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Guilt is one of the biggest side effects working mothers have to deal with, so it's certainly nice when a company comes along that goes the extra mile to support them.
Roughly 77 percent of women with school-age children (6-17) work, according to government statistics, while 67 percent with children under 6 years old are employed. Therefore, finding a mother-friendly environment is crucial for many working women.
Working Mother magazine puts out the quintessential list every year of the 100 best companies for working women. There are many ways these employers stand out, but the No. 1 benefit working mothers look for is flexibility. Since companies realize they'll either lose or won't attract qualified female employees without providing customized schedules, a growing number are thinking creatively in order to meet the demands.
IBM is a consistent leader. The company, which has been on Working Mother's list every year since it began 21 years ago, offers working mothers access to 71 on-site or near-site day care centers, eight weeks of fully paid maternity leave and a policy that grants new mothers up to three years of unpaid job-guaranteed time off.
Another standout is Boston Consulting Group, a new edition to the latest list. The company requires just 20 hours per week for employees to be eligible for health insurance, has a child-care referral service and gives new mothers 12 paid weeks off after giving birth or adopting. Even new dads share the wealth, getting one week paid time off after the arrival of a new baby.
Companies are doing more to appeal to mothers, but they're also making strides in focusing on the role of all women, who are typically outnumbered in management levels at a rate of five to one.
Recently, New York research organization Catalyst recognized four companies for their efforts to boost the ranks of women among senior-level management. PepsiCo Inc., one of the four, has focused on a program that identifies and nurtures women of color, which have doubled in numbers from 72 to 144 among the number of executives since 2001.
A Catalyst study reported in January said that it would take 47 years for women to obtain parity with men in the executive suites at the current rate. That's why PepsiCo, along with three others - Goldman Sachs, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Canada's Scotiabank, all received a workplace gold star.
Most of the companies, which boost healthy levels of female employees - 70% at Scotiabank Canada in 2003 - want to make sure those numbers are represented better in the executive ranks. They have all created programs that make sure women are not overlooked for promotions.
At both Pricewaterhouse and Goldman Sachs, female candidates are identified and groomed by the company to make sure they're within sight of senior management when promotion time rolls around.
Pricewaterhouse keeps working mothers in the loop as well with its Full Circle program. The international accounting and consulting firm helps mothers stay connected while on leave with training and coaching paid for by the company.