Image: Clark
Cindy Clark, a sales leader at Ikea, is seen with her 7 year-old son Ryan at their home in East Norriton, Pa., this September. Clark was allowed to take 6 months off from work to care for Ryan, who has Leukemia.

When Cindy Clark’s 7-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia, she didn’t have to quit her sales job at Ikea to care for him. The furniture company gave her six months unpaid leave.

“The freedom my company allows workers to have in their personal schedules” makes them good to work for, said Clark, who worked three days a week at Ikea’s store in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. “I felt comfortable stepping away from my spot because I knew I could come back to it.”

That kind of support helped Ikea win a spot among the top 100 companies for working moms in Working Mother magazine’s 18th annual survey, published in the October issue on newsstands Tuesday.

This year, 17 companies made their debut on the list, including Harvard University, Lego Systems, Microsoft, Sallie Mae, UBS Investment Bank and Accenture.

The top 10 were Eli Lilly, Abbott Laboratories, Booz Allen Hamilton, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Fannie Mae, General Mills, IBM, Prudential Financial, S.C. Johnson and Sons, and Wachovia.

“These companies are very committed to work/life programs for their employees despite the tough economic conditions,” says Jill Kirschenbaum, editor-in-chief of Working Mother.

Susan Seitel, president of Minneapolis-based research firm Work & Family Connection, said companies have gone to great lengths to be more family friendly because they want to retain their best employees.

Ted Childs, vice president of global work force diversity at IBM, agreed. IBM has made the top 100 list 18 times and top-10 list 15 times,

“This is not a feel-good program for us. This is about getting the best talent, the most sought-after talent, and keeping them happy at our company,” he said.

Flextime, child/elder care benefits

All the top-100 companies offer flextime compared with 55 percent nationwide, according to the 2003 benefits survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Child-care for older children is the latest trend tracked by the magazine. Eli Lilly, for instance, runs a summer science day camp at its manufacturing site in Indianapolis. The cost is $100 a week.

The pharmaceutical company also allows employees to compress their work week into four long days, or three long and two short days.

Elder care is another need companies are taking into account - 98 percent of the 100 best offer elder care resource and referral compared with 20 percent nationwide.

“Companies realize that working mothers are the sandwich generation - they have children and older relatives to take care of,” said Kimetha Firpo, president of the Washington-based not-for-profit Center for Designing Work Wisely.

Companies on the list were rated on such things as the number of work/life programs offered, employee use of such programs, and women’s roles throughout the company. Particular weight was given to flexible scheduling, advancement of women and child-care options.

“Even as we filled out the application form, we could see where we could beef up our program,” said Pamela Craig, director of global business operations at Accenture. “There’s always room for improvement.”

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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