Working Mother Top Companies

For the 21st year in a row, Working Mother magazine has come out with their issue listing the top 100 family-friendly companies in America. All of you looking to change jobs or step back into the workforce, take a look at the "Best Companies" in your area. Companies complete a 550 word application to be considered. Seven areas are measured and scored with the help of NetX, an independent survey research firm in Columbus, N.J.: workforce profile, compensation, child care, flexibility, time off and leaves, family-friendly programs and company culture.

I was recently a guest on the public radio show The Intersection with Working Mother editor-in-chief Susan Riss, who explained that flexibility is the No. 1 issue for working moms. No argument here. "Most working moms just need a little flexibility to get into work a few minutes late or leave a few minutes early, or to stay home a few days a year with a sick child." She went on to say that so many companies have mastered offering flexibility that the survey scoring process now places greater emphasis on the No. 2 concern, family-leave programs. "Some companies are guaranteeing to hold jobs for 3-5 years," Reiss says.

I'm not there yet on corporate American's widespread "mastery" of flexible hours (I hear a lot of horror stories about companies being totally unreasonable). And wow! Three to five years! But I guess Working Mother is looking at the cream of the crop when it comes to family-friendly companies.

The magazine's third criterion for making the cut, by the way, is advancement of women. According to Riess, "Accountability is everything. To make the top 100 list, a company can't just have family-friendly policies. It actually has to let employees take advantage of them."

Have you worked for one of the companies that made the top 100? If so, is the honor deserved? Do you work for a company that should be on the list? Tell us about it.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 2, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Flexibility
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These lists really make me wonder. While I'm sure there are some companies that are really flexible for working moms. Many of the ones that made the list simply know how to say the right things. I know because I used to work for one of these companies. They had all of these great employee benefits on paper, but then only let one or two employees participate. For example, my old company had tuition reimbursement and flextime listed as benefits, but when I asked about taking advantage of these benefits to persue my masters degree, I was strongly discouraged by the management who said that having a masters was important to my career. I also know at least half a dozen working moms who had to quit after working out job share arrangements, but were still expected to work 40+ hours each week. I'd love to get the real scoop on which companies are for real.

Posted by: working mom | October 2, 2006 8:13 AM

Scarry,
While 6 (or 5) weeks maternity leave may not be ideal, I wouldn't gripe too much. I'm presuming from what you said that this was actually paid. It seems to me that most places don't "give" you squat. FMLA (in places with 50+ employees) gives you the right to take off 12 weeks and still have a job but it doesn't have a thing to do with getting paid. The only thing you get paid for is earned leave.

Of course, if you meant that you could only take off six weeks period, I'd have to agree with you that their maternity leave sucks.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | October 2, 2006 8:57 AM

I worked for a company that is not on this list but made the list of Top 40 N.C. Family-Friendly Companies. This list is different in that a parenting magazine researched the policies for flex time and maternity leave--a little better (IMO) than reviewing letters from the PR departments.

This company really did deserve the distinction, too. When I worked there, I didn't have children but was given the opportunity to work from home. It was a godsend when I had two puppies to care for :)

Posted by: Meesh | October 2, 2006 8:57 AM

Darned time stamp!!!!

Posted by: Meesh | October 2, 2006 8:59 AM

I have been working for Booz Allen Hamilton for about 6 months now, and I have found their policies to be great. As long as I get my hours in each month (and I was hired to work 80%) it doesn't seem to matter when or from where. I have less flexibility for the where, because much of my work is in the classified environment, but I can work from home on non classified issues. My boss even "warned" me about working over my prescibed hours. He knew I left my government job because of the hours and inflexibility (11 hour days and I get, "Oh, you're leaving early." and working late 3 nights a week with no comp time but if I have to leave an hour early one day, I better dock my leave bank) and wants to make sure I balance. And they have me on an "advancement" track. I think it is all about your team and your boss. The policies are there, at least for BAH.

Posted by: Happy BAH Mom | October 2, 2006 9:06 AM

I worked for one of the law firms on the list for six years, and in that time, watched most young mothers leave to stay home or find more regular hours (usually with an in-house job). The day this came out, my one friend (single, without kids) still there emailed it to three of us "alums" who left because of the trouble we had/envisioned balancing firm life with kids, and we had a big laugh about it. We remembered, with sadness, the number of times we watched the partners who were moms say good night to their kids over the phone from work. To those moms who work at a firm and make it work, I salute you. I knew it wasn't a path I could walk. I am now in-house, working regular hours. It's manageable for me.

Posted by: mdmom | October 2, 2006 9:40 AM

"I used to work with a couple of women who left Booz Allen Hamilton. They said that it was a horrible environment and flexibility is really just lip-service. The women said the companies have programs but the culture *strongly* discourages using them at all."

Did they work the government side or the commercial side? BAH is very up-front about the fact that the commercial side is very hard-driving, extremely fast-paced, and correspondingly well-remunerated. You are expected to work your ass off for very long hours, but you make a ton of money.

I have worked on the government side for two years now and have no complaints. There's a great deal of flexibility; when I served as an adjunct professor for a semester last year, I had no problem leaving early some days and staying late others, as long as I made my hours. When one of my co-workers' children developed a medical problem, she had no problem going on sabbatical for about 6 weeks.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 2, 2006 9:48 AM

I work for a company on this list, and while I can't say that I can find breaches in their policies on the whole, I can see why some folks have expressed it as possibly being PR BS. In these large, segmented companies, though, you're going to get almost autonomous divisions at times and your environment will dictate what the practice actually is. It can be very much manager specific, too, and if the company is behind its policies, then take it to the level that you need to in order to enforce what you signed on for.

Also, certain jobs just can't have that flexibility simply due to the nature of the work. If you want to be a consultant for a firm dealing with Fortune 500 companies in the commercial sector, its highly likely your client (who could be paying a ridiculous amount for you) does not care about your personal life as they just want you to get the job done and get out. You should probably know this before you accept a companies offer, especially if flexibility is paramount to you.

