- Amazon is a notoriously demanding employer, according to some of its employees.
- It’s easy for women to be sidelined after having kids, but it also happens to new dads, one former Amazon employee recently told Business Insider.
- A group of mothers who work at Amazon want the company to help them address this by providing backup daycare services, similar to what other tech companies offer.
- Backup daycare services help working parents when their primary childcare provider isn’t available, but it might not address the tech industry’s bigger problems.
Amazon has thousands of parents as employees. Some 1,800 mothers employed at the company have organised themselves into a group called Momazonians and are asking the company to provide backup daycare services for their kids.
They are scheduled to meet with management soon to make their case, Bloomberg reported.
Amazon is a notoriously demanding employer, one that requires long hours, some employees said.
Not only is it easy for women to be put on the company’s sidelines after having a child, but it’s also easy for men to go through the same thing when people don’t put their families on the back burner in favour of work, one former Amazon employee recently told Business Insider.
“Until you have kids, it’s all about: are you delivering something on time?,” this person said. But once an employee has kids, particularly women who become mums, they may “slowly notice they get assigned projects that are less important, are slowly sidelined.”
Some women feel this pressure so much that they don’t even mention that they have kids to their coworkers and don’t display family photos at work for fear of being labelled a “distracted mum.” They fear such a label would mean getting skipped over for career-building projects and advancement, sources told Bloomberg.
One woman told Bloomberg that she started work at 7 a.m. before others would arrive but was warned that it would look bad if she left before the other people – so she would often stay until 7 p.m. and felt she got no support from human resources when she discussed it with them.
Backup daycare, provided by the company to parents either via onsite daycare or in-home sick-child care, wouldn’t automatically solve that perception among employees. But it would allow them to keep working when their childcare situation falls through.
Backup daycare is a rare benefit in America’s corporate world, offered at only about 8% of large organisations and 4% of small businesses, according to the Families and Work Institute’s 2014 National Study of Employers.
But at the tech companies with which Amazon competes for talent, and where long hours are often considered table stakes for a promotion, it is common. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft all offer this perk.
Amazon actually offers a better-than-average slate of family-friendly benefits, compared with corporate America at large. It offers up to six weeks of paternity leave, 20 weeks of maternity leave – which can be shared between parents – and returning mums can come back part-time during a ramp-up period. Some people can work from home. There are sick days and family-leave benefits, too, and these benefits are available to everyone, “regardless of their position, level or tenure” an Amazon spokesperson told us.
But offering those benefits doesn’t help working parents combat the perception that because their families need them, they are no longer eligible for promotions and management positions at Amazon.
And if long hours are a key prerequisite for a promotion, then managers become people who preach and practice workaholism, while those seeking work-life balance either stay sidelined – or simply leave.
The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that the research is clear: Long hours don’t actually increase productivity in the long-run. The reverse is true, the Harvard Business Review reported. Long hours increase mistakes and turnover, and impacts employee health, which impacts insurance costs.
Still, if these Momazonians can succeed in getting the company to help them keep working when their existing childcare falters, this is a step in the right direction. If parents experience more support by the company, this could lead to more sticking around, which could lead to more working mums as managers. And the research is clear on that, too: A more diverse workforce is a competitive advantage, McKinsey found.
An Amazon spokesperson indicated that the company is willing to listen, even when it doesn’t adopt a new idea. The spokesperson said: “When creating benefits, we focus on efforts that can scale to help the largest number of individuals, and work in partnership with our employees to ensure that what we are building offers meaningful support.”
Here’s Amazon’s full statement:
“We are proud to offer valuable, competitive benefits to our over 250,000 US employees – including hourly, salaried, corporate, and operations – from $US15 minimum wage, to 401(k) matching, flexible parental leave and health benefits starting on the first day at work. For example, we provide comprehensive fertility benefits, memberships and discounts for childcare services, and flexible parental leave programs that provide birth parents up to 20 weeks of paid leave and non-birth parents up to six weeks of parental leave. At Amazon, everyone, regardless of their position, level or tenure, has access to the same benefits – there are no tiers, and no employee is more important than another. When creating benefits, we focus on efforts that can scale to help the largest number of individuals, and work in partnership with our employees to ensure that what we are building offers meaningful support.”
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