Harvard Tops for Working Moms

According to Working Mother magazine, Harvard University ranks among the ‘100 Best Companies for Working Mothers’. Harvard was the only University included on the list this year and is the third University to be named in the history of Working Mother’s annual survey. “The award recognizes the University’s outstanding work/life benefits and programs,” acknowledged Polly Price, Associate Vice President of Human Resources, in a recent interview with the Harvard University Gazette. “Harvard is a wonderful place to work.”

To select the Top 100, Working Mother scored companies that submitted an application on more than 500 points of information, including the number of work/life programs they offer, the employee usage of such programs and the representation of women throughout the company. This year, Working Mother also gave particular consideration to three issues: flexible scheduling, because it is essential for working mothers; advancement of women, because it is critical for women in the workplace; and child-care options, because without them, parents can’t work.

Because HBS is renowned for its academic research into the management profession and its teaching of best management practices, the award is particularly compelling. Now, the school can also boast that these ideas are effective in both theory and practice. Myra M. Hart (MBA 1961), Professor of Management Practice, commented that the award “provides an opportunity for other organizations to build on the learning that Harvard has gained in developing and executing these programs. You get the best people by offering the broadest understanding of how do to work-Harvard has proven that by focusing on results.”

In theory, exceptional benefit programs should increase an organization’s ability both to attract talented employees and to increase the organization’s ability to retain those employees. Within HBS, the benefit programs offered seem to be more effective as a retention tool, while the value of the programs to new hires may be overshadowed by other benefits of working at the University. “I didn’t even think about the programs when I first came to HBS, ” admitted Sarah Gibbons, Assistant Director MBA Recruiting Services, who is currently expecting, “but I do plan to take advantage of many of the wonderful programs, such as maternity leave and on-site day-care.” However, from a recruiting perspective, Sarah also noted that benefit programs are receiving increased attention from students in the recruiting process. “Students have more and more questions about work/life balance; it’s become very important,” she added.

Whether or not benefit programs influenced initial employment decisions, the value of Harvard’s benefit programs resonated strongly with many HBS employees, indicating that these programs are highly effective as a retention tool. Director of Admissions and new mother Kristin Hall (MBA 2001) commented that “I feel very lucky to have found a job that is challenging and interesting, yet flexible. It is still a demanding job but it fits with my current lifestyle by allowing me to work part-time. This is not
an easy thing to find.”

Indeed, HBS has been able to recruit and retain a number of MBA graduates. At last count, HBS employed 25 alums in administrative roles, sixteen of whom are women. Many of these alums – both male and female – chose careers in the business of higher education because of the work/family balance – among other great benefits.

Sources: (1) Working Mother magazine (2) Society for Human Resource Management’s 2003 Benefits Survey