Monday, March 05, 2007


Corporate Benefits For Working Mothers Are Oversold

The American Prospect has done a little muckraking on the lists put out by Working Mother and other women's publications that praise corporations for their "family friendly" policies. Many of these purportedly humane and ground-breaking organizations merely provide benefits that are already mandated by law - "Most of the firms that receive the honors are large employers, who are already required by the Family and Medical Leave Act to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child or to care for any immediate family member." The value of these benefits are really not so wonderful to begin with. For instance, as the article says, "Benefits such as paid family leave or free or reduced-cost child care are much rarer." Finally, many perqs such as flex-time and job-sharing are made available only to managers, and not to lower-level employees. When Sprint made such a list in 1992, its operators were amazed at all the benefits "working mothers" were supposedly getting at the company, but to which they themselves had no access.

Another issue which these lists do not take into account is that, even when benefits for working mothers are available, taking advantage of them may be tacitly discouraged and may result in stalled careers. As the article says, "the Working Mother list now measures what percentage of employees have access to these policies. But it can be difficult to determine whether working parents are actually encouraged to take advantage of them. In many cases, corporate culture dictates that taking too many personal days, or constantly rejiggering a flex schedule, can mean getting passed over for a promotion." According to one expert, family friendly policies are often window dressing. They are bally-hooed in corporate handbooks and recruitment propaganda, but are rarely practiced as advertised.

Claims of expanding opportunities for minority women and for female executives are similarly exaggerated by corporations, and these exaggerations are uncritically passed on to the pages of women's magazines. The magazines themselves are forced to apply loose standards to include any corporations in such lists at all. "The list-makers cherry-pick the data," says author Martha Burk. "If they had a stringent external standard, they'd never be able to give any awards."

For more details, please visit the link below.

"Grade Inflation" from The American Prospect

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