Campus & Community

Harvard wows Working Mother:

5 min read

Only university to make ‘100 Best Companies for Working Mothers’ List

Illustration of baby and
(Photo illustration Georgia Bellas/Harvard News Office)

Harvard University is one of the nation’s 100 best places to work if you’re a mom, Working Mother magazine announced Sept. 23 in its annual “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” issue. It is the only university on the 2003 list and just the third university honored in the 18-year history of the “100 Best Companies” list.

While this distinction may come as no surprise to the thousands of employee parents who take advantage of Harvard’s family-friendly policies and generous benefits packages, it is nonetheless a powerful testament to the University’s determination to be a competitive, compassionate employer for women, parents, and all employees.

To learn more about Harvard’s benefits and programs for mothers, families, and all employees, visit

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“This award recognizes the University’s outstanding work/life benefits and programs,” said Polly Price, associate vice president of human resources, adding that Harvard’s merit as an employer has often been overshadowed by its achievements in teaching and research. “Harvard is a wonderful place to work where employees of all kinds and at all levels feel part of an ambitious mission and stellar purpose. Compared to many other employers, we shine.”

President Lawrence H. Summers praised the Office of Human Resources’ efforts. “I’d like to recognize the efforts of our human resources team who, along with many others here, are making Harvard not only an excellent university but also an excellent place to work,” he said.

Price echoed the president’s praise for the University’s human resource professionals, noting in particular the efforts of Judy Walker and Cyndie White, co-directors of Harvard’s Office of Work, Life and Family Resources, and Barbara Wolf, manager of the medical area Office of Work and Family. “Of the many individuals and groups who have worked to bring women into the Harvard workforce at every level, the Radcliffe Institute, a longtime advocate for women’s inclusion, and the HUCTW, ardent supporter of many of our most progressive benefits, deserve great credit,” said Price.

“It’s nice to be recognized for the improvements that we’ve been able to make together – the union and the University – and to share that with the world,” said Donene Williams, treasurer of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) and the mother of a 3-year-old boy. “Every time one employer takes a step forward, other employers follow.”

Working Mother rates companies on six qualities: flexibility; representation of women, particularly in upper management; child care; advancement of women; family-friendly corporate culture; and leave for new parents. This year, according to the magazine, editors gave particular weight to three issues: flexible scheduling, advancement of women, and child-care options.

Harvard excels in the areas Working Mother deems important, says Price. Women comprise 54 percent of the University’s workforce; more compellingly, 59 percent of middle managers and 46 percent of directors and above are women, and 30.5 percent of faculty are women. Women are well represented in the University’s highest tiers, as well: Harvard has three female deans, three of five vice presidents are women, and there are 13 women among the 37 people on the University’s governing boards. Of nonfaculty employees in the top 20 percent pay bracket, half are female.

Price noted that Harvard also stands out in flexible scheduling, family leave, and child-care options. “Harvard has been a leader in providing full benefits for those who work half-time or more, back-up care for children and elders, parental leave for not only birth mothers but also birth fathers and adoptive parents, and scholarship assistance for child care,” she said.

Working Mother claims that work/life benefits continue to rise despite the challenging economy. “Even these tough economic times haven’t swayed the commitment of our forward thinking ‘100 Best’ companies,” said Working Mother Editor in Chief Jill Kirschenbaum.

“Workplace cultures at the best places to work have changed and now reflect the permanent impact of working mothers. And companies also are responding to pressure from both men and women in Generations X and Y, who demand a balanced life. Work/life benefits are here to stay,” said Carol Evans, chief executive officer of the magazine’s parent company, Working Mother Media.

The award points to Harvard’s efforts on behalf of all employees, not just mothers, said Harvard Business School Professor Myra M. Hart, whose teaching and research concerns, in part, the field of women and business.

“This award clearly recognizes the many wonderful aspects of working at this university for employees who are moms, but it also reinforces the fact that Harvard University is a great place for everyone who works here – whether or not a mom or dad,” said Hart, who is the MBA Class of 1961 Professor of Management Practice.

Hart noted that the distinction gives Harvard more than bragging rights. “It provides an opportunity for other organizations to build on the learning that Harvard has gained in developing and executing these programs,” she said, “and, at a much more personal level, it makes everyone in the community (both inside Harvard and in the broader Boston-Cambridge community) aware of the many benefits that they can share in as employees.”

Price admitted that the award will make her job – recruiting and retaining a top-notch workforce – a little easier. “I hope that it will encourage Harvard employees to appreciate the array of benefits available to them and the flexibility that allows them to have a life outside of work,” she said.