Home About Feed Archives Contact

What Working Mother magazine and WSJ’s Work & Family columnist won’t tell you

October 15, 2007 | Advertising,Blogging,Ethics,Family,Journalism,MSM,PR,Work,Working Mother


I mentioned that TIME published an article questioning the Working Mother magazine “100 best” list, but I didn’t get around to adding that WSJ.com questioned the list too. Sara Schaefer Muñoz of The Juggle posted “Do Family-Friendly Companies Live Up to Their Claim?” on Sept. 25, 2007.

Nine days later, The Wall Street Journal‘s Work & Family columnist Sue Shellenbarger wrote “What Makes a Company A Great Place to Work Today” (on the same page as the “soft” benefits article) on Oct. 4, 2007.

Shellenbarger (who was named one of America’s “25 Most Influential Working Mothers” by Working Mother magazine in 1997, according to a lecture bio) started with, “Tis the season for workplace rankings, with ‘best-workplace’ lists sprouting everywhere this fall,” and she mentioned Working Mother magazine’s list, as well as Business Week‘s “Best Places to Launch a Career” list. Then she broke it into “what’s hot” and “what’s not” categories.


Flexibility. She mentioned AstraZeneca, where “more than two-thirds of the 30 employees in a medical-resources group are regular users of alternative setups tailored to their needs.” (That’s 20 employees.) Which is odd because Working Mother said 90 percent of employees at the main office — almost 2,700 employees — worked some sort of flexible schedule. In any case, neither Working Mother nor Shellenbarger offered more details.

She wrote that in Abbott‘s office in Ohio, “75 percent of 108 employees are on flexible work setups and the rest have day-to-day flexibility.” That’s 81 employees.

Broader programs. She wrote that Pfizer and The Phoenix Cos. added paid paternity leave. Working Mother did not mention this about Phoenix on its list, but it did spell it out for Pfizer, which is actually impressive, relatively speaking, with 35 weeks of maternity leave (15 fully paid) for mothers and 26 weeks of paid leave for fathers and adoptive parents (six weeks fully paid). Even so, it’s still a far cry from what Pfizer employees in Norway and Sweden get.

Vacation time. She mentioned that at Xerox (not a Working Mother “100 best” company), employees can buy an extra vacation week.

Wait. That’s hot?

According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research‘s May 2007 “No-Vacation Nation” report, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid leave.

Here’s a chart from that report.


Xerox has employees in every country listed on the chart, meaning its employees in those countries get up to seven weeks paid leave (vacation and holidays) — guaranteed by law. Xerox employees in the United States buy vacation days.

Whew. Somebody open a window. That’s smokin’ hot.

This really deserves its own post, but since she mentioned Shellenbarger by name, I’ll put it here. Former Working Mother magazine editor Lisa Benenson gave publicity tips to corporate benefits managers at a Diversity Roundtable, called “A Journalist’s Perspective: Making the Grade Matters,” in 2002. (Benenson is now editor-in-chief of Hallmark Magazine, giving lessons on the TODAY show about “what flowers say.”)

What does it take to get a Sue Shellenbarger to laud your company in The Wall Street Journal … More importantly, why does it matter?

She referred to journalists who cover work/life issues as “some of your most important advocates.”

The end result of making any of the “Best Of” lists is a bountiful supply of positive news coverage that reflects well on the company, its leadership and employees. The companies that make a top 10 list get incredible publicity. There is nothing like it. There are thousands of media hits all across the country. You just get huge press coverage and recognition for the good work that you’re doing.

Benenson encouraged participants to “seriously consider subjecting their operations to the close scrutiny of journalistic investigation.”

Journalistic investigation? By whom?

Posted by Becky @ 5:23 pm  

2 Responses to “What Working Mother magazine and WSJ’s Work & Family columnist won’t tell you”

  1. a happier girl Says:

    The paid maternity and paternity leaves given by companies are very nice. I work for the federal government and we have to use our vacation time and sick time. If you don’t have enough to cover your maternity leave you either go unpaid or you have to take advance leave and pay then it back when you return to work. I’m always jealous of people with jobs that give them actual maternity or paternity leave. And I don’t understand how the buying an extra week of vacation works either.

  2. J. Fergie Says:

    i always question the Working Mother Magazine Best Companies List. In fact, I didn’t renew my magazine subscription this time around b/c I don’t feel like that mag is genuine. I’m not sure what it is…just a gut feeling.

≡ Leave a Reply


Designed by:

Powered by