The Status of Women in Business

Louisiana is the worst state in the country for women — at least according to a recent report by the financial website Wallet Hub.

In the report, Louisiana received poor marks in a lot of areas, including dead last in “Economic and Social Wellbeing” and 47th in “Health and Safety.” We are 49th for “Highest Percentage of Women in Poverty,”41st for “High School Dropout Rates for Women,” 38th for “Share of Women-Owned Businesses,” 48th for “Friendliness Toward Working Moms” and 46th for “Friendliness Toward Women’s Equality.”

Is this really true? And if it is, is anything being done about it?

The following is a look into three critical areas where Louisiana tends to rank at the bottom when it comes to women in business — equal pay, percentage of women-owned businesses and friendliness toward working mothers. All are big, complicated topics, and one has even become controversial, but it’s only by understanding a problem that solutions can be found.

In a state (and nation) where women make up half the population and workforce, we can’t afford to continue to lag behind.

The good news? As you’ll see, some companies are already leading the way forward.


PART ONE

Equal Pay

Where does Louisiana rank in the U.S. for equal pay for women?

Consistently at the bottom of all studies on the subject, including:

45th of 51 states

(Washington D.C. included) according to Wallet Hub’s “2017 Best & Worst States for Women’s Equality”

Dead last – (51 of 51 states)

[Institute for Women’s Policy Research –March 2018 report “Status of Women in the States”]

What is the problem?

Women make up half the labor force in Louisiana (1,057,323 of 2,209,139 in 2016) but they are commonly paid less than their male counterparts for the same work.

What is the actual pay gap?

It depends on the data that is used, so it varies.

In general, the consensus seems to be that women earn around between 60 and 69 cents to every dollar a man earns in Louisiana (nationally, it’s 80 cents on the dollar).

Lowest end – Black women make 48 cents on the dollar (nationally, that number is 63 cents on the dollar). Latina women fare only slightly better at 51 cents on the dollar.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women should expect to realize equal pay in the U.S. around the year 2058. In Louisiana, that time period increases substantially to 2115.

In the meantime, full-time working women in Louisiana continue to take a $11 billion hit each year, according to a 2016 report by the National Partnership for Women and Families.

How does this hurt Louisiana?

It makes our state (and families) poorer. As a result of unequal pay, the average Louisiana family loses about $17,000 a year. If women in Louisiana were paid the same as comparable men, the state’s poverty rate would drop by more than half. The average woman would see an annual boost equal to:
•    nearly three years’ worth of food for her family, or
•    14 months of mortgage and utility payments, or
•    21 months of rent.

Women are the primary breadwinners in 16 percent of state households (248,000 households), and 38 percent of those households are below the poverty level.

Source: April 2016 report by the National Partnership for Women and Families

Recruitment and retainment of top talent statewide. If Louisiana is widely recognized as paying women unfairly, will women want to come to and remain in Louisiana?

What are Louisiana’s laws regarding equal pay?

Federal Law

In 2014, the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 was codified into Louisiana state law.

This law makes it illegal to pay women less than men in companies of 15 or more employees. There are exceptions, however.

Exceptions Include: Anyone employed in an executive, administrative or professional capacity (including anyone employed in the capacity of academic administrative personnel or teacher in elementary or secondary schools), or in the capacity of outside salesman.

Pay Transparency: Employees are protected when talking about pay, but this does not apply to supervisors or management.

State Law

Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law: Prohibits employers with 20 or more employees from intentionally discriminating in the compensation of any person on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy (including childbirth and related medical conditions), sickle- cell trait or protected genetic information (LA Rev. Stat. Sec. 23:301 et seq.).

Louisiana Equal Pay for Women Act – effective August 1, 2013

Who is protected: Women who work for state or local government at least 40 hours a week.

A supplement to the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, the act bars state and local government from paying women less than men for “the same or substantially similar work on jobs in which the employee’s performance requires equal skill, effort, education and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions including time worked in the position.”

Pay Transparency: Applies only to state and local government employees working at least 40 hours a week.

The Louisiana Equal Pay for Women Act also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for inquiring about, disclosing, or discussing wages, or for exercising their rights under the act. Retaliation is also barred against individuals who file charges, provide information in an inquiry, or testify regarding violations of the new law.

