How do we build a gender-balanced world? That’s what we’re asked to pause and think about on March 8, International Women’s Day. Earlier this week a colleague circulated the new list of the 100 best companies for working mothers compiled by Working Mother’s Magazine. It’s more than a list – it’s a chart itemizing what each of the companies provides in terms of paid leave, fertility benefits, flexible work arrangements, and other mom-friendly benefits. That got us wondering -- in terms of benefits to support women and mothers, how do these top companies compare to most companies? Are they just ahead of the curve, or curve-breakers? We went to our own employer surveys to find out.
In the case of fertility benefits, the differences are pretty stark. Where 75% of the top companies cover IVF, just 28% of all employers with 500 or more employees do, according to our nationally representative survey of employer health plans. For egg freezing, the difference is 38% and 7%. Of course, women’s health is about more than fertility. Our survey asked very large employers – those with 5,000 or more employees, many of which have operations around the world – about benefits and policies aimed at supporting women’s health in general. A fourth say they have set minimum global benefit standards for gender-specific preventive/health care benefits.
How about paid leave? Among the 100 top companies, the average number of weeks of paid maternity leave was 11, and all the companies offered at least a week of paid maternity leave. How does that compare to the 423 employers in Mercer’s Absence and Disability Management Survey? Only 40% offer any paid maternity leave, and among these companies, the average number of weeks provided is 9, starting after the disability benefit ends. Paternity leave? 99 out of 100 top companies provided paid paternity leave, on average 5 weeks. Among our surveyed employers, 41% provided paid leave for the non-birth parent, on average, 7 weeks starting at the day of birth (more than the top companies, but remember that it doesn’t include all the zeros). While the top companies are again way out in front in providing paid leave, the encouraging news is that paid parental leave is trending rapidly upward: In our 2015 survey, only about a fourth of respondents offered it.
The business case for supporting working mothers is to keep women in the workforce. The Working Mother’s list provided stats on female representation at different levels of the firm, and it was discouraging to see that even in these “out-in-front” companies, fewer than a third of the executives are women. But my colleague who forwarded the list pointed out that a list of best companies for working dads will be coming out soon. She added “yay!” – because what it may really take to keep moms in the workforce and moving up the ladder is equal numbers of dads taking time off to help raise families. So read the list, get inspired, and think about what more your organization can do to build a gender-balanced workplace.