For the third year in a row, the Fairfield County Business Council has selected Yale as a “platinum honoree” of its Healthy Workplace Employer Recognition Program, although the University missed out this year on a spot on Working Mothers Magazine’s 100 Best Companies in the Nation for Working Mothers, marking the first time in nearly a decade that it has not made the list.
The Fairfield County Business Council recognized Yale for its “outstanding achievements … in implementing employee health promotion and wellness programs.” In an email to the News, Susan Abramson, the manager of the Yale Work-Life Program, attributed the recognition by the business council to the University’s “wide range of benefits, programs and services to support life outside of work that address all stages of life for faculty and staff.” In particular, Abramson identified child care support as one of the key services provided by the University’s Work-Life program.
“Yale does an amazing job in recognizing that we all have a life outside of our professional life,” Abramson said. “[The child care program] is important not just for working mothers, but for working dads too … to allow us to be focused, less distracted and have the opportunity to develop, grow and thrive in the workplace.”
Yale Health provides full coverage to University staff members, as well as their spouses and children. In addition, Yale’s Work-Life programs include child care and parenting programs, elder care resources, flexible work arrangements and various workshops on work life balance. Any faculty, facilities or administrative staff member of the Yale community, regardless of their position, is eligible for all Work-Life services, Abramson said.
The University also partners with seven day care centers. According to Susan Taddei, director of Calvin Hill Daycare — one of the centers — the Work-Life program office connects day care centers with families looking for child care options and coordinates meetings and professional development opportunities for child care center directors and staff.
Kyle Miller, director of the Bodel Child Care Center — another day care partner — said that by taking advantage of the resources at Yale-affiliated child care centers, University employees can stay involved in their children’s day-to-day lives despite their busy schedules.
In 2016, Working Mother Magazine identified Yale Health’s full-family coverage, the University’s support for women’s advancement, flexible work arrangements and the Work-Life Program as key factors that contributed to the decision to recognize the University. Working Mother Magazine spokeswoman Andrea Kaplan declined to comment on why Yale was dropped from the list in 2017, after appearing on it for eight years in a row.
Abramson attributed Yale’s exclusion from the most recent list to “the high level of competition for the designation.”
“I am proud to say that Yale was on the list for a huge majority of the years,” Abramson said. “We were the only academic institution [on the list].”
Still, while the options available to Yale employees with families have earned praise, graduate students with young families told the News that the University does not do enough to support them.
Anne Lessy GRD ’20 said the University should provide more programs to support graduate student parents.
“In my experience, there is a narrow assumption about who a graduate student is at Yale — an assumption that doesn’t include parents and especially mothers,” Lessy said.
Graduate students are eligible for Work-Life programs, as well as a leave of absence for parental responsibilities and an annual subsidy of $4,500 for family health care — a new initiative announced in September.
Still, Neta Bar Kohn GRD ’21 told the News that her family, and many other families she knows, have not received any benefits provided by the Work-Life program, which tend to be oversubscribed and prohibitively expensive for graduate students.
“Except for the fact that I got a parental leave from the graduate school, Yale didn’t support my career as a working mother at all,” Bar said.
Bar, Nessy and Wendy Xiao GRD ’18 MED ’18 — who chairs the Graduate Student Assembly — all emphasized the necessity of helping graduate school parents find affordable day care for young children.
“It’s still so difficult to find child care in New Haven because there are so many children and so few spots,” Xiao said. “With the day care centers associated with Yale, you have to stay on the waiting list for years, and even if you get a spot, it’s very expensive, averaging more than $17,000 for an infant. Graduate students or beginning level employees can’t afford that.”
Asked about graduate students’ concerns, Abramson acknowledged that there are benefits for employees in the Work-Life program that students may not be able to access.
“I certainly don’t want any group at Yale to have concerns about the programs,” Abramson said. “Day care care centers do have waiting lists, … [but] through the Work-Life program we offer bimonthly small group information sessions and one-on-one advertisement for all Yale parents.”
Miller, who directs the Bodel center, underscored the importance of supporting working mothers who balance responsibilities at work and at home.
“Working mothers have become the backbone of our economy and our families,” Miller said. “Families can’t survive without them, and the economy can’t either. It’s important that the University creates some sort of support network around them so they can be the best at what they are doing.”
Serena Cho | firstname.lastname@example.org