What do the Working Mother 100 Best Companies Have That Other Employers Don’t?

Last month, Working Mother magazine released its “100 Best Companies” list. Companies need to apply to get onto the list, and one of the things I do is help my clients with these applications, so I know a thing or two about what it takes. Yet it’s still always gratifying to see the extent to which some of these organizations go to make their employees’ lives, both at home and at work, run a bit more smoothly. (Of course, the secret they all share is the knowledge that doing well by their employees is an excellent way to do well by their business.)

Here are just a few of the things that characterize Working Mother 100 Best companies, gleaned in part from data provided at the 2018 WorkBeyond Summit last month, and in part from the magazine, itself. Comparison data is not easy to come by; the best source I could find was SHRM’s 2018 survey of its membership, and I’ve included numbers from that where they exist.

Parental Leave

To be eligible even to apply for the 2018 list, companies had to offer at least one week of fully paid maternity leave (spoiler alert: eligibility for next year’s list has been raised to two weeks). But that bar is laughably low for the 100 Best: Ninety-nine out of the 100 offer not just paid maternity, but paid paternity and adoption leave, providing, on average, 11 weeks for maternity, 6 for paternity, and 7 for adoption. (Eighteen offer gender-neutral leave, i.e., the same amount of time for men and women.) By way of comparison, only 38% of respondents to a 2017 survey by WorldatWork offer any paid parental leave. Of those that do offer it, 20% offer only partial pay and 22% make it available only to some employees. The mean length of paid leave is 4.1 weeks.

Child Care

Not surprisingly, 100 Best companies offer a range of child care supports, from before and after-school care to infant care while parents are transitioning back from leave to allowing children to join their parents on business trips (and in some cases, paying travel expenses for a caregiver). More than a third of the companies have on-site care, but one of the most popular options is back-up child care: making in-home or center-based child care available to employees when their regular arrangement falls through. This is less expensive and often more equitable than on-site care, which by definition can often only serve a few. Ninety-one of the companies on the list offer it; 64 of them subsidize it, as well. In contrast, the SHRM survey found that 4% of companies nationwide offer back-up child care, subsidized or not. (Another advantage to back-up child care: it is often termed simply “dependent care” and can be used for adult dependents as well, although this option is available to employees at only 2% of companies nationwide.)

Flexibility

Every single one of the 100 Best companies offers flextime and telecommuting, vs. 57% and 70%, respectively, of companies nationwide. Eighty-six percent offer the opportunity to work a compressed work week, vs. 27% nationwide. 100 Best companies provide all kinds of other flexibility, too: all but 8 allow leaves of absence or sabbaticals, nearly half (42) offer the opportunity to work “part-year” (i.e., seasonally-fluctuating hours) and 79% allow new parents to phase-back into full-time following a leave.

Women’s Advancement

The 100 Best companies actively support women’s career advancement. 94% offer formal mentoring, 93% offer career counseling, and 64% offer formal sponsorship programs. In contrast, just 22% of companies in the SHRM report offer mentoring and 16% offer career counseling. (If data is out there for how many companies nationwide offer sponsorship—an incalculably valuable program—I can’t find it.) Women in the 100 Best companies are also (not coincidentally) represented in impressive numbers in leadership positions. In fact, 14% of the companies are headed by women (compare this to the less than 5% of women CEOs in Fortune 1000 companies.  )

Wellness

100 Best companies also take care of the health of their employees: Eighty-six have onsite fitness centers, vs. 25% of companies nationwide. Nearly all (98) offer stress management programs—as opposed to 12% nationwide. Ninety-three offer smoking cessation programs vs. 40% nationwide, and 94 offer access to weight loss programs, vs. 30 nationwide. On-site health screenings, wellness incentive programs, access to such things as yoga and meditation and other wellness initiatives also tend to be pretty routine among this group, along with generally strong, affordable traditional health insurance benefits.

And More

The 100 Best application is pretty exhaustive. Beyond the raw numbers I’ve just mentioned are myriad creative and generous programs and policies to support employees—especially women and parents. There are comfortable lactation rooms outfitted with cellphone and ipad connections. There is financial support for fertility and surrogacy. Some companies provide direct subsidies for the cost of child care; others provide free back-up care. Many provide opportunities for employees to step off the career track temporarily, without negative ramifications. Some offer fun developmental opportunities like exchange programs, through which employees can trade places for a few weeks with a colleague overseas. Others have simpler perks, like closing the office between Christmas and New Year’s. (In most industries, does anything get done during this week?)

One of the neat things about the Working Mother 100 Best list is the bar keeps going up: companies today are offering programs and policies that were unheard of just a few years ago, let alone back in the 80s when the list was first launched. For companies on the forefront, it takes constant vigilance and tremendous creativity. For everyone else—well, you can do worse than modeling your policies on the 100 Best.

Think your company may have what it takes to be a 100 Best Company? Let me help you tell your story on the Working Mother 100 Best new combined application!

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