Posted by: Five | October 2, 2006 9:50 AM

"I am a huge fan of small private companies."

I worked for a small non-profit before coming to Booz Allen and it was much, much less flexible. I worked much longer hours at much less interesting work for far less recognition, pay, or appreciation. It makes no sense at all to say that small companies are better to work for than big companies. Some small companies are better than some big companies, and some big companies are way way way better to work for than some small companies.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 2, 2006 9:52 AM

I think these lists are useful, but in a very limited way. As others have alluded to, the policies can be on paper, but how they are used and if they are encouraged can be two different things.

I've come to believe that flexibility and work life is totally dependent on your supervisors and the workplace culture. I've worked in places that have had lovely policies, but god forbid if you should avail yourselves of them. Plus in these places talented women didn't advance as easily as less compentent men. In my current employment, I'm told I can come and go as I please as long as I get the work done (I'm sure if I abused this, I'd hear about it). And I'm hopeful that advancing in my current situation will be based on my output as opposed to the fact that I'm not "one of the boys" which was the culture in my last two places. These things are difficult to measure than a checklist of benefits.

Posted by: working mother | October 2, 2006 10:04 AM

I've worked for a large company that is not on the list this year, but has been for many years in a row. My experience has been that how family-friendly your experience is depends largely on your manager and not on the company itself. The company I work for demands very long hours and 24/7 access...however, I used to have a boss that was very understanding of my personal boundaries. Unfortunately, he just left the company and his replacement is not family-friendly at all. In fact, he doesn't even support telecommuting. I'm pregnant now and have serious doubts I'll be able to stay in this role long-term.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 10:04 AM

I was absolutely appalled by the "Leaves we Love" that included one whole week for adoption. Are you kidding me? How can that be considered family-friendly? 12 wks for someone who gave birth "to bond with their child" but ONE week for an adoptive parent? How archaic of a thought process is that? And no, I'm not even an adoptive parent.

Posted by: LH | October 2, 2006 10:08 AM

I'm a senior manager at Booz Allen in the Washington D.C. area and have been working here for over 10 years. I've risen through the ranks since I came here right out of school. I love it. All my clients are local (fed. goverment), so I don't travel.

I've taken generous maternity leaves, worked part-time, worked odd schedules (I did a 7am to 2pm for a while), used the great daycare center located in the main building and had fantastic female bosses who've supported me throughout all.

Booz Allen deserves its place every year in the Top 100.

Most of the women I know who are unhappy with their work/life balance at BAH are either working for the wrong team or aligned with the wrong manager. Lets face it, there are still some dinosaurs out there to be avoided at any cost. Or they're suffering in silence instead of being proactive and figuring out what they need and asking for it, driving to make it happen.

If you work in a company like BAH that is listed in the Top 100 and you're sitting there scratching your head why, switch teams or get a new manager if you can and use your good business/organization skills to come up with a business plan for your own work-life.

Posted by: Senior BAH Mommy | October 2, 2006 10:27 AM

My employer was recent named to a local "best places to work." I am frankly very sceptical of any process of "self-nomination." My employer was "nominated" by someone in our HR department. In her nomination, this employee talked about how great the employees were and how hard working they were. My counterpoint is that a great employ-ER is one who actively seeks out way to improve the working conditions of their employ-EEs, not the other way around. In my experience, our HR department is populated with people who don't know the first thing about employment law. Case in point, the month-long battle I had with HR over my maternity leave benefits. I knew what my rights were because I had worked for the US Senate on employment law. What my current employer tried to do to me was intimidate me into taking less of a benefit than what I was entitled to. As a non-union employee, I was entirely on my own in fighting for the pay I was entitled to.

Posted by: LM in WI | October 2, 2006 10:43 AM

I joined my current company, MITRE, in 2004 because they made all the best places to work lists, including the Working Mother's list. As soon as I started, it became clear that they are not very family friendly. I was on a task that required long hours, another that required travel, etc. Plus there are almost no senior level women with children here. And, most of the working mothers I know here are on the mommy track with no chance for advancement.

MITRE got dropped from the list in 2005 and didn't make it again this year. No big surprise there. I'd love to work somewhere else, but feel that I need to stay a few more years for resume development.

So, I want to warn any job seekers not to hold too much faith in these lists. Just because a company looks family friendly on paper doesn't necessarily mean that it's family friendly in real life. My recommendation for ferriting out the real from the fake is to talk to people outside of the interview process and get the inside scoop.

Posted by: DC Anon | October 2, 2006 11:07 AM

I wonder why my company did not make the cut. Frankly it is VERY family-friendly.

Posted by: TwinCitiesLurker | October 2, 2006 11:25 AM

Posters should be careful with the content here, because blogging about work can get you in trouble with your company.

I am interested in how the family policies are written, promoted, and implemented. From what some write thus far, implementation is highly manager-dependent.

Are some policies simply, worker-Friendly?

Some questions:
Can daddies take the leave as written on paper, but suffer if they "act like mommies" in using options?

Can people without children use the flexibility?

Do you have to have a moralling compelling story, complete with pathos, or can you meet the plumber or care for kitties, as you might need to?

Posted by: College Parkian | October 2, 2006 11:50 AM

New Parttimer. Do you work in the DC area? If so, can I ask the name of your company? I have worked in financial institutions my entire career and have yet to find a flexible place to work. As we consider having our first child, this is a big issue for me. I definitely want to work, just not 60-70 hours per week. (And after 10+ years of this, it is getting old). I would love to stay in this field, just maybe work a few less hours per week.

Posted by: Thought | October 2, 2006 12:18 PM

I believe that FMLA only applies to organizations employing 50+ people. I think this provision was put in to help get it passed. But lots of people work for small organizations (nonprofit or commercial) and thus have no rights to take leave.

