywhere especially on the Facebook pages of the businesses known to discriminate against breastfeeding!” With 16,193 shares at the time of writing, it seems people are doing just that.
Target confirmed to ABC News the sign “accurately reflects our policy.”
Spokesman Joshua Thomas told ABC News, “At Target, we want all of our guests to feel comfortable shopping with us. Our breast-feeding policy, which applies to all stores, is just one of the ways in which we support our guests.”
Pumping breast milk can be hard for some moms. Shipping said pumped milk (aka liquid gold), is a colossal pain for ALL moms—refrigeration, transport, and TSA regulations, oh my! That is, unless you’re a breastfeeding mom who works for IBM.
Solidifying its nearly 30-year place on Working Mother’s list of the 100 Best Companies, the tech giant is rolling out a program for nursing moms that makes other companies’ breast milk shipping reimbursement programs pale in comparison.
The Washington Post has the details.
“We do all the work so the mother doesn’t have to think about any of the details,” Barbara Brickmeier, vice president of benefits at IBM, told The Washington Post.
Indeed, nursing moms planning travel simply download the app, enter accommodation details, estimate amount of temp-controlled packages needed, and voila—thanks to the marvels of modern technology and a corporate commitment to bringing working moms back to work with ease, as a matter of course, and with a sense of pride—pre-addressed and pre-paid shipping packages will be ready at the hotel for overnight shipment.
Nothing says, “we care about retaining female talent” like a no charge, no hassle way to facilitate being a great mom and a great employee. Way to show the rest of them how it can work, IBM!
Wish your company would step in line with IBM or just want to commend them? Tweet #ItsWorking #IBM #NursingMomsTravel.
With memories of apple pie and our star-spangled forefathers still fresh in our holiday weekend’s mind, we have found yet another reason to be proud to be an American: 18 weeks paid maternity leave for US Navy & Marine Corps troops.
Sure, the US is lagging behind most industrialized nations when it comes to its maternity leave (keeping company with Papa New Guinea at the bottom of the list), but this is a huge step forward in a place you might least expect it.
While women currently only make up about 7 percent of the Corps, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus wants to increase that number to 25% (a 1 in 4 ratio). And he knows there’s no better way to show talented female troops his commitment to their ability to serve both their country and their families, than to make it possible for them to come back to work with ease, as a matter of course, and with a sense of pride. We couldn’t agree more!
If you’re proud of the US Navy & Marine Corps for this progressive new policy, snap a photo in front of an American flag or landmark #ItsWorkingInTheUS.
Even celebrity moms see the problem with how It’s Working for working parents in the United States. A-list actress and Guardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldana says studios “spend more money sometimes ‘perking up’ male superstars” suggesting that they are showered with lavish benefits such as jets and yachts, “But then a woman comes in going, ‘OK I have a child… And then they go ‘Nope, we don’t pay for nannies.’”
After nearly losing her job as a result of her pregnancy, she was stuck working long hours without paid child care for her newborn twins. If someone as successful as Saldana is struggling with coming back to work with ease and as a matter of course, isn’t it time for a change in employer priorities?
Changes may be afoot for the GOP on how they handle a growing group of voters: working women.
“Every parent who works has been through the day-care nightmare,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was the senior economic policy adviser to McCain (R-Ariz.) during the 2008 election. “This has been underappreciated by Republican candidates in part and conservatives in general. They think this stuff is automatic.”
And working mothers are changing the way they vote: “Three elections ago, nearly half of all working mothers chose George W. Bush. In 2008, the share dropped to 40 percent for Sen. John McCain. By 2012, only about a third backed Mitt Romney.”
The best way to connect with working women? Come up with some family-friendly proposals, say both voters and consultants alike. Then start owning the issue, rather than assuming each family has a stay-at-home parent and it’s always the woman opting in to do so.
Maybe this Father’s Day we should think about getting our dads something a bit more long lasting, a little more meaningful: like a true paternity leave policy.
In today’s Roll Call, Rebecca Gale speaks with author Scott Behson about how more men can speak up within their workplace to ask for paternity leave. There is a lot to be said for leading by example, more men are likely to take paternity leave if they see a supervisor do it.
Behson’s advice: “Take the initiative to help plan how the company will handle your absence, including working ahead, training temporary replacements or delegating tasks now, so people can operate without you for a few weeks.”
“FLEXIN’ on Fathers Day,” the musician, 34, captioned the photo. “#HappyFathersDay to ALL of the Dads out there from the newest member of the Daddy Fraternity.’
Silas, son of Timberlake and his wife, actress Jessica Biel, is decked out in blue KicKee Pants coverall with an adorable “I Love Dad” stitched over his tush.