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Working Mother works for … you?

November 16, 2007 | Advertising,Benefits,Ethics,Family,Health,Journalism,Work,Working Mother


What a teleconference! Oh, the things they plan to do! For you!

  • Paid family leave?
  • Paid sick leave?
  • Paid vacation days?
  • Portable, affordable health insurance?
  • High-quality, affordable childcare and preschool?

:::Shh! Hear that? That’s the sound of corporate executives across the country having a collective heart attack.:::

Nah, not really. The teleconference was a platform for Working Mother to roll out its latest venture: to give “best of congress” awards every two years (starting in September 2008) to members of Congress “in recognition of their leadership in improving the quality of life for working families.”

But I’m jumping ahead. Here’s what happened.

Donna Klein, who earns $200,000 a year as founder and CEO of Corporate Voices, read her welcoming remarks and said we would hear from Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, Working Mother Media CEO Carol Evans and Jami Taylor, a mother and activist. Klein tossed out some statistics — that the American workforce was under increasing pressure to meet the goals of a global economy and that childcare-related absences cost business $3 billion a year. (The $3 billion a year is a statistic from 1991 by an organization, Child Care Action Campaign, that apparently no longer exists.)

She mentioned that more than 30 bills dealing with family issues — FMLA, childcare-subsidy increases, workplace flexibility, etc. — were before Congress. She gave statistics about breastfeeding and encouraged working mothers to “advocate for lactation space” because “many employers are open to suggestions.”

Evans also talked about breastfeeding and lactation rooms. Which made me wonder … why are they so focused on lactation rooms?


Then I found this.

A full-page advertisement in Working Mother’s October 2007 issue by Medela, a major breast-pump manufacturer, said that Working Mother “teamed up with” Medela “to gain a better understanding of what the Working Mother 100 Best Companies are doing to help support their employees who are breastfeeding.” Medela offers — for a price — services to corporate clients through its Healthy Babies, Happy Moms, Inc. (That’s one of their corporate lactation rooms in the picture.)

Business ears perked up with the news in 2005 that 73 percent of mothers were breastfeeding. Considering that the United States has a high percentage of working mothers yet offers no guaranteed paid maternity leave … well, you do the math. What did Medela hear? Ka-ching! If maternity leaves were kept at the bare minimum or non-existent, Medela got to sell more breast pumps. Eh?

According to a Jan. 10, 2007, Wall Street Journal article, “it is all about business plans, market share and product placement.”

In another lift to sales, nursing products are being reconceived as fashion accessories. Celebrities have discussed their nursing protocols with the news media. When U.S. pump company Medela Inc., a unit of Medela Holding AG of Switzerland, sought to put its products on TV shows three years ago, it found no takers. Last fall, its pumps were included in story lines on “ER,” “Weeds,” and “The Office.”

(Medela, based in McHenry, Ill., is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce via its membership in the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce.)

Back to the teleconference.

Pryce mentioned several initiatives before Congress (mortgage foreclosures, war on terror, health care, education, SCHIP) to illustrate “that Congress is always working on something that can affect you,” but she didn’t mention where she stood on any of the issues.

She also didn’t mention that she has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which should offer an idea on where she stands on issues important to employees and working families. Here’s her voting record. Here’s who gives her money.

Next up was Evans, who was introduced as having “surprising” news. Evans went through the list of lists her magazine publishes (100 best, best small companies, best law firms, etc.). Then she talked about a survey of 500 women that revealed the No. 1 reason they work was for money. The No. 2 “surprising” answer was to use talents and training. No. 3 was to be great role models for their children. (She didn’t give specifics of the survey, so I don’t know when or by whom it was conducted.)

Why was the No. 2 answer a stop-the-presses! surprise? Got me. What did she expect the answer to be? Besides, it wasn’t clear what this “surprise” had to do with advocacy.

Here are her suggestions for callers to “get involved.”

  • Ask your company to apply for our list.
  • Express your voice through our MomBlog (at workingmother.com, natch).

Next up was Jami Leigh Taylor with “an amazing story of courage and triumph.” Taylor explained that she had been working for a few years on availability and accessibility of maternity insurance. They paid $22,000 out-of-pocket for a healthy pregnancy with no complications because her husband’s company dropped its maternity coverage just before she had a baby. Here are her tips.

  • Start with congressional staff. Make friends with the chief of staff.
  • Attend events they are already scheduled to attend.
  • Bring the kids! (Whisk them out if they get too fussy.)
  • Look at it as a way to get dressed up and go out on a date!

The results of her BFF-ships with staffers? Has she gotten anyone to write legislation or pass laws? Dunno. She didn’t say.

After a few questions, the teleconference ended.

So what did we learn?