Violating employers may be held liable for damages in the amount of unpaid wages, liquidated damages in the amount of half the unpaid wages and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

Do wage transparency and equal pay protections (currently available only to public employees) make a difference?

Maybe.

According to the 2014 Louisiana census, women in private for-profit jobs were paid, on average, 74 cents on the dollar in state government jobs, and 80 cents on the dollar in federal government jobs.

How much of the problem is that women tend to be employed in traditionally lower paying fields?
According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, the highest number of men and women are employed in the occupational group of :

244,876 men
280,559 women

Management, business, science and arts

Within that category, the breakdown in management skews heavily male:

60.6 percent male
39.4 percent female

Management occupations

64.5 percent

The pay gap at this level for women

Do we have less women in STEM fields than other states?

27.7 percent

Women in STEM fields in Louisiana –

28.8 percent

Nationally

What’s being done?

Everyone agrees there’s a problem, but not on how to fix it. Legislation has recently focused on the efforts including raising the minimum wage and extending equal pay and wage transparency protections to the private sector and government contractors.

Raise minimum wage: Louisiana minimum wage stands at the national rate of $7.25 an hour. A bill proposed by State Sen. Troy Carter would have raised it to $8 an hour in 2019 and $8.50 an hour in 2020 for businesses with 25 employees or more. On March 29, the state senate voted 21-17 against the bill. Louisiana is one of only five states that have not raised its minimum wage above federal levels. This is the third consecutive year that efforts to raise the minimum wage in the state have failed.

Approximately 60 percent of minimum wage earners fall within the “accommodation and food services” or “retail trade” categories of business. They make up 22 percent of Louisiana’s total workforce.

Louisiana is tied with Arkansas for 49th place in the percent of workers paid at or below the minimum wage.


Most Popular Occupations by Gender

Women employed in LA Median Earnings  
  Women Men
Sales and office occupations: 209,284 $29,991 $45,407
Office and admin support: 146,091 $30,723 $39,699
Service occupations: 122,681 $20,388 $30,788
Men employed in LA Median Earnings  
  Men Women
Natural Resources, construction and maintenance: 181,419 $43,076 $31,931
Production and transport and material moving: 166,429 $45,997 $24,317
Sales and office occupations: 116,623 $45,407 $29,99
Source: Louisiana Workforce Commission

How do women rank among the state’s highest paid jobs?

Highest Paid jobs, by average salary (2015)

1. Physicians

(28.7 percent female in Louisiana as of 2014)

Louisiana ranks 11th in the nation for largest gender wage gap among physicians at 40 percent (or $105,000 a year in Louisiana). The national average is 26.5 percent.

Source: April report by Statnews.com. (findings controlled for hours worked).

2. Dentists

No data could be found for Louisiana, but nationally 22 percent of dentists were female in 2004 and that number is estimated to rise to between 28 and 30 percent by 2020, according to a JADA April 2017 study. Dentistry has a 28.1 percent pay gap nationally.

3. Architectural & Engineering Managers

4. Nurse Anesthetists

5. Materials Engineers

No state-specific data could be found for these particular fields, however nationally, female managers in architectural and engineering jobs out-earn men, but make up only 8.5 percent of the population.

The gap in pay for women in engineering is currently only overcome in 2 of 20 occupations in the field. The highest gap is 81.1 cents on-the-dollar for operations research analysts. A majority of gaps are in the 80 to 90 cents on the dollar range.


Nicole Patel, Lucid’s senior vice president of people

Who's Doing It Right: Best Practice Example

LUCID

Founded as Federated Sample in 2010, entrepreneur Patrick Comer changed the name of his company to Lucid in 2015. The data technology company based in New Orleans has since opened offices in London and India in 2016 and New York in 2017. The company employs approximately 250 people, 150 of those in New Orleans, where Lucid is headquartered. The tech company connects buyers and sellers of data/market research.

In September of 2016, Lucid created a forum to look at data regarding diversity within the company and its industry. They found that looking at the entry level to manager levels, the company was approximately 50 percent women. At the senior levels, however, the numbers fell.

In 2017, Lucid created a “Diversity and Inclusion” strategy where they monitor themselves on a quarterly basis to make sure women are being represented equally in hiring, promotion and pay.

