Every day, we’re working to improve maternity care for women and employers. We all know that making maternity care better has the power to not only reduce costs across the board by improving health outcomes, but also to drive retention of female talent. Without both pieces of this equation, there is no way to have a successful outcome. That’s why we decided to host our inaugural benefits roundtable dinner at haley.henry, a woman owned wine bar in downtown Boston. There was delicious wine, abundant cheese, and some of the best meatballs we’ve ever tasted. But most importantly – there was an open, lively discussion about the state of maternity care and what we all—employers, health plans, consultants, and benefits solutions—can (and should) be doing to make it better.
The conversation was guided by industry experts from Willis Towers Watson, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Suffolk Construction, and Babson College. Our attendees—representing companies ranging from HubSpot to State Street—were engaged, excited, and eager to tackle such an important topic.
But how do you get started? Our discussion boiled down to three crucial areas employers need to focus on to improve the workplace for women and families.
Normalize the maternity experience.
Even before a woman is thinking about starting a family, she’s thinking about how her future-self can be successful as a working mom. That definition is different for every woman, but for many, it involves maintaining their identity as a productive, respected professional while also growing into their identity of new mom. This starts with normalizing maternity in the workplace by:
- Training managers on how to address pregnancy in a way that is supportive and encouraging
- Removing the stigma around nursing at the office by pre-booking nursing rooms—fully equipped with sinks, refrigerators, and electrical outlets—for mothers returning to work
- Offering breastmilk shipping options when travel for work is required
- Being flexible when pregnant employees have doctor’s appointments and need to spend more time out of the office
Provide access to resources for employees and managers.
Employers want their employees to be happy and healthy, but they often don’t know where to start. Our conversation uncovered that both benefits managers and employees crave better resources to help them support women in the workplace. Luckily, there are great resources out there employers can utilize for themselves, as well as provide to their employees:
- Benefits solutions dedicated to supporting working parents with return-to-work programs
- Manager training on creating effective return-to work programs and supporting women through all phases of their journey to parenthood
- Reverse mentoring programs in which working mothers guide top executives on creating a workplace environment that supports women and families
- Meet employees where they are with mobile benefits integrations that ensure benefits are consumed more often and used more frequently
Create a culture that supports the entire family.
According to Willis Towers Watson, 96% of employers want to improve the employee experience in 2018. Leading employers are constantly seeking innovative solutions to show their employees they are valued (both as an employee, and as a human with a life and family outside of work) and create a supportive culture. So, what are companies doing?
- Allowing parents to bring their baby to work—this allows parents to stay close to their new baby without sacrificing work productivity
- Offering paid leave for every employee starting a family (not just the childbearing partner)
- Implementing flexible policies that allow for leave to be taken in segments instead of all at once
- Creating returnship programs to cover work when employees are on leave and help re-integrate parents returning to the workforce after time at home
- Offering childcare stipends, knowing families with two working parents are on the rise
- Providing manager training on how to support their team during transition periods so work continues to get done and there is no resentment
Interested in learning more about supporting women and families in the workplace? Download our Motherhood in America report, a survey asking nearly 2,000 women what they value on their journey into motherhood. This report outlines high-impact strategies that employers can adopt now to better support female talent in the workplace.