Smarter Benefits: Key to Retaining Talented Working Mothers

Take a quick scan of your workforce.  Is there a significant percentage of working mothers? If not, don’t be surprised.

A 2009 study from University of Califirnia Berkeley Haas School of Business found that 28 percent of women with Harvard MBAs had left the workforce 15 years after receiving their degree.  A 2010 study of MBAs from top business schools by University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that hours and labor force participation of female MBAs fell by an average of 24 percent -18 percent three-to-four years after their first child’s birth.

These statistics highlight the national conundrum women face balancing family with career, and an acute problem concerning every HR manager:  a sizeable pool of the most highly-educated, highly-skilled women in their ranks are either fleeing their organizations or foregoing job opportunities, determining that juggling family and work demands is too obstacle-ridden to justify.

It’s likely that many of these talented women want to remain in the workforce, but I argue, many leave because their employers don’t offer the types of flexible scheduling and comprehensive benefits options that would make employment more feasible and attractive.

HR professionals should take a step back to scrutinize their organizations’ benefits policies to better obtain and retain talented women.   They can start by analyzing their companies’ policies in the following areas:


Having a formalized telecommuting policy is perhaps the most powerful way to communicate to women that that work-life balance is about flexibility—not being less productive or committed to the job.  Is there a telecommuting policy in place?  If so, what percentage of the work week or month can be worked away from the office, and does your organization provide employees the necessary technological support to do so, including providing company laptops or conference lines to help telecommuters participate in meetings?

Maternity and Medical Leave Policies

The Family Medical Leave Act mandates that anyone employed at least 12 months by a business with a payroll of at least 50 people may take 12 unpaid weeks off without the threat of losing their job. Data shows that providing women a minimum amount of paid maternity leave is an investment that pays off for companies in terms of retention.  For instance, according to a how can i get my ex girlfriend back

t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDQQFjAA&,d.dmQ”>2009 Women’s Policy Institute report, when Aetna increased the number of paid vacation weeks it provided for new mothers, retention of those employees grew from 77 percent to 91 percent.

Personal Time Off

For a parent, Personal Time Off (PTO) covers their own medical and personal appointments as well as their children’s.  So, while the volume of days off your company provides working parents certainly factors into their job evaluations’, the level of flexibility built into your PTO policies is also a factor.  For instance, does it allow employees to deduct one or two hour increments of personal time to take their child to the doctor or visit their school rather than take a full day?

Family-Friendly Perks

Beyond basic time off, health, dental, and life insurance policies, there are more holistic benefits employers can offer to demonstrate above-and-beyond commitment to employees’ well-being.  Examples include financial aid for adoption, which was offered by about 47 percent of the 1,000 largest U.S. employers in 2008 according to data from human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates and infertility treatment coverage, which is offered by about 31 percent of U.S. employers, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Beyond these policies, perhaps the best barometer to measure how culturally committed your organization is to developing women’s careers is how ample an opportunity they have to advance, as evidenced by the number of female managers or executives in the c-suite and other leadership roles.  To ensure women have access to career growth, companies must base promotion decisions on performance— a practice where businesses are best-served by using a data-based framework.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author: Rania Stewart is the Senior Product Manager at Peoplefluent with responsibility for guiding strategic direction of the Performance and Succession products in response/anticipation of market needs. Prior to joining Peoplefluent in late 2010, Ms. Stewart was a talent management practitioner for over 7 years at Aetna, Inc., gaining experience in the many facets of workforce planning, development and analytics.


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Dolphin Barongo


I totally agree, little do most companies get the essence of Employee first then the profits and revenue will automatically be at High.
One thing i appreciate at my workplace is the Creche that working mother can bring in their Kids and work at peace, not to worry all time when they leave them home + they can check on them over breaks.. and many more.

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