2015’s Best Articles in Back-to-Work After Baby



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.


1. Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld

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.


2. Inside the Secret Society of Executive Moms

Kimberly Seals Allers


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.


3. Netflix and Parental Leave: Today a PR Move. Hopefully Tomorrow, the Norm?

Amy Joyce

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.


4. John Oliver Defends Paid Family Leave on Mother’s Day

Colin Gorenstein


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.


5. Big Leaps for Parental Leave, if Workers Actually Take It

Claire Cain Miller and David Streitfeld

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.


6. The Ripple Effects Of Mark Zuckerberg’s Two-Month Paternity Leave

Bryce Covert

Think Progress

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.

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2015: The Spark Catches Fire

Top Trends in Back-to-Work after Baby


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.

  1. The call for cultural shifts begin to trump the randomness of the boss lottery. As a generation of Millennials become parents, more workplaces are making the move to fully integrated policies that take parental needs and benefits into serious consideration.
  2. In an effort to put an end to the silent career killer, the lethal parental-penalty, companies work to cultivate a better understanding of the need for strategies around leave and return, making an investment in on- and off-ramping a benefits priority.
  3. Tech companies make it work by making parental leave benefits a priority, garnering media attention and spurring more industries to join in, step up, and modify their existing policy and support systems.
  4. Netflix brings the concept of “unlimited” into the parental leave discussion. Marriott, Credit Suisse, Hilton, Zulily and others redefine and polish their standards and make their commitment to families clear.
  5. Paid leave becomes a top election issue. States, including New Jersey and California, see success with their family friendly workplace laws on the books.
  6. Flying nannies and express-shipped milk make it work for traveling, executive moms. Impressive, but also begs the question — what of the rest?
  7. A newfound focus on the role of men as new parents reframes the discussion from one of maternity leave to one of parental leave. The title of “primary care-giver” makes its way into our vocabulary.
  8. Adoptive families and same-sex partners gain long-overdue attention in the parental leave conversation.

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!

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Flexing to Avoid Flight

How Some Companies Nail the Parental On-ramp Challenge



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!


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Real Change: At Work and Home for Working Families

Delanie family

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.  

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When Dad Takes Parental Leave, or Not: The Gender Story

chris short

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!

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‘Tis the Season . . . to Course-Correct!



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

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