Posted by: FMLA | October 2, 2006 12:34 PM

I work for one that makes it every year. Let's just say that PR is different than real life.

Posted by: Hah! | October 2, 2006 12:47 PM

Hah! Tell us more...I worked for Johnson & Johnson for almost a decade. They always make the list and they really do deserve it. Why doesn't your company?

Posted by: Leslie | October 2, 2006 12:51 PM

I'm a state employee, and my boss is very good about flexibility. I've been able to bring my daughter to work when she was out of school and my childcare fell through at the last minute (I have my own office and my daughter is very well-behaved, so this makes it easier).

With my previous employer, my situation was similar to what others are describing: we had family friendly policies in place, but two of my supervisors were childless women who made it difficult for the working mothers in our department. In one case, the executive director intervened. In another case, two employees quit.

Yeah, it's hard to tell when you are interviewing for a job and the HR director rattles off a great list of employee benefits...but once you are hired (or in my case, you get a new supervisor), then those benefits come with an unstated liability (i.e., you get hammered on your evaluation for not being a "team player," etc.).

Posted by: single western mom | October 2, 2006 1:00 PM

I used to work with a couple of women who left Booz Allen Hamilton. They said that it was a horrible environment and flexibility is really just lip-service. The women said the companies have programs but the culture *strongly* discourages using them at all. There seemed to be a huge difference between *theory* and *practice,* which is why most consulting firms like that have such a huge turn over.

I saw that one of the firms listed "hoteling" as a benefit. This should really read as you have the flexibility to work from anywhere, which translates to we can send you anywhere at anytime. Hoteling is does not remotely benefit the employee... at least in my experience. Hoteling meant that my employer could have me work out of the NY city office an "commute" back home to DC on the weekends... how is that flexible and family-friendly?!

Posted by: alex. mom | October 2, 2006 1:22 PM

Random Guy

I'm a widow, so no options for me.

Since "Both my in-laws admit that my MIL basically raised her girls without much input from my FIL, who was working 15 hour days the whole time." why bother to marry at all?

Posted by: Elaine | October 2, 2006 1:26 PM

Offtopic - Take a look at this slate article - http://www.slate.com/id/2150391/?nav=tap3

Posted by: TwinCitiesLurker | October 2, 2006 1:30 PM

These lists really make me wonder. While I'm sure there are some companies that are really flexible for working moms. Many of the ones that made the list simply know how to say the right things. I know because I used to work for one of these companies. They had all of these great employee benefits on paper, but then only let one or two employees participate. For example, my old company had tuition reimbursement and flextime listed as benefits, but when I asked about taking advantage of these benefits to persue my masters degree, I was strongly discouraged by the management who said that having a masters was important to my career. I also know at least half a dozen working moms who had to quit after working out job share arrangements, but were still expected to work 40+ hours each week. I'd love to get the real scoop on which companies are for real.

Posted by: working mom | October 2, 2006 1:42 PM

Flexibility is not inherent in most companies. It all seems to boil down to the relationship between you and your boss. I worked for my company for 3 years prior to becoming pregnant. I took maternity leave and when it was over, I wasn't quite ready to leave my baby. So, I quit. A year a half later, I'm back at my company in a part-time position with full benefits. My boss has been great - upon agreeing to take the position I made sure he understood my limitations -- meaning my kid comes first. If he's sick, I have to be home. I have to leave to beat traffic to pick him up at daycase. That being said, because my boss is so flexible, I am willing to do my part to meet deadlines outside of my work hours although this rarely happens.

The best family friendly environment is not one that exists on paper, but that evolves as the result of being a capable, valued employee.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 1:49 PM

I worked for a large finance company many years ago before I had kids and all I heard from married people with kids was how strict they were with the vacation/sick days. Calling in sick was met with questions and an accusatory tone, so most of the time people came in sick and spread the germs. I decided that when I left (I had just gotten married) - I wanted to work for a smaller more flexible company and found a great non-profit. I have been able to adapt my work schedule to my home life for the past 10 years.

I have to add that I took myself off the fast track, I didn't take the promotions dangled in front of me and I moved departments with my (male) boss. I realized very early that I would be miserable with constant travel and stress and took the road that gave me comfortable work hours and reasonable pay.

Posted by: cmac | October 2, 2006 1:56 PM

cmac, I also work for a non-profit. When I first started, it wasn't that great, but after on boss left and two new (male) bosses came to my department things got much better. I now work from home in another state, but lots of people in the city now have the option of telecommuting, part time scedules, etc.

I am surprised that a non-profit is not on that list. The only problem with my company is the maternity leave, it sucks. They say they give you 6 weks, but you really on get 5 because you have to take the first week as vacation.

Posted by: scarry | October 2, 2006 2:14 PM

I work for one of the companies on the list, and have two children. I've found that despite all of the 'programs' in place, I really had to decide what I wanted to do with returning to work and how to make it work. This meant leaving the path I'd been on for 10 years, but it also meant that I didn't have to worry about travelling (consulting company) and that was worth the tradeoff. Bottom line is that no matter how good a company is, you have to decide what you want and make it clear. I was clear I was returning to work after both of my children, but also that I'd be leaving to pick my children up from the sitter every day (leaving at 5:30 pm - gasp, a half day!), and while I'd continue working once I got home, I had a hard stop time at the office. Like I said, I got off the 'fast path' because I knew that was not goign to allow me to put my family as my top priority, and I found a role/project that worked with these priorities. I'm just glad my company is starting to realize the value I can add - in the past, it would have been up or out.

Posted by: NY, NY | October 2, 2006 2:21 PM

to scarry and others: I don't think smaller companies and non-profits met the qualifications to participate in the Working Mom survey.