“We attend more women in engineering events and look nationally for talent,” says Nicole Patel, Lucid’s senior vice president of people.

“We’re not setting any quotas, but we are definitely casting a wider net. We also have training programs to help women get to that next level. At our last annual review, we found that 60 percent of promotions were women and 50 percent to senior management and above.”

In an effort to retain women after they start a family, the company offers three months of paid leave to all primary caregivers and four weeks to secondary caregivers, regardless of gender. Lucid also hosts a working parents group that gathers once a month to discuss issues and provide support.

“It’s going to take us eight to 12 weeks to fill a position anyway, so it’s better for us to have people come back, and want to come back,” Patel says, adding that all of Lucid’s efforts stem from its company culture.

“It was important from our company’s beginnings that Lucid would be a leader in the community,” says Patel. “We want to represent the next level of places to work in New Orleans. We are definitely fast-paced and we play to win, but we also believe in being fearless, open, progressive and inclusive. If we do right by our employees, we’ve found that translates into a huge ROI.”


Are Current Laws Enough?

It depends on who you ask.

Michelle Anderson, partner with Fisher Phillips, specializes in employment law, representing businesses. She sides with LABI (a vocal critic of additional legislation) in feeling that current legislation covers all the bases.

“Every woman is protected against gender-based discrimination, even if they are public sector or upper management, because of more general state and federal laws regarding gender discrimination,” she says. “The fact is that most employers are not out to treat employees badly. They recognize that happy employees are productive employees,” adding, “Currently only 1 percent of total EEOC charges filed each year are related to equal pay.”

Anderson says the true problem lies with another issue. “We have systemic problems in that pink collar jobs are valued less in our society than blue and white collar jobs. And then there are women who take time out to raise children and get outpaced.”

On the other side are those that say more laws are necessary to fill in the gaps.

“Our equal pay law is a joke,” says State Sen. J.P. Morrell, who says our current protections are riddled with loopholes and that a central argument — that additional laws would likely mean subjecting employers to unnecessary risks of litigation — is unfounded.

“After previous equal pay legislation went through we didn’t see any rise. With any complaint, employers have to be given a chance to make things right,” he says. “Only if they don’t would litigation proceed. If most employers are doing the right thing, why would there be a rise in litigation?”


PART TWO

Lack of Women-Owned Businesses

Where does Louisiana rank in percentage of businesses that are women-owned?

38th — according to Wallet Hub in its “2018 Worst State for Women” report.

31st — according to a 2017 study by Zippia.


What is the problem?

The number of women-owned businesses is on the rise nationally, but Louisiana’s numbers could definitely be better. Only 4.99 percent of businesses in the state are women-owned, according to a 2017 report by Zippia using data from the most recent Survey of Business

Owners and the American Community Survey. The No. 1 spot went to Montana, with 9.87 percent of businesses women-owned.

The most commonly cited reasons for the lack of women business owners comes down to two issues: a lack of support and a lack of funding.

Funding

According to the latest quarterly report of The State of Online Small Business Lending by small business financing company Fundera, on average women ask for $35,000 less than men. Also…

•     Women receive 80 percent of the capital men do when searching for funding.
•     Women are 5 percentage points less likely to receive a loan than male entrepreneurs are.
•     Men are three times more likely to receive venture capital funding.

What’s being done?

Tailored Support and Guidance: While there are numerous organizations that assist entrepreneurs in Southeast Louisiana, Propeller is among those recognized most often for its work specifically with women and minority entrepreneurs.

“I think having an organization that is led by women is something that can draw in women,” says Andrea Chen, executive director of Propeller. “Our board chair is a woman, and both our board and staff are majority women.”

Chen says this has led to the fact that the organization’s programming and curriculum tend to be geared toward women.

“A lot of time we have things where women can bring their kids and we structure our curriculum and the vocabulary we use to be very approachable. Our culture is the opposite of what you’d consider ‘bro’ culture.”

Propeller currently sees an almost equal mix of male and female entrepreneurs.

The organization’s alumni and current ventures are

48% male
52% female

Male-owned companies created

262 jobs

generating

$8.7 million in wages

Female-owned companies created

174 jobs

generating

$5.6 million in wages

Total revenue and financing generated

Male graduates

$33.2 million

Female graduates

$48.8 million

More Good News!

