Location: Tysons Corner.
Number of employees: 2,260 locally; 35,000 nationally.
It may not be as difficult as having the baby, but returning to work after maternity leave is no picnic either, said Jennifer Allyn, a managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“The critical moment is the transition back to work,” she said. “The first weeks back are very tough — you’re emotional and you’re tired because, as we all know, babies don’t sleep.”
About four years ago, the accounting firm created Mentor Moms, a program that pairs pregnant employees with working mothers, to help ease that transition.
“We have a lot of role models here, but it can be hard to make connections in a large, decentralized firm,” Allyn said, “We felt like women needed someone to talk to.”
The London-based firm also allows parents — both mothers and fathers — to leave the company for as many as five years to be with their children. Employees are assigned an internal mentor to correspond with, and offered annual training so they can stay up-to-date on their licenses and credentials.
“We want our employees to know that they can have the best of both worlds: Parenthood and a career,” Allyn said, adding that between 600 and 700 women at the company take maternity leave every year.
Employees in the Mentor Moms program can choose their mentors from an internal database that includes photos and biographies of about 400 volunteers. Participants meet with their mentors before their maternity leave to discuss how they’d like to keep in touch during their absence.
“Being a new mom is a very personal experience,” said Stephanie Wolf, a manager at the company’s Tysons Corner office who also serves as a Mentor Mom. “Some might want to chat online every week, or talk by phone every month. Others might want to meet in person.”
There are certain issues Wolf says she regularly addresses: the logistics of nursing at work, creating a flexible work schedule and letting go of the guilt of leaving your baby.
“It’s about knowing when to be flexible and when to push harder,” Wolf said. “I mean, what’s the point of having kids if you don’t ever see them?”