I am a huge fan of small private companies. Small private companies and non-profits never seem to make the Working Mom survey, which is a shame because they usually much more flexible and down-to-earth about work than any mega-multi-national, publically traded company.

Working Mom needs to stop doing PR for large mega-companies. What corporate tools!

Posted by: alex. mom | October 2, 2006 2:24 PM

"Many of the ones that made the list simply know how to say the right things. I know because I used to work for one of these companies. They had all of these great employee benefits on paper, but then only let one or two employees participate."

I totally agree. I worked for a company on this list and part of my job was making sure that our policies were documented the correct way each year just so we would BE on these lists. In reality, many of the great benefits were reserved for upper management, but you wouldn't know that from the reports I sent in.

Posted by: CL | October 2, 2006 2:28 PM

Leslie,
The time stamp is all screwed up. Can you get it fixed?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 2:32 PM

"In general, I think men have a tougher time taking leave for any reason, both because of how people at work perceive them and also because of their ingrained self-perception. My current "family friendly" employer only gives men one week of paternity leave-- some guys make it two with a week of vacation, but anymore than that would be perceived as weird. However, no one thinks it's weird when a new father only takes a day or two off."

Our current plan for when our next baby is born is for my husband to take off a few weeks in the beginning with me and then to take an additional month off with the baby after my maternity leave is over. When he told his boss, she was less than pleased and didn't even seem to be completely aware that he was fully within his rights. His employer is subject to FMLA so fathers as well as mothers can take off 12 weeks anytime within the year after the baby is born. My husband doesn't really want to be a trailblazer but the only way it's going to be "normal" for fathers to do things like this is for fathers to actually do it.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | October 2, 2006 2:45 PM

I have worked for three of the companies on this list and I have to say that the companies know how to sling the PR around. If one employee, usually a top level exec, is granted flexibility, advancement, whatever, they consider that to be family friendly/woman friendly. Most companies on this list know how to talk up their supposedly great environments--but those making up the list never talk to the 'rank and file' just the most visible people put forth by the company. Someone should make up a REAL list of what these supposedly family friendly companies are like for the working moms, not the chosen few

Posted by: Ritamae | October 2, 2006 3:12 PM

I work for a company on this list, and while I can't say that I can find breaches in their policies on the whole, I can see why some folks have expressed it as possibly being PR BS. In these large, segmented companies, though, you're going to get almost autonomous divisions at times and your environment will dictate what the practice actually is. It can be very much manager specific, too, and if the company is behind its policies, then take it to the level that you need to in order to enforce what you signed on for.

Also, certain jobs just can't have that flexibility simply due to the nature of the work. If you want to be a consultant for a firm dealing with Fortune 500 companies in the commercial sector, its highly likely your client (who could be paying a ridiculous amount for you) does not care about your personal life as they just want you to get the job done and get out. You should probably know this before you accept a companies offer, especially if flexibility is paramount to you.

Posted by: Five | October 2, 2006 3:32 PM

I wonder if the biggest thing to help working moms is to extend these benefits to each parent - making them "parental benefits" instead of maternity leave, etc. With both spouses having flexible hour jobs (and both my husband & I work at jobs where we can work from home, so I'm not counting waitresses, etc. here), it probably cuts down on the wife having to do "everything" like arranging child care, running errands, etc. if their husband's job is inflexible.

Also - I think qualifying for the list because you have "emergency" childcare is not enough. I don't know why more companies don't realize how good the onsite daycare works out for their employees - I worked with (not for) Bristol-Myers for a brief time a few years ago, and many employees mentioned how nice it was they didn't have to "fly out of work" to run to daycare.

Posted by: The original just a thought | October 2, 2006 3:32 PM

I worked for AMS in Arlington when I had my child. They used to make the list back then. I saved my vacation and sick leave for 5 years. Yes, 5 years. Took maternity leave for six months using earned leave. I went back part time, but the manager at the time did not 'get' that. I was expected to work far more. I just said 'no' and paid a big price. So I think that while company policy is one thing, individuals within the company are improperly instructed and feel free to interpret benefits however they want. I find this is true of all of the companies I've worked with, big and small over the years.

Posted by: Arlington | October 2, 2006 3:48 PM

I worked for AMS in Arlington when I had my child. They used to make the list back then. I saved my vacation and sick leave for 5 years. Yes, 5 years. Took maternity leave for six months using earned leave. I went back part time, but the manager at the time did not 'get' that. I was expected to work far more. I just said 'no' and paid a big price. So I think that while company policy is one thing, individuals within the company are improperly instructed and feel free to interpret benefits however they want. I find this is true of all of the companies I've worked with, big and small over the years.

Posted by: Arlington | October 2, 2006 3:48 PM

I worked for AMS in Arlington when I had my child. They used to make the list back then. I saved my vacation and sick leave for 5 years. Yes, 5 years. Took maternity leave for six months using earned leave. I went back part time, but the manager at the time did not 'get' that. I was expected to work far more. I just said 'no' and paid a big price. So I think that while company policy is one thing, individuals within the company are improperly instructed and feel free to interpret benefits however they want. I find this is true of all of the companies I've worked with, big and small over the years.

Posted by: Arlington | October 2, 2006 3:49 PM

I was absolutely appalled by the "Leaves we Love" that included one whole week for adoption. Are you kidding me? How can that be considered family-friendly? 12 wks for someone who gave birth "to bond with their child" but ONE week for an adoptive parent? How archaic of a thought process is that? And no, I'm not even an adoptive parent.

Posted by: LH | October 2, 2006 3:50 PM

I was absolutely appalled by the "Leaves we Love" that included one whole week for adoption. Are you kidding me? How can that be considered family-friendly? 12 wks for someone who gave birth "to bond with their child" but ONE week for an adoptive parent? How archaic of a thought process is that? And no, I'm not even an adoptive parent.