This past March, Propeller announced that JPMorgan Chase had expanded their Small Business Forward initiative with a multi-year commitment of $150 million to support women-, minority- and veteran-owned small businesses with greater access to capital, technical support and guidance. The group of 12 entrepreneur support organizations that comprise the national initiative include two New Orleans-based groups; Propeller and New Orleans BioInnovation Center.

When Women Reach the Top, Companies Fare Better

ThirtyNorth Investments Allows Investors to Put Their Money Where Their Values Are

In 2015, Suzanne Mestayer, managing principal of Thirty North Investments, a 20-year-old investment firm with offices in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, says she came across some articles that suggested that companies that had more women in top leadership and board positions tended to perform better. The articles inspired Mestayer and Blair duQuesnay, principal and chief investment officer, to do their own research in which they evaluated companies in the S&P 500 Index in 2006 and tracked their performance for 10 years.

They too found that companies with more women (specifically on their boards) tended to perform better.

With that information, in April of 2016, ThirtyNorth launched The Women Impact Strategy Separately Managed Account, a portfolio of 50 companies around the world that they have found to be leaders in gender representation within boards and executive teams.

The new offering, Mestayer says, is perfect for what she says is a growing number of investors interested in progressive, socially responsible companies, but also those just looking to make a good investment.

“We’re demonstrating that financial performance doesn’t have to take a back seat to investing for social impact,” she says, adding that interest in the strategy has been, “genuine and definitely grown.”

Nationally, Mestayer says ThirtyNorth is on a short list of industry firms that have created this kind of investment opportunity. “We’re on the early end of things for sure,” she adds. “There’s nothing else like this in the South.”

More Women are Turning to Franchising

Between 2011 and 2016, franchise ownership increased by 71 percent nationally in women while male ownership rose just 26 percent, according to franchise consulting company, FranNet.

Liz Lewis, owner of FranNet of Louisiana, says the rise is not surprising, as she says franchising provides a clearer path to business ownership that includes a lot of support.

“When you buy a franchise,” she says, “you’re in business for yourself, but not by yourself. Most people who end up buying a franchise have no experience in that particular industry, so there is plenty of training and ongoing support, both from the franchisor, who has a vested interest in seeing the franchisee succeed, and from other franchisees.”

Lewis became a business owner herself by purchasing FranNet of Louisiana a year ago. She says that within that time her clients have been split about evenly between male and female.

“I see women in all stages of life,” she says, “from new moms to empty nesters and women who just want to do something different.”
Lewis says one common theme she’s noticed is that women tend to look for companies that give back to the community in some way.

“The good news is there are a ton of concepts like that,” she says. “I see a tremendous opportunity for women in business.”


LOCAL SUCCESS STORY

Delta Personnel

As Delta Personnel celebrates its 50th anniversary, president/owner Teresa Lawrence emphasizes that the staffing company’s approach has always been “people first.”

Lawrence’s father-in-law founded the company in 1968, and Lawrence took the reins when he passed away 20 years later. Last year, Delta Personnel filed more than 800 W-2 forms and has a daily average of 238 to 258 employees at work. Delta serves clients across sectors but, since Katrina, has focused more heavily on industrial clients.

Working within a male-dominated industry has given Lawrence plenty of opportunity to reflect on her responsibility as a woman business leader. “I think we are a part of something much bigger than just ourselves,” says Lawrence. “The heavy lifting comes when you bring another woman to the table and you say, ‘Not only did I bring you to the table, but you have to stay at the table. You belong here.’”

Lawrence tries to help new woman business owners understand the resources at their disposal, such as government certifications for women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

“There are so many things you can use to grow your business. You’re not alone,” she emphasizes.

She also points out one roadblock many women face in building a business: accessing capital. “One of the things I’ve encountered in going out for funds is that most of the people at the bank are not your gender,” says Lawrence. “When you walk into a loaning facility, you have more of a challenge because you’re not part of the tribe.”

Lawrence’s advice? “Try to find a woman banker because I think people give money to people who look, sound and act like them.”
She also believes that women can be their own worst enemies when it comes to achieving professional success. “A lot of women play this mind game with themselves: ‘Should I say this or not say this?’ Just jump out of your own head games and go for it.”


