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When Dr. Carol Greidner, a single mother and molecular biologist at John Hopkins School of Medicine, received the call that she had won the Nobel Prize, she was folding laundry.
Later, when asked what she would do with her prize money, she said: "Right now, my kids are in school and I have to make them lunches and dinners. All that will keep me grounded."
Greidner's response resonated with all working mothers, but especially with often-underestimated single working moms.
Consider these eye-opening stats:
- More than 10 million U.S. families are led by single mothers.
- About two-thirds of single mothers work outside the home — that's slightly greater than married mothers.
- The median income for families led by single mothers was about $26,000 in 2013 (the latest figures available). That's about one-third of the median income for married couples.
Yet despite these challenges, single moms — often the family's sole breadwinner and caretaker — are some of the most committed, productive and career-minded employees the convenience store industry has.
In response, far-sighted companies in the retail and consumer goods industry are changing their workplace policies and talent development strategies to better support their single-parent employees.
Here are five ways the most progressive companies support single working moms:
1. Paid Leave & Flex Work
Each year, Working Mother magazine honors the Best Companies for Working Mothers. The benefits these organizations offer continue to improve, helping single moms in the workplace. At the 100 companies recognized last year, including 11 NEW corporate partners, paid leave rose from an average of eight to nine fully paid weeks. Maternity leave at L'Oreal USA is now set at 14 fully paid weeks.
More parents are also taking advantage of flexible work arrangements — such as working from home, working four 10-hour days, or job sharing — that help employees better juggle family and other commitments.
The percentage of the 2016 Best Companies' employees using flextime (80 percent), telecommuting (59 percent) and compressed work schedules (22 percent) all saw healthy increases.
2. Childcare Assistance
The average annual cost of childcare in a center is $9,589. At-home care averages a whopping $28,354 per year, according to Care.com's Care Index 2016. Fortunately, more companies are responding with childcare options, either on- or offsite.
Colgate-Palmolive, for example, offers onsite childcare, and Danone offers an online support resource called CareAdvantage to access backup childcare.
3. Educational Support
The more education a single mom has, the less likely she'll struggle financially. While 51 percent of low-income, single working moms (earning less than twice the federal poverty line) have some education beyond high school, 77 percent of higher-income single working mothers (making more than 200 percent of the poverty line) do, according to the Population Reference Bureau.
The good news is that more companies are providing tuition assistance. Among them: Procter & Gamble, Best Buy and Starbucks.
4. Work/Life Programs
With work/life support in mind, some companies are getting creative, offering programs or classes during lunch hour instead of after work, when childcare is an issue. They are developing programs that benefit families like financial counseling, college coaching, free legal and financial counseling, and free work/life counseling.
Johnson & Johnson, for instance, offers employees access to six on-site daycare facilities, health and lifestyle coaching, and free college counseling. Others are providing on onsite gyms, allowing single moms — and all employees — to get in a destressing workout during the workday.
5. Advocating for Employee-Friendly Policies
Legislation like the Family and Medical Leave Act makes life less stressful and more economically stable for parents. In some cases, companies are actively supporting and advocating for legislation that helps level the playing field for single working moms, including those that raise wages, protect paid sick days, subsidize childcare and early education, lower college costs, and enable more parents to save for their children's college.
If you want single mothers — and all parents — to be successful in the workplace, follow the industry leaders and reconsider your workplace policies, redirect resources to family-friendly programs, and advocate for change.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.