Posted by: LH | October 2, 2006 3:50 PM

Wow, the time thing is really messed up. I tried seeing which companies where located in the NoVA/DC area, but couldn't seem to get the search engine on the site to work. It told me there were none found, which seems hard to believe.

Posted by: 215 | October 2, 2006 3:55 PM

I think that people who adopt should get the same amount of leave, but just so you know, people who give birth have to recover from it.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 3:58 PM

A word of caution about how these list are created... (And who am I to say? Easy, I help companies get on them).

I was hired not long ago by a firm that has made this list several years in a row. My job is to get them on lists like this. Not this one specifically -- though I know the person who does the Working Mother submission every year -- but similar "top 100" type lists recognizing this or that aspect of a company.

When a magazine wants to do such a list, they send out a questionnaire to thousands of companies (and make it available on thier website for any company that wants to respond) with a deadline several months away. The big companies that win recognition on these lists over and over again put an enormous amount of work into their responses, which can look every bit as good as a nice, high-quality magazine you might buy at the bookstore, and costs the companies tens of thousands to produce.

They bring in writers like me to craft the responses, reserve a few people in their graphics operations to work full-time on the "submission" (as they are called), hire photographers, etc. The team helping me create my submission this year, for a different magazine's Top 100 list, was at one point as large as 20 people. Some days it's just me, alone in my office, writing and re-writing. But I did put three months, with a lot of overtime, into this one. And this company employs half a dozen people like me in similar jobs. The submissiosn are often delivered with fanfare...two years ago we used an "orchestra" theme throughout and had a conductor deliver it to the requesting magazine, encased in a nice violin case.

My understanding of Working Mother is that after they read the submissions and pick the candidates for their list, they actually do some detective work to verify what's in the submissions, poll workers at the company, etc. But the first time they cull through submissions they are only looking at the document itself.

On more than one occaision, as I prepared my submission this year, I've run into a question where we don't really track the data to know a truthful answer and been told "make up something convincing". And this is a company that prides itself on its ethics and assesses employees on how well they git its list of "Core Values"! (yeah, I know I just gave it away to a few of you).

So be careful with these. In our company I think we actually DO earn the recognition we win from Working Mother most years, but PLEASE keep in mind that it isn't the company that's being judged at first, it's the document...and a lot of good companies for working moms probably don't put that kind of production into their submissions, while some companies might put a lot more into the submission than they do the day-to-day reality of being family friendly.

Posted by: sct | October 2, 2006 4:14 PM

My husband works for one of the companies on this list and I can only laugh a little.

Yes, flextime is offered as is working from home.

In theory it sounds great but in practice the company (IT field) is bidding for contracts in a highly competitive field, and so the client's (perceived) needs rule supreme over everything else.

Offshoring some of this results in true "flex time" - conference calls to India at 4 in the morning followed by a full work day from 9 to 6 because that is when the client expects to be able to talk to someone.

I agree with people who have said that it's dependent on your area and field and manager. And that is often a choice we each make, to continue in that environment.

Posted by: Shandra | October 2, 2006 4:20 PM

I work for a super-large financial institution that definitely deserves to make the list each year. Family friendly is part of their corporate culture. They offer flex time, reduced work schedules, job sharing, and parental leave to both fathers and mothers for the birth or adoption of a child.

It just so happens that today is the very first day of my first 30-hour week. I have been a fulltime working mom for over seven years, and am looking forward to an extra ten hours in my week to run errands, volunteer at school / cub-scouts, and for some fun & stress-free time with our son. My employer is very flexible with hours / work from home, but I found that to put in a full 40-hour week, work was continually encroaching on my family time. My employer will still provide full benefits, which is great because they are way-better than the ones my husband's company offers.

There are several other parents in my division who have a reduced hour week, so I am no trail-blazer. While reduced hour schedules are not widely promoted, they are made available when requested, particularly for employees who have proven their value to the company.

Posted by: new part-timer | October 2, 2006 4:25 PM

scarry - I used our maternity leave twice and we get 12 weeks off but only 2 of them are paid with 2/3 pay per our short term disability. You have to take the first 4 weeks on your own pay and I used a combo of sick and vacation. The remaining 6 weeks are either unpaid or you can take additional paid leave. Fortunately I was able to take 16 weeks for the first kid and 14 for the second with no job repercussions - as I said my boss has been excellent. After the first baby my hours went down to 30 hours per week and half of that is from home - so all in all it has been pretty good. A good boss makes all the difference in the world.

Alex Mom - the advancement potential in the small and non-profit jobs is limited, so many women won't consider them for a variety of reasons. Right now I am not looking for a career, just a good job with nice pay and benefits - so the non-profit environment suits my outlook and life.

Posted by: cmac | October 2, 2006 4:25 PM

In my pre-goverment employee life in a big law firm, what I saw was not family friendly.

I suppose that the federal government is a lot like the big companies, it depends on what agency, division, group, etc. and individual managers.

That said, while there is no "paid maternity leave," if you put in some years before having children and save up your sick and vacation, it is not that hard to have 6 months of paid leave to take. (Sick leave can be used for 12 weeks under FMLA and it can also be used for the mother's recovery from birth (6 or 8 weeks depending on how baby is delivered.) If your spouse also works at the government, there is the possibility of leave transfer (vacation can be transferred to a person who has been accepted into the leave transfer program) to supplment saved leave.

There is also a program called the family friendly leave act, which allows federal employees to use up to 2 1/2 weeks of sick leave a year to take care of sick family members (this is not limited to children) or for bereavement purposes.

I am lucky that I work in an office that is very family friendly, thus taking advantage of these benefits is not frowned upon at all. In fact, fathers around here regularly take of a month or more of paternity leave with no repercussions.

When there are job satisfaction related issues around here (and there are lots of those), it is definitely the family friendly benefits that have kept some really great people working here.

