Magazine Lists Best Companies For Working Mothers

What are the best employers for families hoping to strike that perfect work-home balance? Host Michel Martin runs down Working Mother Magazine's 25th annual list of the 100 Best Companies with Working Mother Media Group President Carol Evans.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And finally today, we take a look at how American women are balancing responsibilities at home with those in the workplace. At the office, there are meetings, deadlines, paperwork, phone calls. And the once that work day's over, there's the other job at home, putting food on the table, helping with homework, maybe cleaning up after the dog. And for these moms, having a supportive employer can make all the difference.

For the past 25 years, Working Mother has been keeping a list of the 100 Best Companies for working moms. To compile this year's top 100 list, the magazine examined a number of innovative workplace programs, including financial planning advice, tutoring help for children of employees, help with elder care and even stress reduction strategies offered by a stand-up comedian.

Joining me to talk about this list and how the companies on it are helping their employees achieve work-life balance, we have Carol Evans. She is president of Working Mother Media Group, and she's with us now from our bureau in New York.

Welcome to the program. Or welcome back, I should say.

Ms. CAROL EVANS (President, Working Mother Media Group): Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: So you've been compiling this list for 25 years now. What are the biggest changes between the top companies then and now? Or is what you're looking for changing?

Ms. EVANS: Well, both. There's only two companies that have been on the list for all 25 years, and that's IBM and Johnson and Johnson. So I want to give them both a shout out to begin with. What's changed is a lot. We started with only 30 best companies.

MARTIN: So, you're saying, look, 25 years ago you couldn't even come up with 100?

Ms. EVANS: No. We only came up with 30. And, you know, at that time, women represented only 33 percent of all employees of the best companies, and now they represent 48 percent of all employees. So, you know, the numbers of women have gone up in general in the country as a whole in the employee population.

MARTIN: Just give us a couple of examples, if you would, of companies that made the list and why?

Ms. EVANS: Well, there's some fun things like Discovery Communications really upgraded their childcare center and headquarters. Ersten Young just makes a tremendous effort to help people with their career ladder. I think Bank of America is tremendous company to look at, too. They have benefits across the board, training and education of working mothers, as well as very strong support systems such as employee research groups for working moms. Of course, nobody beats IBM. They have a three-year plan where you can hold your job and take your maternity leave and come back. These companies are truly doing remarkable support for working moms and working families.

MARTIN: What are some of the family-friendly policies that caught your eye, things that weren't even around 25 years ago?

Ms. EVANS: Well, one of the things that we feel very strongly about is paternity leave. There was no paternity leave back in the early days, and now it's being adopted by most of the 100 best companies. And that has really helped moms because it gives dads early experience with the new-born, and it encourages companies to support dads in other work-life balance areas.

MARTIN: One of the things that you talked about in your piece that you wrote with the magazine is that care-giving isn't just taking care of kids. These days, often women are caught between taking care of kids and taking care of seniors. And I did want to ask whether care-giving responsibilities that aren't related to being a mother were also part of the calculation?

Ms. EVANS: Oh, very much. Not only care-giving, but also just this idea of having a whole life. And when mothers get support for their lives, it extends to all employees. You know, it could be somebody who wants to learn to paint or somebody who wants to travel for a longer period of time than what they could otherwise. These benefits just help people to live a whole life, including your family, but also other ideas, as well.

MARTIN: Many of the companies and many of the jobs that are profiled in the list do seem to fall under the rubric of white collar. And I do have to ask: Where do women who don't work in offices fit into this? Where do the so-called pink-collar jobs fit into this, or the blue-collar jobs?

Ms. EVANS: There are companies on our list who aren't just looking at the white-collar community, companies like Marriott, who do a tremendous job of supporting their employees across the board and have mostly hourly workers. But I do want to mention something that's a new development this year from Working Mother Media, which is that we now have a list called "Best Companies for Hourly Workers." And that came out of this issue that you're raising right now, Michel, which is that it is different to provide benefits for people who are in the factory or who are working in a hotel or a restaurant than it is to provide benefits for a huge population of executive workers.

So we wanted to look at what the differences were, and we launched that list in April, and we'll have our second annual list out next April. Fascinating, fascinating differences between the Best Companies for Hourly Workers and the Best Companies for Working Mothers.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, I'm Michel Martin, and you're listening to TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Our guest is Carol Evans. She's sharing with us the list of the Working Mother Media's 100 Best Companies for Working Moms. It's the 25th year that Working Mother magazine has produced this list.

Well, actually (unintelligible) questions. One is about the role of fathers, because the company is Working Mother Media Group. But in the way you describe many of the companies and their policies, I think you're pretty careful to use the word caregivers. You don't just refer to moms.

Ms. EVANS: Correct.

MARTIN: But I do want to ask you, even though you are the head of Working Mother Media Group, if you think that there does need to be more conversation about fathers.

Ms. EVANS: I do. I think that the fathers have an interesting situation now because, first of all, they're going through in as big a role shift as mothers. And now we've seen in the last five years the incomes of moms and women rising so that they're now responsible for about 48 percent of the household income. It's a huge, huge shift from 20, 30, even 15 years ago. So husbands and fathers, their roles have changed dramatically, and they're adjusting, as well.

But I don't want to let them off the hook entirely, because there's still this issue that fathers and husbands don't think of the home and the household and the kids as equal work for themselves. We really want dads to think of co-parenting and husbands to think of taking care of their house - co-house working. And that concept just isn't really there yet, except for, you know, a certain level of the population, and especially among younger fathers. But it's still very much falling on moms. And when you add in elder care, forget it. You know, that is really falling on the mother, regardless of which side of the family the elder care issues are emanating from.

MARTIN: Carol, finally, before we let you go, since you're celebrating 25 years, will go another 25, what would you like to see on this list? You know what I mean? What would that article look like?

Ms. EVANS: What I'd really like is 1,000 companies, you know, 1,000 best companies for working mothers. Because the big problem that we have is that these 100 best companies are terrific, and they're doing amazing things, but the gap between what we call the best and the rest of the companies in this country is really large, and there's no government mandates telling companies what they have to do.

So, you know, companies are doing this because they think it's good for their return on investment, good for their employees and good for their bottom line. But so many companies aren't doing anything to support working mothers, and that's what makes me really cringe. And that's what I hope to see in 25 years, is a list of 1,000 companies doing wonderful things for working mothers.

MARTIN: Carol Evans is the president of Working Mother Media Group, and she was kind enough to join us from our bureau in New York.

Carol Evans, thanks so much for talking to us.

Ms. EVANS: Thanks, Michel. Always good to talk to you.

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