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Corporate Responsibility: Helping Breastfeeding Moms In The Workplace
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Corporate Responsibility: Helping Breastfeeding Moms In The Workplace - Executive Leadership Articles

Corporate Responsibility: Helping Breastfeeding Moms In The Workplace

Executive Leadership Articles

Corporate Responsibility: Helping Breastfeeding Moms In The Workplace

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not merely about reaching out. Sometimes it’s about reaching in. The oft-cited Three Ps of CSR are people, planet, and profit, and those people are all stakeholders, including employees. As companies seek to be better employers, they expand the old do-your-job-here’s-your-check relationship, seeking to improve the lives of their team members. Increasingly, this takes the shape of better working conditions for breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding moms at work have specific needs in a time of incredible stress, and providing for these needs isn’t simply an issue of charity: for American companies of more than 50 employees, it’s a federal mandate. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Breaktime for Nursing Mothers Provision, employers must provide a reasonable breaktime for an employee to express breast milk each time she has the need for up to a year after the child’s birth, and a place other than a bathroom in which to express milk, shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers. Some states require even more of employers.

Still, some workplaces go beyond the requirements of the law, understanding that taking care of their own people is critical to keeping their employees healthy and happy, that good families often mean good workers, and that there are still strange stigmas attached to the process of pumping breast milk in the office. But in a recent Washington Post story, women report that while they were in lactation rooms, male coworkers have banged on the door to disturb them, coworkers would try to get into the rooms, and they were stuck sitting on the floors of roach-infested storage rooms. One CEO would sing “pump it up” as a woman walked toward the room. Women frequently report that they get negative vibes from male coworkers who see it as an unfair privilege to take a break two or three times per day.

Others say their experience has been much more than they could hope for. Some pumping rooms are decorated with framed photos of pumping moms’ children, while others are simply clean, comfortable, private, and secure, with refrigerators for storage and a sink for washing pumping equipment. Many employers encourage breastfeeding moms to take as long as they need, with no time pressure to get back to a desk. In this environment, it isn’t only the moms who are encouraged: it’s other employees who respect that their company values the contributions of working moms, and hopefully it reshapes the primitive macho culture that still permeates many workplaces.

Nowadays, coworkers in wheelchairs are provided with accommodations enabling them to do their jobs. The work itself isn’t necessarily modified; nor are the expectations for performance, but wheelchair ramps and priority parking are commonplace enough that coworkers don’t think twice about them. This wasn’t always the case: it took federal intervention for us to get there, and look what it did to our attitudes about who’s competent. A wheelchair is no longer seen as interfering with office culture or employee productivity. While we would never equate breastfeeding to needing a wheelchair, it’s meaningful to think of lactating mothers’ needs as accommodations similar to wheelchair accommodation. Not only do they create better working spaces, enabling valuable employees to do their jobs as best they can, but they can contribute to more positive attitudes by everyone about their colleagues and their workplaces.

We can’t all provide our employees the amenities afforded Google employees, but we can all do better for our team members who have special needs. What is your company doing to take care of your breastfeeding moms?

Reference links:
US Department of Labor’s Breaktime for Nursing Mothers Provision: https://www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers/Sec7rFLSA_btnm.htm
Washington Post: “Women Share What It’s Really Like” https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/lifestyle/on-parenting/mothers-experiences-pumping-at-work


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Corporate Responsibility: Helping Breastfeeding Moms In The Workplace - Executive Leadership Articles

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