All the Working Mother 100 Best Companies have exceptional benefits and support systems. The top 10, though, stand out for continually evolving their workplaces to meet parents’ needs and improving employees’ lives.
Although Working Mother does not disclose ranks of the 100 Best Companies except to say which ones are in the top 10, this year we have decided to name the No. 1 company. The creation of an employee value proposition to attract and retain working parents has become increasingly competitive, even among organizations that excel at this. Being No. 1 is a remarkable achievement. Unilever, which is No. 1, has been on this list for only six years. Women are 44 percent of the workforce but 52 percent of managers at the consumer-products company. And Unilever makes mentoring available for all its employees and has an employee-resource group specifically for parents. Here are other key parental benefits it and the rest of the top 10 offer, plus the stories of employees who are thriving there.
Premier Perk: Adoption Reimbursement
The healthcare company pays back up to $10,000 per child under 18 for adoption. Eligible expenses include fees for agencies, placement and home-study, legal, temporary foster care, transportation, immigration and translation. Employees receive up to 80 hours’ paid time off for adoption needs, which need not be used all at once.
One Mom’s Story: After years of infertility treatments, it became clear to senior program manager Jackie Wolak and her husband, Dave, that “adoption was God’s plan for us.” They were matched with their first son, Evan, now 4, following a “long and onerous” process. Their second son, Cameron, almost 2, was born two years later at 33 weeks, spending three weeks in the hospital, partially because of respiratory distress. “Our goal was to be with him for as many daytime hours as we could. The adoption leave allowed us to do that,” she says. Support from her co-workers, family and friends, plus financial assistance also helped. “Using leave intermittently allowed our family to gradually adjust to new daycare plans,” she says.
Premier Perk: Surrogacy Coverage
In 2017, the professional services firm began offering surrogacy reimbursement of up to $25,000 per child for medical expenses through pre-treatment screening, insemination, fertilization, IVF cycle and embryo transfer, as well as travel expenses incurred, whether the employee is the surrogate or a person using a surrogate.
One Mom’s Story: Erica Huston-Elem (on right), a management analyst with two children, offered to carry her best friend Katelin’s child after she and her husband struggled with infertility. The surrogacy benefits and support she received made Erica feel “confident I could do this while having a driven career,” she recalls. “There used to be a stigma about surrogacy, but I had so many cheerleaders at home and at work.” Following a miscarriage, she gave birth to healthy twins, Poppy and Oliver. Erica took eight weeks’ short-term disability, plus 16 weeks’ family leave to recover and be with her husband and kids—Stella, 8, and Jack, 5.
Premier Perk: Primary Caregiver Leave for Dads
Since 2016, the professional-services firm has offered up to 16 weeks’ paid parental leave for primary caregivers, mothers and fathers. Previously, mothers received 12 weeks and fathers four weeks. In 2018, 184 fathers are expected to take the full leave, double 2017’s number.
One Dad’s Story: Once Brett Feldman, a manager in the Transaction Advisory Service, and wife Elisa welcomed daughter Ariella, Brett took two weeks of primary caregiver leave, plus a third week of vacation time. Elisa stayed home for five more weeks, and then Brett took the rest of his leave. “We went to library story time, music class and took long walks. I was shut down from work with zero responsibilities,” he says. It also gave the couple a chance to interview nannies and “make sure we were comfortable by leaving the baby with her gradually.”
Premier Perk: Expanded Parental Leave
In 2017, the tech company increased paid parental leave from 14 to 20 weeks. Parents can take the leave anytime during the first year after birth or adoption.
One Mom’s Story: When Jyoti Chawla’s first child, daughter Sanjana, was born eight years ago, she took her eight weeks’ maternity leave at IBM and came back. Even though she had supportive managers, “the time just flew by,” says Jyoti, who helps global customers adopt digital technologies. When her second child, son Sahil, was born in November 2017, “I took four months. It was adequate and immensely flexible, allowing me to re-engage when I was ready and use remaining days in the future.”
Premier Perk: Lactation Travel Services
Employees traveling to J&J facilities across the country learn where mother’s rooms are and how to book them. These rooms offer connections for cellphones and iPads, music, and the ability to work quietly. And the company ships breast milk for free for any traveling mom, even globally.
