We are at a cultural precipice. Working a typical 9 to 5 job and ascending through the ranks is a thing of the past. For many, finding their path forward means melding the demands of career and parenthood. When companies aren’t readily prepared to take the leap and adjust policy to suit the needs of working parents, innovative and trailblazing employees are taking matters into their own hands and jumping first.
Before hitting the maternal wall, Sarah Johal assumed like many millennials, that she would pursue her career goals and climb the corporate ladder unencumbered. What Johal didn’t expect after becoming a parent six years ago was the blatant discrimination she endured while being passed up for a promotion which had been all but guaranteed to her. Quite suddenly, she was mommy-tracked and cast aside.
In 2016 she joined Lyft and began sharing her own story as well as similar stories from other mothers in the workplace. As an individual contributor at Lyft, her main focus was naturally her day job, but she quickly found herself wanting to connect with other working caregivers. Her passion and concern for the plight of working parents evolved until she founded UpLyft Parents.
Led by Johal and a team of volunteers, the group grew organically throughout the organization. Within a year and a half, they were able to plan and execute Lyft’s inaugural “Take Our Kids to Work Day.” The response was overwhelmingly positive with both parents and non-parents, noting that the event inspired the kind of fellowship and compassion that boosted morale company-wide.
Armed with this feedback, Johal and her team, had the momentum they needed to go full force and make the push to extend Lyft’s paid leave policy. Johal, a self-proclaimed policy fanatic, understood the significance of formally altering policy to support all new and existing working parents. She simultaneously joined forces with other Employee Resource Group (ERG) leads across the tech industry creating the Parents in Tech Alliance (PTA) where they were able to share policies, best practices and challenges across organizations both small and large. There she was introduced to PL+US who provided the support and motivation she needed to make the formal push to expand leave.
Utilizing PL+US’s resources, Johal was deliberate and methodical in pursuing policy reform and took critical steps to ensure her proposal would not only be considered but implemented. As other working parents consider making an impact within their organization to shape policy, here are Johal’s tips for effecting lasting change for all:
- Determine the benefits planning cycle to time your request with when it makes the most sense within your organization.
- Identify internal stakeholders including an executive who is willing to sponsor and support your cause, and allies from HR and your diversity and inclusion teams. Invest time in gaining their support, listen to their concerns and be open to feedback on your initial proposal.
- Do your research and know what your company values- What is the current policy now? Determine what the business value is in expanding it. How would expanding leave align with company values? Lyft was keen on employees bringing their authentic selves to work which of course includes parents and caregivers. This isn’t your Baby Boomers’ workplace, it’s time to set aside the expectation that you shouldn’t bring your home life and it’s complications into work!
- If you have access, even via your friends, find out what competitors in your space are offering. What is competitive? What would differentiate your organization?
- When crafting your proposal, include anecdotes and comments from working parents in the company and even non-working parents about how this would significantly impact their lives or about the hardship they felt with the current policy.
- Think outside the box and go beyond parental leave by incorporating other benefits, i.e., bereavement & military. If it’s a good fit, consider partnering with other ERGs.
- Finally, include any relevant news. For example, sharing information about your city or state updating it’s laws or the fact that the ACLU brought a lawsuit to JPMorgan for staggered leave. It also may be helpful to share research on how expanding leave increases retention and improves health outcomes for both babies and mothers.
Ultimately, Johal found success in expanding the leave policy at Lyft. Shortly after, she was recommended to a position at Workday, a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources, and is continuing her work to support parents there. Now at Workday, recognized as one of Fortune’s best workplaces for parents, Johal has joined the company’s parent employee group, and she is working with other members to take it from a networking club to building out more robust programming. She is also actively involved in the Workday Returnship Program for parents that are returning to the workforce after a long period away spent caregiving.
With 64 Million millennials expected to become parents in the next 10 years and almost 70% of fathers reporting that they have skipped a promotion or opportunity to be more involved at home, companies that are not prepared will find themselves far behind organizations that understand the value of supporting caregivers and allowing parents the flexibility to be their authentic selves at work.