  • Working Mother and Corporate Voices will give “best of congress” awards.
  • Evans was surprised! that women work to use their talents and training.
  • Ask your boss for a lactation room.
  • Take the kids to meet your senator or representative!
Posted by Becky @ 9:04 pm  

10 Responses to “Working Mother works for … you?”

  1. Rhonda Says:

    Yea. Me too. I am a copious and anal note-taker, and I came away from the teleconference with approximately half a page. That is not to say that I’m not glad they had this little seminar-ette, but I felt that there could have been a lot more substance here. I found that the best information they gave was the URL for the Law School at Georgetown — which lists a good bit about the current legislation and about their 2010 initiative, where they aim to make a difference in family life policy by . . . you guessed it . . . 2010.
    Frankly, I would like to hear from moms who have worked at these “Best 100 Companies” and find out what the company’s commitment to family-friendly policy is really like — I’m guessing it’s pretty varied. (Although I did work at one of these companies and spent much time in the lactation room with a breast pump that was given to me by my company and I was mighty satisfied.)
    How do you think that the conversation could have been richer?

  2. MargaretinNJ Says:

    It was not their intention to have a rich conversation. They were getting out their corporate messages, and the rest was window-dressing.

    More on breastfeeding…
    You may have noticed that in the blurb about the teleconference on the Working Mother website, they mentioned breastfeeding and lactation rooms, as well as a movement in some states to restrict information mothers receive “about infant feeding options.” I thought this was an odd issue to bring up when the obvious choices would be paid family leave, flexible work, and benefits for part-time work. But then I noticed that the sponsor of that teleconference was Abbott. Yes, they make Similac.

    It seems to me that they were bringing up the lactation rooms partly due to the Medela connection and partly to give them some cover for bringing up the infant formula information restrictions. After all, we must be fair, right? We want the lactation rooms, but what about all those mothers who have trouble breastfeeding? We want them to have information, right? It looks to me like they were trying to act on behalf of Medela and Abbott both.

    So why is Working Mother doing this? I know Carol Evans gets a lot of press with the 100 Best list. And I’m sure the prospect of doing deals with major companies like Abbott must be tempting. So she gets their money and gets to feel like a player, and all she has to do in exchange is let Donna Klein talk about lactation rooms and infant feeding options. Now isn’t that just lovely?

    Here’s the scoop on Deborah Pryce. She’s a lawyer and was a municipal court judge before being elected to the House in 1992. She represents a swing district based in Columbus. She rose to become the 4th ranking Republican as Chair of the House Republican Conference (a position she resigned last year after she almost lost her seat). Her opponent hounded her on her connection to her friend Mark Foley, the Congressional page predator. As a part of the Republican leadership she also had a small connection to the Jack Abramoff scandal (wrote letters for his Indian clients). She announced last month that she is not going to run for re-election next year.
    Here are some election/scandal-related links:

    She has voted with her Republican colleagues 90% of the time, so she has been no friend of working people. But she’s not completely horrible. For one, she’s pro-choice. That WaPo summary of her voting record shows she voted in favor of SCHIP and in favor of the increase in the minimum wage.

    She is also a working mother herself. Some years ago she adopted a daughter who died of cancer in 1999. After her divorce in 2002, she adopted another daughter, who is now in kindergarten. (Pryce is now 56, so she adopted a child when she was single and 51, maybe? Quite unusual.) One of the reasons she has given for leaving Congress is family pressure, which I don’t think is the usual bullshit.

    As for Taylor, I was totally creeped out by her story about the time she took her kids to an event and John Boehner picked up her son and walked around with him. She was quite thrilled to chat with Boehner (the House Minority Leader), but this guy is definitely not our people. I don’t think I could stand to be in the same room with him, and there’s no way I’d let him touch my child.

    Did you look at the Corporate Voices website? Not only do they have 55 corporate members, they also list the organizations they get funding from. Surprizingly, they don’t get money just from corporations–they are getting dough from foundations like the Annie E Casey Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Look here:

    And they also list their “Strategic Outreach Partners” here:

    So how’d they snow all these people, like the National Council of Women’s Organizations, and the National Urban League, and CLASP, and the New America Foundation, and the National Women’s Law Center? Looks like Donna Klein has been busy!

    The opposition is mobilizing. This is scary.

  3. maggie Says:

    They’re just patting themselves on the backs in a big circle jerk.

  4. PunditMom Says:

    I was so underwhelmed with this conference. I really didn’t learn anything I didn’t know and felt that I was being talked down to by these women, including Taylor.


  5. Devra Says:

    I found it to be patronizing as hell. “chat”? “scribble”? “dress up”? How old are we? If Working Mother Magazine wants me to believe they speak for me, they need to speak like me. I speak like an adult. Well, most of the time. Sometimes I speak like a sailor,but we don’t need to go there…yet. Aviva and I will be doing a post about the teleconference too. Such bullshit. Oh crap. Looks like I’m sailing!

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