Why companies need to support working parents
Powerful. That is the one word I would use to sum up the Georgia March of Dimes (MOD) Partnership in Parenting event I attended last week.
The event focus was “How Atlanta’s Top Companies are Supporting Working Parents” and was held at the beautiful King & Spalding building. Partnership in Parenting brings together individuals and organizations from myriad backgrounds to talk about the importance of supporting parenting in the workplace. And, as a busy working mom myself, I was thrilled to attend.
The speakers featured leading, local executives including:
- Rose Horton, MSM, RN, NEA-BC, Executive Director of Women and Infant Services, Emory Decatur Hospital
- Terri Bunten Guthrie, Business Development, Smith + Howard CPAS and Advisors (served as the moderator)
- Kelley Elliott, Vice President of Total Rewards, Delta Air Lines
- Whitney Woodward, Chief People Officer, Aaron’s, Inc
- Kyle Rice, Market Director, Aflac
- Sara Simonds, Talent Business Advisor, Deloitte
- Chantel Johnson, Head of Inclusion and Diversity Recruiting, Accenture
Throughout the event, we got to hear about the policies, best practices and company cultures that create a stable and healthy environment for working parents. And since parents make up 40% of the workforce, it is a much-needed focal point in the evolving labor market. To fill roles, we need to support those working parents. Otherwise, you’re significantly cutting down on your talent pool.
They opened with a story about Cory Moss, board chair for the MOD Atlanta market. His wife was pregnant with triplets, all boys. The babies were born at 23 weeks and two of them died due to necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious gastrointestinal problem that mostly affects premature babies. The condition inflames intestinal tissue, causing it to die and affects 1 in 1,000 premature babies. As I looked around, I could tell everyone was choked up by his story. But that’s why organizations like MOD exist, because of these all-too-common cases.
Infant mortality in Georgia
Rose Horton then talked about the issues of infant mortality and the fact that Georgia has a pre-term birth grade of a D minus. And Georgia’s infant mortality rate is 7 per 1,000 live births compared to the national rate of 5.6.
Programs like MOD are helping to improve these stats through research and milk donor efforts, but they can’t do it alone. Corporate programs need to do more for their employees. I was shocked to learn that the United States is the only industrialized, modernized country that does not have a paid family medical leave program in place. I knew we were lacking in this area, but I didn’t realize just how bad it is.
The pandemic has amplified the problem, increasing rates of preterm births and infant mortality. And they see that number increasing even more with the Roe v. Wade reversal. What’s interesting is that the numbers for white families isn’t really increasing, but they are for black families. In fact, in Georgia, the preterm birth rate among black women is 45% higher than the rate among all other women, according to MOD’s website.
What Atlanta companies are doing to help
Whitney Woodward from Aaron’s talked about how they approached helping working parents at the beginning of the pandemic. She said they were whiteboarding the “worst case scenario” and thought it would be about six weeks long.
As a result, the company initially started working from home (like many companies did) and had flexible schedules for childcare. But the worst of it hit in August 2020 when school started. That’s when working parents were spread extra thin being an employee, a parent and a teacher. But she said Aaron’s decided it was important to take care of their working parents because they couldn’t risk losing people. They also instituted community programs where they would go to their employees to help.
Delta and Deloitte provide their employees with backup daycare days. They partnered with companies like Care.com or Bright Horizons to give a certain number of days of childcare to employees if they were in a pinch. And having this type of program for pilots and flight attendants is crucial because of their unpredictable schedules and changes to that schedule. Deloitte also gives employees three months of paid time off every year to care for a sick relative or any other kind of family situation. With their parental leave, the employees get an additional three months.
Companies are also trying to expand benefits beyond the corporate office working parents, such as frontline workers. This involves benefit plans that serve the needs of different types of workers instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. They are trying to pivot because what was normal and acceptable a few years ago is no longer valid. And the panelists stressed constantly re-evaluating your benefits because things are constantly changing.
Some advice for company leaders? Be consistent and honest in your messaging about what is going on in your life. Everyone’s calendars are so overbooked – with 250% more meetings today than pre-pandemic – that we need to make time for life on our calendars too. Don’t feel bad about building in time for your kids, working out, dropping your kids off at practice, etc. As a leader, be a role model of how you communicate that to your team, and they will follow suit.
With ineffective meetings costing companies billions of dollars a year, is it really worth micromanaging to an 8 to 5 schedule? Be more creative and flexible with your employees about when and where they work. There really is no such thing as a “regular” workday anymore.
What it all boils down to
The speakers ended the event with a general recommendation. Continue to look at what’s going on in the world of work and how it’s affecting your working parents. It might be different for each person’s lifestyle and profession but continue to evaluate and expand. Your business will be better for it.
About the author
Sofia Krasny serves as a Sr. Account Executive, focusing her efforts on building digital, balanced teams within large enterprise environments. For the past eight years, she’s been serving the needs of Fortune 100 companies by carefully matching talented UX and digital product talent to full-time, contract or project positions. She’s a thought leader in the User Experience community and helps companies evaluate their teams as they are going through digital transformations. Sofia earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama. A north Atlanta native, Sofia enjoys spending time with her husband and being a mom to her daughter and two dogs.
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