Jodie Neville loved her job at Hasbro, where she’d spent 14 years building a career. But by the time her twins turned 6, she realized she was missing a lot and they were noticing her absence. And when she was home, she was often working, on the phone and not giving them her full attention. She was sad and conflicted but knew she couldn’t go all out at work and still go all out at home. The struggle was overwhelming. Moreover, when she looked around, she realized there weren’t a lot of senior-level women doing it, either, so she realized balance must not be possible. After some long and hard thinking, Jodie walked into human resources and quit her job at the company where she’d planned to work until she retired.
Hasbro, it turned out, loved Jodie too much to let her go. The CEO called her into his office and said, “We’ve got to make this work. What can we do so that you can stay with Hasbro?” He really valued her and went out of his way to keep her. Jodie was floored. “Rather than letting me leave, they took it as an opportunity to say, ‘How can we learn from this?’”
Jodie had worked her way up in the ranks, and now the company, realizing her value and that they employed a lot of other skilled mothers, wanted to make the environment better for working parents. Jodie was suddenly tasked with finding out more about the women at her company, reporting directly to the CEO and the head of HR. After doing some research and critical thinking, she worked to create community networks and affinity groups at Hasbro. Suddenly, a very supportive environment formed at one of the oldest toy companies in the world.
It was a win-win. The company needed mothers, not just for their work skills, but because they were the consumers of their products.
PowerToFly president Katharine Zaleski wrote an essay in Fortune magazine. She admitted that, as a young woman in her 20s, she was unforgiving of her coworkers’ leaving early to deal with childcare issues. Later, after she had a baby of her own, she said she looked back and was mortified. She would never have behaved that way had she known what it was like to have a child. She also knew that she still had a lot to offer corporate America, so she suddenly was on a mission to make space for moms.
Hasbro and Zaleski, among many others, are taking important steps toward making the working world an equitable place for moms. You can help. Once you get through the door, leave it open and help the next mom in any way you can. Until all companies recognize the value moms bring to the workforce, it will be your job to help others achieve success. That’s what the hundreds of women who participated in my book, The Comeback, did by speaking to me. They told me their fears, they shared their mistakes, and they explained their wins—all so that other moms could have an easier time making it than they did.
Excerpted from The Comeback: How Today’s Moms Reenter the Workplace Successfully by Cheryl Casone, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Cheryl Casone, 2016.