It’s 1 p.m., you’ve eaten lunch at your desk; you’ve plowed through your task list; you’re running to your next meeting, folders in hand; and that’s when you get the call. It’s the daycare center. Your toddler is sick. A fever.
You must drop everything, even the folders, and pick up the keys.
If this sounds familiar, chances are you’re a working parent. You also probably know that the story doesn’t end there. After your child falls asleep at home, you hop back on the laptop to get to the work you couldn’t get to in the office and to e-mail your boss that you won’t be in the office the next day; you’re not allowed to bring your toddler back to daycare until she’s been fever-free for 24 hours. One small fever has impacted two whole working days.
For even the most adept multi-tasker, managing the responsibilities of raising a family while building a career is a juggling act. The demands of the workplace are only compounded for many by the stress of securing childcare arrangements, ensuring meals for the family, or simply having the energy to create a nurturing, loving environment.
However, for most, even the most grueling of parental duties is well worth the effort in the end. The ultimate pay-off is raising grounded and happy children who eventually become grounded and happy adults and contribute to society in their own unique way.
For 25 years, Working Mother magazine has recognized companies that support working mothers by providing family-friendly benefits and programs through its “Best Companies” initiative. This year, Yale has been included on the list of 100 Best Companies for the first time in the University’s history.
Throughout the years, Yale has developed a myriad benefits and programs to help working parents manage their personal and professional responsibilities. These, in addition to the University’s unique offerings that are accessible to families and its support for continual learning and professional development, contributed to Yale’s inclusion on this nationally ranked list.
Women now outnumber men in the workplace for the first time in U.S. history. Working Mother magazine annually recognizes organizations such as Yale, which have been instrumental in supporting the advancement of women. Women play a vital role in the life of the University. Women comprise 45% of senior management and 57% of all Yale managers. At the highest level, four of the nine officers are women. Last year, 157 women were promoted into management positions.
“I am delighted that Yale is receiving this national recognition as a great place to work for women and working mothers,” said President Richard Levin. “We believe that having a flexible and family-friendly work environment is important as it helps us to attract and retain top talent at every level of the University. External recognition like that from Working Mother Magazine is one measure of the success of our efforts.”
According to Jennifer Owens, Senior Director, Editorial Research & Initiatives at Working Mother, “Yale sets the bar for initiatives supporting employee families, which include giving parents five onsite childcare centers and up to 40 hours of subsidized backup childcare annually.”
Finding Wellness and Balance
Working mothers, new to either their job at Yale or their job as a mother, have at least one steadfast champion on campus. For thirteen years, Susan Abramson, manager for WorkLife and Childcare Programs, has been watching out not only for working parents, but for all staff and faculty in need of information or advice to ease the balancing act of personal and professional demands. She is versed in all the area daycare options, manages the free online Yale Babysitting service, and hosts many free sessions designed to help staff and faculty find balance, including a popular lunchtime yoga session. Abramson often assists working parents who are new to Yale, even before their first day at work.
“It’s amazing to me how many resources are available for working parents,” says Abramson. “Many parents, especially those coming from other organizations, will often tell me they how pleased they are with what’s available at Yale. My peers from other universities have frequently commented on how extensive Yale’s offerings are. I’ve seen Yale’s support for working families significantly grow since I started working with childcare in 1996. At that time, we didn’t have any back-up childcare resources, dedicated lactation rooms, or online childcare directory. With the spotlight on our programs right now, I only hope that more parents here take advantage of what’s available and continue to let us know what other resources they would find helpful.”
For years, staff and faculty at Yale have had access to a number of longstanding benefits and programs designed to encourage work-life balance and family wellness (click here for more details).
Many families take advantage of Yale HEALTH (formerly YHP), which operates a comprehensive, on-site health center, staffed by healthcare professionals, many of whom are part of Yale Medical Group or have joint appointments at Yale School of Nursing. The Yale HEALTH Center also has close affiliations with Yale-New Haven Hospital and other area health care centers and medical experts. On-site facilities include a 24-hour urgent care clinic, laboratory/radiation services and a pharmacy (with prescription discounts). There are extended hours — such as early-morning pediatric consultations for parents who must make plans for sick children — and an online service for scheduling appointments and communicating confidentially with care providers. Employees also have the option of choosing Aetna healthcare.
Another unique Yale benefit, the Homebuyers Program, has provided nearly 1,000 faculty and staff with up to $30,000 in grants towards home purchases in New Haven since 1994; over half were women. This includes $5,000 the first year and $2,000 to 2,500 annually for up to 10 years, as well as a mortgage program at area banks.
The Scholarship for Sons and Daughters has provided 1,000 eligible faculty and staff with up to $15,200 annually ($7,600 per semester/per child) for children who matriculate at any accredited undergraduate college for a degree.
“I’ve worked at Yale for 35 years,” states Licensing Manager Denise Castellano, ”My son grew up with asthma, so having good healthcare at no additional cost was a blessing. He’s in college now, and the financial burden is a bit easier with the Scholarship for Sons and Daughters. I relocated using the Homebuyers Program. As a working mother, all of these resources provided by Yale proved to be extremely helpful.”
Additional resources designed to assist working parents include: the Yale Babysitting Service; campus lactation rooms; and WorkLife sessions. Other available programs that aid work-life balance are: flexible spending accounts; tuition reimbursement; summer camps for children; memberships to the Payne Whitney Gym and recreational facilities; and free counseling services for employees and family members seeking confidential consultation on stress management issues.
Senior administrative assistant Regina Jones notes, “Life is very hectic when you work all day and then go home and work full time. One thing that has really helped us lately is signing my son up for swimming lessons at the Payne Whitney Gym on Saturdays. It’s nice family time.”
Cultivating the Flexible Work Environment
As Yale continues to evolve as a workplace, more attention will be paid towards workplace flexibility and developing more family-friendly options.
“Yale has a distinctive workplace culture with highly committed faculty and staff,” said Mike Peel, Vice President for Human Resources and Administration. “This prestigious endorsement by Working Mother Magazine reminds us not only of how much workplace progress we have made in recent years, but also the need to provide even more innovative tools and solutions to the work/family challenges our people face in their day-to-day work lives.”
The magazine asked each company to submit the name of a representative working mother as part of the magazine’s 25th anniversary promotion. Yale chose Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center, for her ability to help cultivate a family-friendly environment at Yale. Schwartz’s work and advocacy on issues of childhood obesity prevention and her ability to balance her own family obligations are additional reasons for why Yale presented her (read Part One and Part Two of the interview with Schwartz).
Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center, has been Schwartz’s supervisor throughout her career and watched her mature into her role as manager, mother and nationally recognized figure in her field. “It is important to offer a flexible working environment so that professional and family lives can coexist and ideally enrich each other,” states Brownell. “Marlene manages this balance beautifully and is superb at her work while at the same time being devoted to her family.”
The full profiles of the 100 Best Companies are available online at www.workingmother.com and in the October issue.