Anyone who has ever tried to balance a career and family knows the juggling act that goes on each day to meet commitments at work and home. When a child is sick, who stays home? How does an employee request family medical leave and does the length of leave make a difference in long-term career aspirations? What is the best way to approach a supervisor about exploring a flexible work arrangement? These are just some of the questions discussed at the informal monthly gatherings of the Pratt & Whitney Mom's Club, a group of moms supporting each other at work.
The club, founded in 2013, had its early genesis about four years ago. Shortly after the birth of her first child, Kerri Wojcik and other Pratt & Whitney moms communicated about work/life balance via a loose-leaf notebook someone started in the lactation room of the Engineering Building in East Hartford. "Moms would ask and answer questions or make suggestions and help each other," Wojcik said.
In 2013, Wojcik decided to take the idea one step further. "The Mom's Club in my town was a good resource for information about things like swim lessons and daycare as well as overall support," she said. "I thought about all of the moms I knew at work and how working moms don't have a lot of time to explore and research extra activities for themselves or their children."
She sent an email to nine moms she knew within Engineering and suggested an informal lunchtime gathering in a conference room in the Engineering Building. "People forwarded the email on to their friends and about 20 people attended the kickoff meeting," she said. The email distribution list now includes more than 50 people.
Wojcik noted that the group is particularly helpful for someone who is expecting for the first time. "There are not a lot of women in Engineering, so when you are expecting it's good to be able to talk to someone who has been through it," she said. "The club pools all of that knowledge and makes it accessible, making it easier to find role models within the company. For people who want to continue in their careers, it is important to have a support network to turn to with questions about things like balancing careers and home life, day care and just day-to-day parenting issues."
According to Wojcik, the Mom's Club contributes to the company's goals of retaining employees by helping ease the transition back to work for new moms and by supporting parents at all stages. "The moms with school-aged kids give me insight into what the future will hold for me and my kids," she said.
"As a cohesive group of people with a common bond, we have the opportunity to drive change within the company," Wojcik said. The Mom's Club has explored the possibility of providing expectant mother parking, developed a Wiki page that lists common questions and answers, and put together a panel discussion with P&W moms who worked part-time when their children were young.
The Mom's Club has helped employees at the Middletown facility start a similar organization and others who are interested in establishing groups in their building can contact Wojcik. "There are lots of buildings on the East Hartford campus and at other sites and it would be nice if everyone had this resource within walking distance of their desk," she said.