Dr. Lana Joseph, owner of High Level Speech and Hearing Center
LOCAL SUCCESS STORY

High Level Hearing

Marrero native Dr. Lana Joseph is the owner of High Level Speech and Hearing Center.

Joseph opened in Harahan in 2016 and, after expanding her offerings from just adults to pediatric patients, opened a second location in Uptown New Orleans this past January.

In just over two years, the company has amassed over 18,000 patients and is ranked among the top eight speech pathologists in New Orleans in 2018 on Expertise.com.

“In the first year we took in $300,000,” she says. “That increased to $1.5 million in 2017, and right now we’re on track to hit $2.3 million this year.”

Joseph found her love of audiology after suffering through years of teasing due to a speech disorder that went untreated until she was in the seventh grade. Growing up poor in a family led by a single mother, she says she always knew she wanted to be a business owner.

She credits her success to a mixture of pure determination and the luck of finding two incredible mentors, beginning with Desiree Young, founder and CEO of VentureWalk Business Partners.

“I met her and saw how incredible she was, so I just started following her around while I was getting my master’s in healthcare management,” she laughs. “She taught me everything about pitching, branding, marketing, communication.”

While attending Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, she worked on her business plan, which helped her win money from a few business pitch competitions — one from her university and one from the American Academy of Audiology.

During her studies she met her second mentor, Dr. Joy Pritchett, president and CEO of Atlanta Hearing Associates, who eventually became her employer.

“I learned so much from her, including amazing financial advice,” she says. “I still send her a gift basket whenever I reach a milestone in my business.”

When it came to financing her dreams, however, Joseph struggled for a while. “I got approved through Wells Fargo, but they wanted a really high interest rate. Then I found out about JEDCO and through them, I secured a $65,000 loan and paired that with $23,000 I had saved.”

Joseph says she thinks the biggest barriers for minority entrepreneurs are resources and exposure to successful business owners.

“Minorities tend to be afraid to talk about money,” she says.

Having conquered her fears, Joseph is focused on the future, which includes more expansion.

“There’s a huge need for services in Baton Rouge,” she says. “So who knows, maybe next year.”


PART THREE

Friendliness Toward Working Mothers

Where does Louisiana rank?

In ranking Louisiana its 2018 Worst State for Women, Wallet Hub ranked the state 48th in friendliness toward working moms.


What is the problem?

Nationally, 70 percent of mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force, with over 75 percent employed full-time.

A good portion of the educated female workforce, however, do not return to work after starting a family, including:
•    30 percent of women with bachelor’s degrees (the most likely to “opt out”)
•    19 percent of women with a master’s degree or higher

Source: “The Opt-Out Continuation: Education, Work, and Motherhood from 1984 to 2012

For some, the decision to quit work is a choice. For others, additional issues compound to make having a career and a family more challenging, including:

Parental Leave is Not Guaranteed. Advocates for paid parental leave scored a win in February, when Lowe’s, the last of the country’s 20 largest employers not to offer paid parental leave, announced that it would begin offering the benefit to all salaried and full-time hourly employees (10 weeks for birth mothers and two weeks for fathers and adoptive, foster and same-sex parents).

While that move is encouraging for parents, most of the nation’s workers remain uncovered. According to the Society of Human Resource Management’s 2017 Employee Benefits Survey, only 30 percent of U.S. employers surveyed offer paid maternity leave. That’s up from 26 percent in 2016, however, an uptick that likely reflects a competitive job market and a growing body of research demonstrating that women are more likely to return to work post-baby if they are given paid maternity leave.

Because the U.S. has no federal paid family leave policy (we’re the only industrialized country without one), the decision to offer paid family leave rests with employers. Some workers are protected by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which guarantees employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child (among other qualifying reasons), but many are not. And many who are covered can’t afford to go 12 weeks without pay.  

Big companies like Lowe’s have more options (and deeper pockets) to cover for workers who are out on parental leave, while smaller businesses fear a more direct hit to their productivity. These concerns translate directly into less willingness to offer the benefit: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 13 percent of America’s private sector workers have access to paid family leave.

The national conversation around paid parental leave has grown louder, as President Trump mentioned the need for such policy in his State of the Union address. But until legislative action is taken, parents, and women in particular, will have to rely on the generosity of employers to make paid leave available.

