The new issue of Working Mother hit my mailbox yesterday, containing their new list of the 100 best companies for working mothers. I'm more than a little dubious about these lists, because there's often a big gap beween the official company policies that are captured in these formulas and practice on the ground, especially around part-time work and non-standard schedules.
My sense is that if you have a supportive boss, you can often get flexible arrangements even if they're not company policy, and if you don't, you're out of luck, regardless of what the manual says. I'd love to see data on what fraction of the workforce is taking advantage of these policies, broken out by gender (are they just creating a mommy track?), and on the career outcomes for people who work part-time or take extended leaves. I work for the federal government, which is overall reasonably family-friendly (with the glaring exception of ZERO paid parental leave), but I know people's experiences vary dramatically from department to department and even office to office.
If any of my readers work at one of these 100 best companies and want to comment on what it's really like, I'd love to hear your point of view.
Amy pointed out that in my discussion of flexibility on Monday, I didn't talk much about stable flexible arrangements, especially shifted schedules. She's right, and that's ironic, as such schedules are very common in the Federal government. People love them, especially people who drive to work and want to avoid the utter craziness of DC-area traffic during rush hour. Working Mother reports that flexible hours are among the most common family friendly benefits, with 57 percent of companies offering flextime, and 34 percent offering compressed workweeks.
Of the benefits discussed in the study, the most common offered nationwide are dependent care flexible spending accounts, offered by 73 percent of all companies and mental health insurance, offered by 72 percent. (These figures are attributed to a Society for Human Resource Management survey, which I think means that it's mostly large companies who were asked.) The least commonly offered benefits are take-home meals (3 percent), business-travel child care reimbursement (3 percent) and emergency/backup elder care (2 percent).
I'd also like to call attention to Corporate Voices for Working Families' efforts to increase flexible working options for low-wage and hourly workers.
Many companies -- even those that have very enlighted policies for their professional workforces -- offer much less flexibility to their production and support workforces. The National Partnership for Women and Families reports that only 47 percent of private sector workers have ANY paid sick leave. At a conference I attended, one woman explained how her company, a large food industry corporation, had just changed their policies so it was possible for production line workers to take less than a WEEK of leave at a time (but only if they could find someone to substitute for them on the line). I'm embarassed to admit that such a possibility had never occurred to me in my privileged professional position.