Originally created 09/06/00

Best companies for working moms



NEW YORK - Fannie Mae offers paid time off for volunteer work. The Benjamin Group/BSMG pays its employees to surf.

The companies are among the best at helping working moms balance their careers with the rest of their lives, according to Working Mother magazine, which issued Tuesday its 15th annual list of top employers.

"It's not enough anymore for a company to have a child care center at their home office to make the list, in the same way they can't allow flextime for just a handful of workers. Employers must be trying to integrate those practices up and down their organizational ladder," said Lisa R. Benenson, editor in chief of the magazine.

The list - considered a badge of honor in corporate America - will appear in the magazine's October issue and is available on the magazine's Web site.

Of the 100 companies listed, Working Mother names 10 companies as exceptionally progressive: Allstate Insurance Co., Bank of America Corp., Eli Lilly and Co., Fannie Mae, IBM Corp., Lincoln Financial Group, Life Technologies Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., Novant Health Inc. and Prudential Financial Services.

IBM has been among the top 10 for 13 years - longer than any other company - and in the top 100 all 15 years.

"We have created a workplace that enables (women) to have multiple goals," said Ted Childs, vice president of global work force diversity.

In the past 4´ years, the number of female executives who work at IBM worldwide nearly has tripled, from 185 to 540. In July, IBM announced a $50 million global fund to develop and support work-life programs in communities where employees live.

Novant Health Inc., based in Winston-Salem, N.C., is one of 21 companies on the list for the first time. The health care consortium offers nurses a nine-month work schedule. It also offers voluntary benefits such as pet health insurance and roadside assistance plans.

This year, Working Mother gave a special award in the small-business category, honoring Sheri Benjamin, chief executive officer of the Benjamin Group/BSMG Worldwide, a public relations company. The company helps pay gym membership fees and offers a Keep Fit program, in which employees who'd rather surf or walk instead of joining a gym earn an hourly rate.

Ms. Benjamin says the size of a company shouldn't hinder benefits. "We never thought we couldn't do it. We've always put in place very innovative benefits for our employees and never used our small-business status as an excuse," she said.

Donna Lenhoff, general counsel of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said surveys such as Working Mother's are helpful, but that there still needs to be more emphasis on workplace issues and on salary and benefits.

Working Mother's Ms. Benenson agrees. "Companies in general are doing better. It doesn't mean that there isn't a long road to go for the majority of workers."

"It's not enough anymore for a company to have a child care center at their home office to make the list, in the same way they can't allow flextime for just a handful of workers. Employers must be trying to integrate those practices up and down their organizational ladder."- Lisa R. Benenson, editor in chief of Working Mother magazine