Moms Who Mean Business: Part Two

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Why does Akron-Summa hospital offer its employees childcare near their work? Why is Ford Motor company setting up thirty childcare centers for their employees in 14 states?

Probably the same reason 8,000 other companies do: to retain good employees. Half of America's workers are women and the Labor Department says that 85% of them will have babies during their careers. A new census report says most mothers are going back to work within a year of giving birth, twice as many as 25 years ago. Many women eventually leave the 9-5 world after they have babies, sometimes because their companies do not help with childcare. Only 9% of big companies do, but now working mothers have a new ally...

Kirsten Ross is a mother of two toddlers who operates WomansWork.com. It's an on-line personnel agency designed for moms who are looking for ways to stay home with their kids, and work too.

Ross: I think what we have seen in the past, it was just an absolute given that a woman was going to stay home. And then, I think, the balance shifted, that women who stayed home are kind of looked down upon. You know, like "Gosh, there's all these opportunities. Why aren't you going out?" But I think that it's coming back to the center where women are looking for both--working some and still having good quality time at home.
Kirsten Ross puts jobs on her site as well as resumes of women who want alternative working arrangements so they can stay home with their kids. One of the employers that recently discovered WomensWork.com and is starting to use it as a recruitment tool is Digineer. It's a software company in Mason, Ohio. Lisa Cominski is the director of human resources...
Lisa: We found out about her several months ago. Someone was doing different research on places that we thought to be posting jobs on the web, letting people know about them. We said, "Hey, this is the perfect target market." We would like to focus and share information about technology opportunities with women in technology.

Viv: In a tight labor market, with only 7 candidates for every 10 high tech jobs, Digineer is willing to make special arrangements, like the ones they made to retain an especially talented software developer.

Lisa: She has got three small children. I believe the oldest is in kindergarten and she said, "Hey wait a minute, I've been working 3 days a week, I'd like to spend more time at home. I'd like to just back off and spend a year at home." We said, "That's great. We don't want to lose you. What will it take?" She's told me that she believes that the organization has been real flexible with her.

Viv: Digineer and other high-tech companies are in the vanguard when it comes to offering alternative working arrangements when it comes on Kirsten Ross' web site.

Ross: A lot of Internet companies are more progressive, fast-moving, wanna get the high-quality people in quickly. A lot of the older, larger traditional companies have a lot of flexible work arrangements, but in general, haven't used it as a recruitment tool, yet.

At Goodyear, for example, the focus isn't on finding mothers who want special job arrangements, but on keeping the ones already on staff. James McElroy is Goodyear's Diversity and Worklife Manager.
James: The program that we have right now and over the last few years are aimed at the working mother that has two kids and needs flexible work hours. For instance, benefit claim operators can do their work from home. We found that they are more productive at home. We have flexible work hours here. We call it flex time. One woman gets here at 7:30 am because she wants to be out of here by 3:30. She's involved in the high school activities of her daughter.
Women that are returning from maternity leave can even continue nursing. Medical Director Barbara Toeppen-Sprigg has purchased breast pumps and created a lactation room.
Barb: The mother is able to come in and use the medical facilities to use the pump and store her milk. And then, take that milk home at the end of the day.
When companies won't help, sometimes women help themselves and each other in balancing work and family. Writer Ann Perusek didn't get that kind of help from the company she was working for, so she quit and went home to her baby. Eventually, though, she found an employer that would let her write from home editing a monthly magazine.
Ann: My son was 16 months old and I got a call about a proposal I had sent out. It was a woman from the Kennedy Space Center and she introduced herself as the president of the Society of Women Engineers. It was so funny because at this point, I was cooking dinner. And while I was stirring vegetables in the wok, we actually negotiated a contract.
Working at home is a growing trend. The labor department now counts 21 million workers working that way. But it takes a progressive company to offer such jobs. The book company that Suzanne Hawkins consults for understands a mother's need to stay at home.
Suz: The company is based like that. Almost all the consultants that work for the company are either stay-at-the-home or home business operators. And that's the whole basis for the business. It follows the mission statement of the company.
Suzie Little has a mission, too. She's an environmentalist and a mother of four who has created a web-based business selling baby clothes and diapers made out of hemp. She runs it from her kitchen with babies underfoot.
Little: Our maternity and nursing clothing is all made by stay-at-home moms.

Viv: How do you coordinate all of this? With the Internet?

Little: Yes, a lot with the fax and the phone. Here I am promoting eco-wear and promoting hemp--but I'm also utilizing all of the technology that we have. I'm coordinating both of those to be able to stay at home with my kids.

New technology does seem to be the biggest help to home based working mothers. Take Erica Kuntz. She never went to college, but she saved every penny she made from her fast-food job to buy her first apple computer. And now, she operates her home-based business as a web host for other home-based working mothers.
Erica: It's really wonderful to run it from home. I can run the servers remotely--they aren't in-house here, but if something is happening with them, not only can I see if there's a problem, but I go right in from my computer and take care of it. I knew I needed to be working to be happy, but I never fit the mold of the 9-5 worker. Before I had children, I knew that, but after I had children, it was a struggle. Everyone talks about striking a balance between your work life, your family life--and working at home, it's not really about balance. Because really, your work life and family are one in the same.
Erica Kuntz, mother of Nora, 11, Celia, 5, and Oscar, 2 and owner of behosting.com. And I'm Vivian Goodman, WKSU news.
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