A Lack of Affordable, High-Quality Child care. One of the biggest challenges for working mothers is finding affordable, high-quality child care. And the issue isn’t just hurting women personally: it’s cutting into Louisiana’s economic productivity.

A May 2017 study conducted by the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children and LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab showed just how big the problem is. The survey of Louisiana households with children under age four found that inadequate child care coverage and resulting drops in earnings cost the state $1.1 billion annually. The decrease in income also means a decrease in tax contributions on those earnings – to the tune of an $84 million loss in tax revenue for the state.

According to the study, child care issues had a disproportionate effect on women’s workforce participation. Women were seven times more likely than men to quit a job, five times more likely to switch from full-time to part-time work, and six times more likely to turn down a promotion.

Louisiana does have one bright spot on its child care record: the state legislature’s 2007 passage of “School Readiness” tax credits intended to encourage parents, employers and child care providers to promote and provide high quality care at an affordable rate. The program’s future is uncertain, however, due to the state’s ongoing budget woes.

Working More Than Double Duty. The average working mom works the equivalent of 2.5 full-time jobs, clocking a 98-hour average work week thanks to the combination of work and family responsibilities.

How does this hurt Louisiana?

In addition to strengthening the gender pay gap in the state — due to the fact that women can lose seniority and work experience by taking time to care for their family, and thus, be paid less — Louisiana loses a good portion of its talent and companies lose the investment they have placed in employees who leave. More individual companies, such as Shell, are recognizing that the tendency to lose female employees after becoming parents hurts their bottom line.

Flextime and Telecommuting

In addition to offering paid maternity leave and affordable child care options, offering employees some control over when and where they work is another increasingly attractive benefit – both for parents, who can respond more nimbly to child care issues, and employers, who see increases in retention and productivity.

Flextime, defined as allowing an employee to determine his or her working hours within guidelines set by an employer, is now offered by 57 percent of U.S. employers, according to the Society of Human Resource Management’s 2017 Employee Benefits Survey. And it can be a game-changer for working moms balancing the demands of career and family.

According to a February 2017 survey published by the Harvard Business Review about which benefits job seekers value most, flexible hours ranked second (behind health/dental/vision insurance), with 88 percent of respondents stating that they would lean toward a lower-paying job with more flexible hours over a higher-paying position with less flexibility. And the good news for employers is that flextime is a no-or-low-cost benefit that can reap a high return in recruitment and retention, particularly among women.

Telecommuting, or the ability to work from home, even some of the time, has also grown increasingly common across sectors. Today, 62 percent of U.S. companies offer some form of this benefit. In the same Harvard Business Review survey, working from home was ranked the fourth-most-valuable benefit among job seekers. And telecommuting can actually lower an employer’s expenses, particularly around office occupancy.

There has been some backlash against telecommuting among employers who fear the loss of workplace culture and productivity that comes from in-person interaction. But the upside of telecommuting can be very real for parents, especially in a pinch.


Who’s Doing It Right: Best Practice Example

Ernst & Young

For 32 years, Working Mother magazine has put out a list of the 100 best companies for working moms. Ernst & Young, the professional services firm, has made the list for 21 of those years and was highlighted in 2017 as a top 10 company.

Krystal Calix, an audit senior manager, has been with EY in New Orleans for 12 years – eight of them as a mom. Now, Calix is a leader in the office, serving clients, leading several teams and focusing on the financial service space within New Orleans. And she’s a mother of three (ages 8, 5, and 10 months).

“What has made this a rewarding career for me here is that I’ve had flexibility, convenience and additional resources that have assisted me at various times,” says Calix.

One of these assists was “A Flexible Work Arrangement,” an EY program that allowed Calix to take a reduction in the number of clients she served and a corresponding reduction in compensation. She spent four years on the program, which allowed her to continue progressing within the firm while having more time for her family. Calix also enjoyed EY’s generous parental leave benefits: 12 weeks paid for her first two leaves and 16 weeks paid with her third child (born after EY extended its leave policy).

An added bonus has been the company’s mothers’ lactation program, which provides lactation rooms in all EY offices as well as breast pumps and supplies to nursing mothers, free of charge. They even support nursing moms who are traveling for work. “I could pump at the location then ship my milk back home, where it would arrive by 6 a.m. the next morning,” says Calix. “All free of charge to me and very convenient.”

