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It's Mother's Day! Are You Creating a Supportive Culture?

A woman holding a baby while working at her computer.

Flowers, candy, breakfast in bed and lovingly hand-drawn cards from children may be de rigueur on the homefront for Mother's Day, but it's up to employers to create a culture that supports working mothers in their ranks year-round.

With nearly 60 million mothers in the U.S. labor force, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, organizations seeking an edge in the marketplace would do well to find ways to recruit and retain this talent pool by offering benefits that promote inclusiveness.

"Competitive companies are offering benefits for working parents, such as onsite childcare and flexible time off, as well as fertility benefits" such as egg freezing "for women who want to become mothers," said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a global outplacement and executive coaching firm in Chicago.

Some even pay for employees' children to attend summer camps, or shell out for nannies to accompany parents bringing tots who are under a year old on business trips, SHRM Online reported.

The first step to creating a welcoming workplace for mothers is to look at the company culture, Challenger advised in a news release.

"Are you hiring and promoting working mothers? If not, what is keeping these mothers from succeeding? Do you have programs that help working parents maintain a level of quality in their work?"

Generous paid parental leave, lactation rooms and work/life balance options such as telecommuting and flexible and compressed work schedules are often appreciated. SHRM Online has collected other examples of how award-winning organizations are designing work environments that support mothers. The companies are those that have been singled out by WhenWorkWorks, Fortune magazine's 50 Best Workplaces for Parents, or Working Mother magazine's 100 Best Companies.

Leave and Returning to Work

Treasure Valley Hospice in Nampa, Idaho—a 2017 WhenWorkWorks (WWW) winner—allows new parents to work part time as they transition back into the workplace after their leave.

KPMG offers individualized coaching for new parents returning to the Amstelveen, Netherlands-based company that is considered one of the Big Four of auditors, along with Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PwC. It was named a 2017 WWW winner.

At Educational Data Systems Inc. (EDSI) in Dearborn, Mich., where 53 percent of employees are of childbearing age, a female representative at the company can help mothers returning from leave transition back to work.

The representative contacts the woman to see if she needs any accommodations at the company, which was named a 2017 WWW winner, according to Heather Huisken, a member of EDSI's talent team. 

"If the mom is nursing, we contact the local manager to ensure that there is a private room and office refrigerator where the mom can pump and store milk. We ask about child care arrangements and how that aligns with the mom's work schedule to see if we are able to accommodate a schedule adjustment, if needed," Huisken said in an e-mail. And if the mother confides she is suffering from postpartum depression or has breastfeeding concerns, for example, the representative suggests available resources.

In April, PwC—named to Fortune magazine's 50 Best Workplaces for Parents in 2016 and Working Mother magazine's 100 Best Companies list in 2017—rolled out a phased return-to-work benefit for new mothers and fathers. Those employees may work 60 percent of their hours while receiving 100 percent of their salaries for the four weeks immediately following their paid parental leave.

"We have a workforce of about 50,000 in the United States. Of course, that means all kinds of families. We recognize that people are forming families in different ways now. There are single parents, families who adopt, and [lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender] families," said Jennifer Allyn, PwC's diversity strategy leader, in an e-mail.

"We took a step back and said, 'If we want to be as inclusive as possible, how does that look within our suite of offerings, and how can we make it better?' We talked to our people about how they manage parental leave and heard from them that the return to work was challenging."

Child Care 

Infant and child care can be pricey for parents—infant care alone can range from $468 per month in Mississippi to $1,868 a month in Washington, D.C., according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Offering onsite child care or subsidies for infant and child care are among strategies employers are using to attract and retain women and men, along with allowing parents to bring their babies to work. Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System in Phoenix has an "Infant at Work" program that has had 10 infants age out of the program.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Work/Life Fit: Dependent Care and Elder Care]

Bon Secours Health System of Virginia, a not-for-profit Catholic health system based in Richmond, Va., offers three onsite child care centers for employees' children and grandchildren, emergency child care and sick-child care staffed by a full-time pediatric nurse, and a 50 percent subsidy for elder care nursing assistance. It was named a WWW winner in 2015.

At PwC, all staffers are reimbursed for emergency child care. They also have free membership to for easy, reliable access to resources that include child care.

And Astellas Pharma U.S. Inc. in Northbrook, Ill., has a service that helps parents find qualified short-term baby sitters, longer-term day care options and emergency backup when regular child care is interrupted.


Recognizing that caregiving responsibilities often extend beyond newborns and children, Adobe has a "Welcome Back" program for U.S.-based employees returning from a leave of more than three months to deal with a major life event. It includes family care leave that allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of partially paid time off to care for a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent with a serious health condition.

The employee receives full salary for the first five weeks of leave. Medical benefits continue to be paid, and any employee contributions are waived during the time the employee does not receive a paycheck.

Family-friendly benefits help recruit and retain employees, according to PwC's Allyn. They also help build an inclusive environment that she said "recognizes the many paths to building a family."

For organizations looking to offer similar benefits, she recommended conducting periodic reviews of what they provide, talking to employees to understand what benefits they value, and providing benefits that align with the company's values. 

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