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Beyond Flex: Four More Ways Prudential Succeeds at Retaining Working Moms

By Melissa J. Anderson

Recently Prudential was named one of Working Mother‘s 100 best places to work – which comes as no surprise to Maureen Corcoran, the company’s vice president of Health, Life and Inclusion. She said the company has worked hard over the past two plus decades to build a culture of inclusion and to become a place where women want to work. According to Corcoran, the company excels at communicating with its female employees about what they need, and being responsive as well.

“We asked what are the barriers – and said let’s remove them,” she said. “We are building a culture that supports all types of differences. We want our people to be able to contribute to their utmost abilities irrespective of their background.”

Because the company has spent decades measuring female retention rates, as well as surveying women on what they need or what can help them improve performance, Corcoran is able to back up her claims with results. For example, she said the company’s flexwork policy is utilized by 73% of the Prudential population each month – up from just 9% in 2001. She also knows that flexwork is contributing to the company’s retention of women – according to a recent survey, women are coming back to work after maternity leave at impressive numbers.

Additionally, she said, when focus groups of Prudential women were asked what would keep them on board after having kids, the top answers were flex options and the support of bosses.

“They felt that if they could return with support, they would be happy to stay – and the numbers show that they do,” Corcoran said. But Prudential’s female retention strategy involves a lot more than flexwork options. Here’s how Prudential has created a winning strategy to keep its working moms happy – and how your firm can too.

Networking

Prudential has built a successful women’s network, Women in Finance (WIF), featuring panels and speakers, in order to provide women with opportunities to get to know one another. “One of the things that has benefited me is the opportunity to network with other women,” said Gale Britton, vice president, Recruitment and Selection. She continued, “We’re a large firm, and you may have some relationships with women in other departments if you’ve worked in different areas. But if you’ve been in the same business group, it can be isolating.”

She continued, “Networking allows you to meet other women, and see how they’re doing it, keeping it together, and moving forward in the organization.”

“Teams of mountain climbers have a rope they tie around their waists, and help each other up the mountain. That’s how I see WIF.”

Work/Life Policies

Britton remembered years ago when she had a sick child, having to call every woman she knew for a recommendation for an emergency nanny. But today, she said, Prudential offers in-house care as part of its LifeSolutions resource, and all it takes is a phone call. “Recently, I used the service and had someone come in to care for my 85-year old mother, along with my son,” she said. “Talk about the sandwich generation!”

Britton has also used LifeSolutions to find out about special needs day camps and schools for her son.

Dana Bopp, director of Information Systems at Prudential has also had significant experience using the company’s LifeSolutions program. Bopp, who describes herself as a “single mother by choice,” used a donor to become pregnant with her first child, and chose to adopt her second – through a referral she received through Prudential LifeSolutions.

On becoming a single mother Bopp said, “I felt very supported by my team about what I chose to do… Once I made the decision, everyone treated me like just another pregnant lady.” And, she joked, “Of course that was followed by all of the unsolicited advice!”

Bopp also pointed out that Prudential offers child care services within or nearby its corporate offices. “You can pop down during lunch and see your baby. I feel better working and more productive, seeing my child in a happy, loving environment. If your company can help solve some of these issues, it’s really big.”

Role Models

Bopp also said that she is encouraged by having senior executive women to look up to. “In the tech area, in particular, I feel a lot of support for women executives both in terms of education – I’m working on my MBA and 90% is covered by Prudential – and also by providing excellent role models of women who have been promoted into senior positions.”

Referring to Barbara Koster, Prudential’s Chief Information Officer, Bopp said, “To see someone as a role model, who is a woman and has balanced it all, is like a beacon. I can see what it looks like, which let’s me know it could be a goal for myself if I chose.”

Community Outreach

According to Stephanie Brannagan, project manager, Learning, the company is also focused on community issues, and encourages employees to be involved with nonprofits. Brannagan said that after the birth of her second child, she decided to leave Prudential, but kept her skills sharp by serving on a number of nonprofit boards. Seven years later when she was ready to return to the workforce, Brannagan applied for a role at Prudential and got the job. She said, “I did list my volunteer experience on the front of my resume. And my manager said that’s what led them to hire me.”

Brannagan is still involved with her community, and Prudential is a supporter of that work. Recently the company awarded her a Prudential Cares Award – and a grant worth $5,000 to the charity of her choice, the Junior League of Monmouth County.

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