Posted by: AU Park Mom | October 2, 2006 4:31 PM

I think a lot of posters equate "family friendly" with "working 40 hours a week with no travel for the same salary I receive now for a 60+ week with travel." The criteria used for the survey were flexibility, leave, and advancement. Complaints along the lines of "I am (or my husband is) a highly paid professional who is expected to work long hours and travel, so my company isn't family friendly" just don't seem reasonable to me. Your job may not be family friendly, even if your company is, but that's your choice. If the company you work for offers flex time, the ability to set your schedule to accommodate your family and make small changes to that schedule on the spur of the moment, good leave/insurance/other benefits, and the ability to get back on the same (or similar) career track after taking some time off to have/raise children, it's a family friendly employer. If a long work week or occasional weekend or travel is too much for you, that's not your employer's fault. Sometimes YOU have to be flexible, too - it's not a one-way street. Stop whining, already.

Posted by: Perspective | October 2, 2006 4:37 PM

I'm a long-time contractor working for an outfit that is 'cheap'. We've subbed and partnered with other companies who were considered to be better employers.

In the end, at least in contracting, companies who offer benefits beyond the average, are likely to get run out of business and lose work to companies who under bid them. IMO an employer who keeps your job, so you actually can acrue vacation beyond the minimum is worth valuing.

The key in the environment is to nurture your skills. In-demand skills will get you higher wages, and force your employer to accomidate you.

Posted by: RoseG | October 2, 2006 4:40 PM

I work for one of the companies that is very high on Working Mother's list, and I would say that they get an A+ in some areas and a F in others.

The "child care" they benefit they claim to provide is actually a bunch of donated $ to a child care center connected to a women's shelter. Money well spent, I'm sure, but it's not something that employees can readily have access to due to parking issues (unless you're OK with walking with your kids 2 miles every day). I've heard that upper management will not put a child care center on the premesis because they fear that parents will spend too much time with their children during the workday.

On the other hand, they have it right with advancement. There are many working mothers who have have made significant progress up the corporate ladder. They are also very flexible, allowing different schedules and on-day-a-week work from home arrangements.

Back to the F's again: one of these working mothers in management suggested my team (all working mothers but one) begin working Saturdays. We pointed out this would probably cause poor morale and we've dodged that bullet for awile.

But I have to say my immediate managers are incredibly understanding and actually good people. So it does depend on the people you work for.

And as far as these "best companies" lists: my company is one of those that works very hard to get on them, and tries to pound it into the employees' heads that it's a great place to work because they are on them. So they are pretty much a joke to many employees.

Posted by: FRN | October 2, 2006 4:48 PM

Funny thing, Discovery ALWAYS makes this list. I know someone who works for them as a contractor. Funny thing, some departments are made mostly of contractors, and the contractors are treated like lower class humans. (at least in his department)

I wonder how many other companies can treat their employees so well because most of their production comes from contractors.

Posted by: g | October 2, 2006 4:48 PM

I think a lot of posters equate "family friendly" with "working 40 hours a week with no travel for the same salary I receive now for a 60+ week with travel." The criteria used for the survey were flexibility, leave, and advancement. Complaints along the lines of "I am (or my husband is) a highly paid professional who is expected to work long hours and travel, so my company isn't family friendly" just don't seem reasonable to me. Your job may not be family friendly, even if your company is, but that's your choice. If the company you work for offers flex time, the ability to set your schedule to accommodate your family and make small changes to that schedule on the spur of the moment, good leave/insurance/other benefits, and the ability to get back on the same (or similar) career track after taking some time off to have/raise children, it's a family friendly employer. If a long work week or occasional weekend or travel is too much for you, that's not your employer's fault. Sometimes YOU have to be flexible, too - it's not a one-way street. Stop whining, already.

Posted by: Perspective | October 2, 2006 4:53 PM

I agree that it is all about the manager on how policies -no matter how good or bad they are- are implemented. My former employer had the most horrible and unfamily friendly policies around (no work from home, no flex time, total of 15 days/year leave, and if you went in the negative it was deducted from your salary, also you willingness to work voluntary hours was a part of your evaluation).

I had a great boss though, with kids of his own, that allowed me to work from home when my child was sick, come in late when I had to run an errand, etc... and was just understanding of the situation. When looking for new jobs it was my personal policy to not work for anyone that did not have kids (or at least someone in upper management on the team). I took my current position because of the 4 people I interviewed with 3 had paintings from their kids, or photos of their kids in their offices... it is one of those non-mentionables when interviewing to talk about kids, but when you ask about work/life balance, and you see photos of family you get the idea that they are being honest about the response rather than paying lip service. My new employer has much better policies (even one to encourage breastfeeding and is a much more family friendly environment.

Posted by: single mom | October 2, 2006 4:59 PM

I work for one of the big defense firms in the area and have found it to be amazing. Most of the moms with kids under 10 work a reduced schedule, they installed a lactation room at our request, they have a generous FMLA policy, they allow part-timers access to most if not all of the same benefits that full-timers enjoy. I'm one that can't really telecommute due to classified access, so I appreciate the flexibility in working hours.

Posted by: Dixie | October 2, 2006 5:35 PM

FMLA is for everyone. It is guaranteed by law! Companies can't deny this to you, so you don't have the companies to thank for FMLA. Thank Clinton and remember that when you vote.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 5:58 PM

how can i get a job at the place where Dixie works with all those fab benes and flexibilty? sounds like someone in power is really thinking!