Now, as a senior manager, Calix values flexibility in her schedule and working location that allows her to support her teams, clients and family.

“EY preaches flexibility,” says Calix. “And it’s a two-way street… For me personally, as a senior manager, I have the ability to not be at the client site every single day. I tend to work from home at least one day a week… and I work from home at night a good bit too. I have dinner with my family, put the kids to bed, then get back to work once they’re asleep. That allows me to make sure I’m fulfilling my roles both professionally and personally.”

Calix is a member of EY’s professional women’s network and views herself as a role model for all women in the office, not just mothers. She hopes to show the growing ranks of young women graduating from university programs that accounting can be a rewarding and sustainable career. “When you say ‘accounting,’ not everyone thinks ‘flexibility’ or ‘working moms,’ so that’s something we’re trying to change.”


Who’s Doing It Right: Best Practice Example

Sensible Meals

Ingrid Rinck, the owner and CEO of Sensible Meals, knows firsthand the importance of employers supporting women. When she founded her healthy prepared meal company in 2014, Rinck was a newly-divorced, single mother of three with no formal education. “Just passion and drive and the will to succeed,” Rinck says.
Four years later, Louisiana-based Sensible Meals is the largest and fastest-growing meal prep business in the country, employing about 1,200 people across its ambassador program, kitchens, prep facilities, corporate office, janitorial staff and other roles. Ninety percent of employees are women and 90 percent of those women are mothers — 75 percent of those single mothers.  
For some of Sensible Meals’ corporate office employees or ambassador staff, telecommuting is an option. “As long as they get their work done, they can definitely do it at home when issues arise with their children,” says Rinck. The company doesn’t yet have formal policies around issues like flexibility and telecommuting, but they are working toward it.
Rinck would like to see successful businesswomen supporting other women entering the workforce. “Creating more opportunities, investing time and money and mentoring – that’s the biggest thing I wish I would have had and hopefully I can do for other women.”


Rick Tallant, executive vice president of Gulf of Mexico for Shell

Who’s Doing It Right: Best Practice Example

Shell Corporation

Operating in the Gulf Coast for more than 100 years, Shell Exploration and Production Company employs approximately 93,000 people worldwide, including approximately 4,400 in Louisiana. In an industry that executive vice president of Gulf of Mexico, Rick Tallant, acknowledges has a long history of being male dominated, Tallant says Shell has been taking efforts to create a 50/50 balance of men and women, including in top leadership positions. The problem was, the company was losing women at the mid-career level.

“We want to have the best leadership, and that means having the best of everybody, not just one segment,” says Tallant. “Women were leaving after they had a child and not coming back, so we had to do something.”

Step one was offering a more generous amount of paid leave — 16 weeks for any primary caregiver, and eight weeks for any secondary caregiver (regardless of gender). But beyond that, employees return to a host of support, including an employee resource group for parenting.

“The group serves two purposes,” says Tallant, “it provides support to new parents by allowing them to connect with others in the same situation and, also importantly, it educates our leadership about what these returning parents are going through. We need everyone to understand what being inclusive really means.”

Shell also offers a new program called B.A.L.A.N.C.E., by Amy Landry, founder of Fuel Success Academy. Formerly a human resources professional and now a workforce development trainer, Landry says that after learning first-hand what it was like to return to a company that did not support her life change, she became passionate about improving other women’s experiences. Landry’s program is designed to help women find balance upon returning to work. At Shell, the program consists of seven, one-hour sessions, but webinars are also available at JunoWorkBalance.com.

To help with juggling demands, Shell offers employees flex-time, the opportunity to move part-time, and a 9/80 schedule, where employees receive every other Friday off to help with outside obligations that can only be handled during the work week. Shell has also started offering subsidized childcare — 80 hours a year plus any time required to help those that have to travel due to work.

The company’s changes started rolling out four months ago.

“I only wish we’d done it a year-and-a-half earlier,” says Tallant, whose third child is 16 months old.

But what about the costs?

“We had a conversation about lost productivity early on and the conclusion that we’ve come to is that by working to keep our people happy and enabling them to have that work/life balance they want, we will likely not only up our retention, but also improve morale and help us attract talent going forward. All of these things will result in the kind of diversity that we know from the data makes companies stronger. We’re seeing this already.”


 

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