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How employers are responding to working moms’ needs

Supportive companies can take some of the struggle out of balancing job and family.

Yeimy Garcia, at home with her husband and son, appreciates the support her employer, Neon Therapeutics, gives to working moms. Jonathan Wiggs /Globe Staff

Kari Goodwin promised her daughter a special day trip if the 4-year-old spent all night in her own bed. Goodwin didn’t expect they’d be spending the day at her office. But that’s what her daughter told Goodwin, a marketing communications specialist at Ipswich biotech New England Biolabs, she wanted to do.

Working mothers around the country might have mixed feelings about such a request, since studies show many of them feel guilty about having jobs and they often have fewer opportunities to advance, while fathers are rewarded. Moms might find it reassuring to know a new Harvard Business School study found that daughters of working mothers perform better in their careers than daughters of stay-at-home moms. The adult children of employed moms turn out to be just as happy as those whose mothers didn’t work, according to the study.


That’s good news for Goodwin, whose daughter can’t seem to wait to get into the workforce. Recently, as the two were driving home together, “My CEO called me on the way home from work and she wanted to talk to him,” she says.

But are working moms happy themselves? Busy mothers from companies around the state say it depends on how supportive the employer is. Goodwin’s employer offers an on-site day-care center for employees, which it opened 30 years ago as a way to recruit and retain working moms. Children at the center learn Spanish and plant vegetables minutes away from their parents’ offices on the 143-acre campus. The children attend events and company parties, and having them close by is an invaluable convenience, she says. But it also gives her daughter a chance to learn about mom’s job — and gives her a front-row seat to her number one role model. “She sees the community here and the interactions with people of all dynamics,” Goodwin says.


In Westborough, corporate training company TTA breaks out the latest video games and orders pizza to welcome kids to the office once or twice a year. Carole Donaldson, director of content marketing, says these events offer her 11-year-old daughter a chance to experience TTA’s family-first workplace culture. “I’m teaching my daughter [working is] OK, not to say being a stay-at-home mom isn’t rewarding, but I honestly believe [working] made me a better mother,” she says.

The years of diapers and day care aren’t easy, but some working moms think the hardest part comes later, when the end of balancing kids’ activities and work is in sight. For Donna Harris, chief administrative officer at Darling Consulting Group in Newburyport and the mother of three sons ages 15 to 25, the need to attend basketball games is greater now than ever with her youngest son in high school. Over the years, the financial consulting firm has allowed her the flexibility to work from home and volunteer as a coach — and to attend every game she possibly can. “I want to be there for everything,” she says.

Kari Goodwin with her daughter Cami (middle) and friend Anna at the Halloween party at New England Biolabs.Michelle Jay for The Boston Globe

Arissa Hodges says her co-workers are a key part of her family support system. As a group leader at nonprofit research development firm MITRE, she says the company helped her find a speech therapist for her son and allowed her to leave the office early to take him, now 12 and on the honor roll, to appointments with specialists.


Such support has been a relief for Hodges, after jobs where supervisors questioned her dedication to her work while her son faced health issues. “I was so worried about my job that I might not have put in the time that I should have with my son,” she says.

At the Cambridge biotech Neon Therapeutics, co-workers routinely step in for one another when parental duties arise. Yeimy Garcia, associate director of quality control, recently led a meeting for a co-worker who had to leave early to take care of his sick child. Garcia’s parents immigrated to the United States from Colombia, and her mother had no choice but to work, including stints as a package handler at FedEx and at a catering company. Garcia had the option to stay home with her son, but chose to pursue a career because “working makes me a complete person,” she says. “It helps [my husband and me] focus when we are home with our son. That time is really precious.”

Allison Hagan is a Boston Globe correspondent. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @allisonhxgan.