Posted by: Ritamae | October 2, 2006 5:58 PM

I worked for Cornell and I can tell you it's not at all family-friendly when it comes to the bulk of the people working there--grad students, postdocs, lecturers, faculty. Professors clearly need to work a minimum of 60 hrs/week in order to keep their jobs. Grad students are routinely told by their advisors that working less than 60 hrs/week will get you kicked out. The place, like Harvard (also on the list) is a pressure-cooker, insane-work environment. In the chemistry department, there have been only 2 female professors in the last 150 years, and one of them has no children. All the male professors, as far as I could tell, have stay-at-home wives (or their wives worked part time at jobs they didn't take seriously). The wife of one eminent professor I knew raised his child for him single-handedly, did or arranged for help to get done all the house/yard/car work/cleaning/laundry/etc, prepared all his meals, did clerical work related to his job, packed his suitcase when he went on business trips, probably even wiped his butt. No woman will ever be able to compete with guy who has this "service." And this is basically what is required because, if one male professor has nothing to do at home and can work all the time, it sets the bar there for everyone. It's essentially meaningless that Cornell got on this list.

Posted by: me | October 2, 2006 6:06 PM


>>>FMLA is for everyone. It is guaranteed by law! Companies can't deny this to you, so you don't have the companies to thank for FMLA. Thank Clinton and remember that when you vote. >>>

No, it isn't. FMLA only kicks in when you've been with a company for a length of time (1 year?) and it does not apply to businesses smaller than a certain size.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 6:26 PM

fine, it applies to most people. Affirmative action doesn't apply if you have a small company either. My point was that it's not something that the company just gives you, the government gave it to you.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 6:32 PM

Working Moms -

My Father-in-law (about 60 yrs old) is a bright guy who moved my wife's family around a lot while she was young. The moving resulted in a very senior executive position after years and years. He and my mother-in-law INSIST that this is the "best" way for the dad to provide/support/care for the family -- scramble around working as hard as you can while the kids are young, so that once they hit 15 years old or so, your career is comfortable. My mother-in-law hasn't 'needed' to work in ages, and my wife and her sister's college degrees were fully paid for by the parents. Both my in-laws admit that my MIL basically raised her girls without much input from my FIL, who was working 15 hour days the whole time.

So here's the question -- given the choice, do you want your husband as a roughly equal provider of child care, with the reality being that he may make career sacrifices that equal yours? Or, would you rather that he focuses more (not totally) on his career while the kids are young, Mom focuses more (not totally) on the kids, still maintaining a mommy-track career, while the kids are young, with the hope that when the kids are teenagers finances will no longer be a problem?

Posted by: Random Guy | October 2, 2006 6:52 PM

>>>FMLA is for everyone. It is guaranteed by law! Companies can't deny this to you, so you don't have the companies to thank for FMLA. Thank Clinton and remember that when you vote. >>>

No, it isn't. FMLA only kicks in when you've been with a company for a length of time (1 year?) and it does not apply to businesses smaller than a certain size.
>>>

Yes, FMLA only applies if you work for a company for at least a year and it must have 50+ employees.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 7:08 PM

Random Guy:

Not an option for me...I do it all. I would have been happy if my ex-husband had stuck around and contributed ANYTHING; he's 10,000 miles away in Australia, and our daughter "wishes daddy lived down the street."

Posted by: single western mom | October 2, 2006 7:09 PM

To Random Guy,

My husband and I decided that spending time with each other and our children was more important to us than any career. So we chose 40-hour-per week jobs. Our income together equals the salary of some people with one worker in the household. But our hours available for the family are greater than those high-income one-worker families.

I would have loved to stay at home with our children, but not at the cost of having a mostly unavailable husband and our children having a mostly unavailable father.

Free time is more important to us than high incomes or "fulfilling careers".

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 7:21 PM

To LH re adoption leave:

Is it possible that that leave is just for the actual adoption? Which might encompass a couple days of travel (esp. if it's an international adoption) plus a few days of court/paperwork.

And then the adopter can still take 12 weeks (or whatever) as bonding time?

Just hoping!

Posted by: spunky | October 2, 2006 7:26 PM

A 3-5 year job guarantee while an employee is on family leave sounds progressive, but it all depends on the execution. I'm afraid many companies would use the opportunity to cover that person's duties with a (cheaper) contract worker who otherwise would have been hired in the position full-time. So that "replacement" worker doesn't get the security and benefits of a full-time position to provide for his/her family. Just a reason to be careful what you wish for...

Posted by: young worker | October 2, 2006 7:32 PM

Random Guy

I'm a widow, I don't many options. Having a college education funded seems a pretty poor trade for a husband and father who is never around.

Posted by: Elaine | October 2, 2006 7:43 PM

sct - very interesting information! Thanks for sharing that with us.

I didn't even look at the list, because I know I've never worked for any of the companies on it. Not because I haven't worked for great organizations, but because they've all been small and/or not the type to care if they make such a list.

I agree with those who have said that it's the actual implementation of the policies that matters, rather than whether or not a company has a "policy." And I'll go a step further and say that the best family-friendly benefits I received were not things that were policy, but things I simply asked for. You just never know what a company will "give" someone they value.

Several examples, all with the same company, which had anywhere from 500-3000 employees during the 15 years I worked for them:

When my first child was born, I worked in an office with two other women. I asked my boss (who worked at our corporate office) if I could bring my baby to work with me - he said "as long as he doesn't barf on the keyboard, it's fine with me." I did so, for about a year.

When my second child was born, my boss (same guy) called me when she was a week old and said "we need you to go to XYZ to fill in" (a company location about 4 hours by car from my home). I said "fine, if I can take the baby." When she was 6 weeks old and I went back to work, she and I hit the road. We took two trips of about a week each together.

When my first child started preschool, I brought him to work with me at 8:00, took him to preschool at 9:00, picked him up at 11:30, and took him to daycare. I didn't take a lunch hour to make up for this.

When I was working on my MBA, I took time in the middle of the day to go to class and simply worked longer at the end of the day.

When my third child was born and I technically became a SAHM, I stayed working for the company on a very part-time basis (about 15-20 hours a month), mostly from home. When I did go to the office my baby came with me. I kept my health insurance benefits for two years under this plan, because it was worth it to the company to have me do this instead of paying someone full-time.


