Financial firms pushing to get more mothers on top

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Women account for roughly half of the total workforce in the U.S. and the U.K., but at financial companies, they’re in short supply. Partner and managing director ranks are still dominated by men.

Goldman Sachs’ newest partner class is 14% women, for example, which is the highest percentage since at least 2006. The latest class of managing directors at Goldman was 23% women. At Morgan Stanley, it was just over 17%. There are several reasons for the inequity, but part of the problem is that firms are losing mid-career women who leave the workforce to have children, only to never return.

Frustrated with the numbers, large banks and accounting firms are developing more programs to persuade women who’ve left to have children to get back to work. Still, the success rates tend to be low. PricewaterhouseCoopers has managed to return to its ranks just a dozen people through its FullCircle program since 2007.

Below are some of the efforts to keep mothers in the workforce, made available by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Barclays, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

PricewaterhouseCoopers

In 2009, PwC launched Mentor Moms to help new mothers transition back into the workforce. The program links expecting mothers with a mentor, a current PwC employee who has juggled parenthood and a full-time career. New mothers receive knowledge and advice that’s unique to their situation, said Jennifer Allyn, a managing director in the Office of Diversity at PwC.

The advice ranges from the practical – where to nurse, what the best day is to return – to the emotional. “We talk about the guilt, the emotion of leaving a child behind,” said Allyn, “along with the joys of mothering and working.” Around 250 working mothers currently volunteer their time to the program.

Since 2007, PwC has also administered Full Circle, an unpaid voluntary program offered to men and women who leave the workforce to care for a loved one and plan to rejoin the company within the next five years. PwC provides a coach – a partner or director – as well as access to onsite and technical training. Participants are also reimbursed for annual licensing and credentialing.

The program, which launched in 2007, has brought back 12 people to the same level that they left.

Goldman Sachs

Goldman has been unusually successful getting mothers to come back to work, and no wonder. The firm offers onsite back-up childcare for 20 days per year in New York and New Jersey, giving parents an emergency option if their babysitter cancels. Near-site back-up care is offered in all U.S. offices. Roughly 55% of registered parents used onsite centers and 46% used near-site centers, the firm said.

In New York and New Jersey, Goldman offers onsite OB-GYN services and infant transition care, which assists families with infants not yet settled in full-time child care arrangements. In New York, parents can take advantage of onsite childbirth and labor classes with a certified childbirth educator.

There’s also Goldman’s Maternity Mentoring program, which connects expectant women or new mothers with women at the firm who have been through a pregnancy or adoption. Goldman also provides employees and managers with information on managing maternity leave transitions.

In addition, the firm offers an Expectant Parent Walk-Through call to staffers and their spouses, providing a detailed briefing on the services made available to parents.

Employees who left the workforce to have children – or for other reasons – can apply to Goldman’s annual Returnship Program, which gives attendees a chance to sharpen their skills in a live tryout of sorts.

A Goldman spokesperson said that 75% of women who went on maternity leave in 2011 came back to the firm.

Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley provides seminars on infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), car seat safety, and newborn care and lactation, along with onsite Lamaze classes. The firm offers back-up near-site childcare through a national network and a Working Parents Networking group, which provides programs, seminars and events that promote strategies for being a successful working parent.

In addition, Morgan Stanley offers coaching sessions for maternity leavers, maternity returners and managers, giving them guidance on how to prepare for their employees’ transition out of and back into the workforce. Like Goldman and PwC, Morgan offers a program that connects women with others who have recently returned from maternity leave.

Bank of America

Bank of America has established an employee network called Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Development (LEAD) for Women, which has roughly 40 global chapters globally. Among the sponsored activities are lectures by senior women from Bank of America and other organizations, networking opportunities and a number of mentoring programs, including long-term one-on-one mentoring.

“We also support a wide variety of flexible work arrangements, including satellite offices that decrease commute times, work-from-home programs, compressed schedules and part-time work,” a Bank of America spokesperson told eFC.

Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young allows employees flexible work hours. Those accepted in the program can cut down to just 20 hours per week while remaining eligible for full-time benefits. More than 2,500 employees are currently on a flexible work arrangement, 82% of whom are women. More than 225 people have been promoted to partner, principal, executive director or director while on a flexible work arrangement, says E&Y.

The firm also supports a program that pairs high-potential partners and principals – across all dimensions of diversity including women – with an executive coach.

In 2012, 48% of all E&Y hires in the Americas were women. Women made up 30% of the 2012 promotions to partner, principal, executive director and director in the Americas, said E&Y. The firm didn’t provide global data.

Deloitte

Because the majority of its employees work outside the office, Deloitte offers back-up childcare, which  is available to all employees, and may be used for a variety of reasons, including illness, school holiday, and business travel.

Deloitte’s personal pursuit program enables employees to leave the company for up to five years to pursue outside personal goals such as being a full-time mom, pursuing an MBA or teaching, while remaining connected to the organization and maintaining the skills and networks required to rejoin the workforce. The program provides a mentor, networking events and training. A lactation support program is also available.

J.P. Morgan

J.P. Morgan operates 13 onsite back-up childcare centers in the U.S. Employees are eligible to receive eight weeks of childcare after they give birth to or adopt a child.  The eight weeks are in addition to the 20 back-up days for which all employees are eligible. Back-up childcare is also available in some countries outside the U.S.

In some areas, employees are able to return to work on a decreased schedule as they adjust to their new role as a working mother and resume their full-time role gradually. J.P. Morgan also operates a mentoring program.

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