One Mom’s Story: Mother-of-four Annie Ferreri, a senior manager in Medical Devices in Ohio, has seen major upgrades for nursing moms over the 10 years she’s been one. “The lactation rooms are so improved, and I used to have to pump and dump breast milk with my oldest three when I was traveling. Now I get the kit, pack it up and it arrives home the next morning,” she says.
Premier Perk: Dual-Career Program
Recognizing that dual-career couples, especially parents, have specific challenges, the consulting firm launched an initiative to help. Within 45 minutes of an initial email to gauge interest, there were more than 100 responses. The program started in 2017, and has involved dinners with senior leaders in dual-career couples to build community and share experiences (with long waiting lists), offering professional programs for spouses and concierge services to help with daily chores.
One Mom’s Story: Jill and Josh Zucker are a power couple—she’s a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, and he’s an equities trader. Even with a full-time nanny for their daughters, Charlotte, 9, Lindsay, 6, and Ruby, 4, life is hectic. Josh leaves for work at 6 a.m., and Jill gets the girls ready for school. In the evening, Josh is on duty. Jill created the Dual-Career Program after a morning elevator ride with a colleague. “His spouse was traveling, and he said he was exhausted and had already had a full day. I thought, ‘That’s my day, every single day.’“
Premier Perk: Group for Parents of Tweens and Teens
Because parents of older children face different obstacles, the credit-ratings company’s employee-resource group for parents created smaller circles for various age groups.
One Mom’s Story: As mom to daughters Eesha, 14, and Sara, 10, Kruti Muni, an associate managing director in New York, leads this group and finds answers to her biggest questions. For instance, “I grew up in India, and I didn’t know what the college-application process involves,” she says. Parents research topics, such as bullying, introverted children and teen suicide, make presentations, and share their own experiences as well.
Premier Perk: Joint Parental Leave
The consumer-products company provides 16 weeks’ paid leave in the U.S. for birth moms and primary adoptive parents, and four weeks’ paid leave for spouses or partners. In addition to this paid leave, an employee can take unpaid time off for the first 12 months following the birth or adoption of a child (dual-career couples can split this).
One Couple’s Story: Christine Ayala-Torres, now a senior HR manager, and Carlos Torres, now a finance manager, dated first, became co-workers next and married after that. A difficult pregnancy was followed by an early birth (luckily, the baby’s fine). Christine took her full leave, and then Carlos took his. “I needed much more help than I thought I would. I am grateful for both of us to have this time,” Christine says. Carlos adds: “We don’t have family nearby. Being able to be here for my wife and baby is crucial.”
Premier Perk: Fertility Benefits
Offered through the Progyny service, this includes a maximum of three Smart Cycles and the medications necessary for treatment. One Smart Cycle can be used for one round of IVF plus all tests and the latest technologies, such as genetic screening. Karin Ajmani, president of Progyny, notes, “We cover all the best practices to optimize a healthy pregnancy.” The service provides access to top fertility clinics, and unlimited support from nurses and counselors. For those planning ahead, egg freezing is also covered.
One Mom’s Story: After trouble getting pregnant with her daughter Reagan, now 5, Jaime Stein, who heads the consumer-engagement team, and husband Devon had an even harder time conceiving another child. “I considered myself lucky because I was already a mom, but it still was a difficult time.” Progyny allowed them to pursue IVF—covering her treatment estimated at more than $30,000. On the second-round of IVF, they conceived their son, Heath.
Premier Perk: Care for Sick Kids
In 2017, the healthcare organization made a key addition to its childcare facility at the Learning Academy of Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, GA: the WellBee Place, which offers a six-bed clinic run by nursing staff for mildly ill children.
One Mom’s Story The first time Monitra Beidleman’s daughter, Parker, now 1, got sick, the mom and director of Practice Operations Hospital Medicine “had to go to another facility [an hour and 45 minutes away]. My husband had meetings all day.” Parker’s doctor said it was a virus. Although her fever had broken, “she still wasn’t 100 percent.” The solution was the WellBee Place, “for when a doctor knows children aren’t contagious, but they can’t be in the general population,” Monitra says. She has used it twice since, confident Parker is receiving good care.