Posted by: momof4 | October 2, 2006 7:49 PM

Random Guy -

Given a choice, which would you prefer?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 7:50 PM

So here's the question -- given the choice, do you want your husband as a roughly equal provider of child care, with the reality being that he may make career sacrifices that equal yours? Or, would you rather that he focuses more (not totally) on his career while the kids are young, Mom focuses more (not totally) on the kids, still maintaining a mommy-track career, while the kids are young, with the hope that when the kids are teenagers finances will no longer be a problem? >>>

Random Guy,
Why this obsession with binary situations? Why does the situation have to be either/or? Far too limiting!! My son is young. My husband is an equal partner and very involved dad. He hasn't had to compromise on career at all (nor have I). Actually, he could theorectically retire, if all things go as they currently are, in 5 years and not have to work at all. My husband is 33. There are adjustments to one's career you make once having a child but rarely do you have to sacrifice anything.

Your either/or situation really only applies to one couple, your MIL & FIL.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 2, 2006 7:53 PM

Ooh, I missed all the fun today!

Random Guy - I agree with alex.mom. Why does it have to be an either/or situation? My husband and I waited until we were established in our careers and well into our 30s before having kids. Finances aren't a problem now and we don't expect them to be when we have teenagers. Maybe your FIL & MIL experienced that because they are of a different generation and had children when they were young.

Anyway, I don't work in the DC area any longer but the law firm I work for in the Norfolk area allows me to work whenever and wherever I want. Some weeks I do work 65+ hours, but I'm then free to take time off to spend with my kids. When I came back from maternity leave, they gave me the option of working part time for several months and I'm sure they would have made the arrangement permanent if I'd asked. With the help of the partners in my firm I don't have to choose whether to put my job or my children first. And that's the way it should be.

Posted by: Lawyer Mama | October 2, 2006 8:29 PM

Ooh, I missed all the fun today!

Random Guy - I agree with alex.mom. Why does it have to be an either/or situation? My husband and I waited until we were established in our careers and well into our 30s before having kids. Finances aren't a problem now and we don't expect them to be when we have teenagers. Maybe your FIL & MIL experienced that because they are of a different generation and had children when they were young.

Anyway, I don't work in the DC area any longer but the law firm I work for in the Norfolk area allows me to work whenever and wherever I want. Some weeks I do work 65+ hours, but I'm then free to take time off to spend with my kids. When I came back from maternity leave, they gave me the option of working part time for several months and I'm sure they would have made the arrangement permanent if I'd asked. With the help of the partners in my firm I don't have to choose whether to put my job or my children first. And that's the way it should be.

http://lawyermama.blogspot.com

Posted by: Lawyer Mama | October 2, 2006 8:31 PM

I worked for one of the companies on the list-- one that no doubt spends a lot of time and energy getting on the list. While I worked there, one of my male colleagues quit after his wife gave birth to their first child... he was the star of a team that regularly worked until mid-night or 1 am. He knew there was no way he could have balance and work on that team. No one batted an eye-lash and the manager let him go-- they knew balance wasn't really possible either. From what I saw, senior folks who had already put in 8-10 years could take advantage of flex arrangments, but the peons with lesser titles would be hard pressed to do so.

My uncle was a high level executive for another company on the list. When my aunt had a traumatic brain injury that required him to spend more time at home caring for their three children (along with my grandparents, who also helped) while my aunt was in the hospital and rehab therapy, his employer said "Take all the time you need." Then they kept scheduling business trips and 7 pm meetings for him. He quit and went to a large, well-known company (not on the list) that allowed him to work from home one day a week and come home at 6 in the evening instead of 9. He did this schedule for nearly two years. Now that my aunt is somewhat recovered (may never be fully) and can care for the children herself, he's back to 14 hour days and regular travel. I guess that the flexible schedule was not one he felt he could succeed with on a more permanent basis.

In general, I think men have a tougher time taking leave for any reason, both because of how people at work perceive them and also because of their ingrained self-perception. My current "family friendly" employer only gives men one week of paternity leave-- some guys make it two with a week of vacation, but anymore than that would be perceived as weird. However, no one thinks it's weird when a new father only takes a day or two off.

Posted by: JKR | October 2, 2006 8:45 PM

Another question, inspired by Random Guy's question:

Is it safe to say (GENERALLY SPEAKING) that the latest generation or two of men is much more interested (than earlier generations) in being involved with their kids?

I know I for one (a guy) am not interested in putting work ahead of family. And I don't think women are generally interested in that either (either for their husbands, or for themselves).

I guess it's just a generational difference, I understand my generation and can't really figure out the older ones. Just different times, different ways of doing things. Thank goodness I don't have to be a too-hard-working Dad!

Posted by: spunky | October 2, 2006 8:50 PM

My comment concerns the "best company" Accenture. My husband worked for Accenture for several years. He regularly worked 65+ hour weeks, including many Saturdays and Sundays. For one project, he worked 36 hours in a row--he came home about 3am to change his clothes and go back to the office during those hours. While the company offers flextime, lots of vacation time, etc., no one can use the benefits because they have to work too much. The company chronically understaffs projects to increase the partners' profits. I wonder if the employees of these companies were interviewed for information about these listed companies. The list would most likely be different.

Posted by: Theresa | October 2, 2006 9:40 PM

FYI - Some great companies don't make the list because you need to apply in order to be considered. Maybe you should suggest that your company apply if you think they should be on the list. And vice versa -- I'm sure Working Mother would want to know if you, as an employee, disagree with your company's selection.

Posted by: Leslie | October 2, 2006 9:51 PM

It really depends on what team you work for at BAH. I worked on MSW&A for over 8 years and when I had a child, I felt like I was marginalized. I do think other parts of the company are more supportive.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 7:00 PM

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