A year ago, Ad Age and our partners at Facebook assembled The List—a group of 31 leaders from the advertising, marketing and media industry from brands and agencies including Walmart, PepsiCo, AB InBev, KFC, Kevin Hart's Laugh Out Loud, Anomaly, BBDO, Walton Isaacson, Feeding America, Combs Enterprises and Condé Nast—at the Modern restaurant in New York to meet for the first time and map out exactly what they stood for and what they wanted to accomplish in the months ahead. After a spirited and wide-ranging debate about issues including climate change and sustainability, social media's detrimental effects on mental health, and diversity and inclusion, the members decided that they wanted to focus on raising awareness about the importance of parental leave not just for employees but for companies as well.
After 12 months of research, activism and advocacy that brought The List to Cannes, Advertising Week, Sundance and even Davos—and collaboration with groups including The Female Quotient, the Boston College Center for Work & Family, The Mom Project and the National Partnership for Women and Families—the 2019 edition of the group culminated its mission by selecting 10 Companies That Get Family Leave Right.
Of course, when The List first met in April 2019, there was no way anyone could have predicted the enormous challenges—and tragedies—the entire world would now be facing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Only two months ago, The List launched its signature Ask About It campaign to encourage conversations among employees and their supervisors and HR representatives about corporate family leave policies to see how they met (or did not meet) workers' needs and expectations. The initiative launched with a dedicated website, which offers tools and resources to employees and employers to facilitate discussions about family policies, including a 10-step guide and considerable research and input from Morning Consult and the parenting site Fatherly (whose respective CEOs, Michael Ramlet and Mike Rothman, are List members).
A major part of the social media aspect of the campaign was planned to be a call for companies to hold #AskAboutIt coffee hours. To help promote the coffee hours, List members shared their stories about how their experiences with parental leave affected their personal and professional lives, including Ricky Ray Butler, CEO of Branded Entertainment Network (BEN); Santiago Gómez, senior brand manager at Danone; and Meredith Guerriero, head of U.S. partnerships at Pinterest. Butler and BEN led by example, holding their own Ask About It coffee hour on February 26.
As the calendar turned to March, however, and the coronavirus spread around the country, offices began to recommend and then mandate that employees work from home. Video shoots and other Ask About It content activations were canceled or postponed indefinitely. But as everyone involved in The List began to adjust to the new normal, the judges panel (Butler, Guerriero and Rothman along with Dia Simms, former president of Combs Enterprises and now CEO of BRN Group, and Bianca Guimaraes, SVP and creative director of BBDO New York) regrouped the way most of us do—on a Zoom video call—to review criteria of more than 30 companies that had exceeded corporate standards with their parental leave and family policies.
The judges combined the past year's research, reporting and fact-finding, including online seminars from Brad Harrington of the Boston College Center for Work & Family and Pam Cohen of The Mom Project Labs with the comprehensive data Fatherly compiled for its annual "50 Best Places to Work for New Dads" feature. This year, the site relaunched the annual list as "Fatherly at Work," a certification program and digital platform that assesses the benefits for working fathers at some 40,000 companies, as Chief Content Officer Andrew Burmon told Ad Age in January.
Each of the companies Fatherly surveyed were asked 30 questions, such as:
- How many weeks of paid parental leave does your company provide parents/non-birth parents?
- Does your company’s paid leave policy go beyond the legal requirements of your state?
- Does your company provide a transition back to work/ramp-back period for parents returning from leave?
- Does your company provide paid family caregiving leave that allows employees to take time to care for a seriously ill, injured or disabled relative or loved one?
- What percentage of fathers in your workplace take advantage of the policies listed above? What percentage of mothers?
Nine out of the 10 Companies That Get Family Leave Right are giant corporations—or belong to large multinationals—and thus have the resources to offer top policies not just because it's the right thing to do but because it's smart business. Many Silicon Valley big tech firms have had to offer increasingly more progressive, and sometimes extravagant, benefits to remain competitive.