Last week, Michelle and I appeared on NBC CT Today to discuss the fact that Hartford made #3 on the Forbes 2012 Best Cities for Working Moms.  You can watch the video here:
Hartford is Best City for Working Moms

I work in Hartford, and nothing about the city strikes me as particularly favorable, or unfavorable, for that matter, in terms of working moms.  So what is it about our little Insurance Capital of the World that earned it a coveted spot on this annual Forbes list, let alone the #3 spot?  In fact, what makes any of the places on this list of just 20 cities in the entire U.S. such great places for working moms?  Is it the low cost of daycare?  Businesses with flexible work arrangements?  Generous leave policies?

The Forbes article, posted by blogger Meghan Cassidy, isn’t exactly methodological in its overview of the rankings, but here is what I was able to distill as the factors that went into scoring each city:

* Population
* Average salary
* Unemployment rate
* Number of women-led firms
* Cost of living, exemplified by “the cost of a gallon of milk”
* Average commute time
* Job opportunity/high earnings potential
* Number of practicing physicians
* Public school district’s per pupil expenditure
* Violent crime rates
* Cost of childcare

The per pupil expenditure caught my attention, because I am a huge education dork.  I showed up at NBC CT studios prepared to discuss my thoughts about the Hartford Public Schools and the debate over the relevance of per pupil expenditure to quality of education.  Specifically, I thought it strange that the per pupil expenditure of the city itself was a factor, considering that many of us live outside of Hartford and send our kids to school in the towns where we live, not where we work.  Anyway, because the NBC spot was a short one, we just talked briefly about how hard it is to be a working mom in Hartford, #3 Best City or not, or anywhere, frankly.

But what I wanted to say on the air was this.  Noticeably absent from the above list is the factor that has the biggest impact on working mothers:  the willingness and ability of employers to allow women to successfully continue, and thrive in, their careers upon becoming mothers.  I would be curious to know how Hartford would fare compared with other cities in a door-to-door survey of the major employers in the area, asking about such factors as the length of maternity leave, the question of paid versus unpaid leave, the ability to work flexible hours, the existence of on-site childcare, and accommodations for pumping breastmilk, for starters.  Also missing from the Forbes factors was information about pregnancy disability leave, paid sick days, workplace pumping requirements, and other similar pieces of legislation.

Let’s not forget the “soft discrimination” that mothers face in the workplace.  While I’m the first to admit that things got a hell of a lot tougher when I had kids, that doesn’t mean that we working moms want to be passed up on challenging but exciting projects, just because we have kids waiting for us at home.  Well-meaning managers–men and women–will often overlook women with children for these assignments, which are exactly the kind of work that will give us breadth and depth in our career experiences and allow us to shoot up the ladders of our respective organizations.  Yes, some of us moms with young children need a bit of a break, as we learn to juggle new family commitments alongside work . . . but so does the middle-aged man whose mother has Alzheimer’s, or the woman in her 20’s whose spouse has been diagnosed with cancer.  We all struggle a bit in our personal lives, but we want to be treated like human beings, not like liabilities to the company’s bottom line, or like we are no longer valuable to the business by virtue of having a life outside of work.

Amusingly, the stats that Forbes provided on Hartford, which presumably indicate why the city made the cut, also include the following:

The average annual cost of childcare in the area is $12,650.  They don’t mention that this is PER CHILD, and that the cost for infant daycare tends to be even higher due to high demand.  Even with the small discount I get for my second child, my monthly daycare tuition is more than my mortgage payment.

Hartford’s current Per Pupil Expenditure is $16,528.  See my comments above.  Also, there is a plethora of research available demonstrating relatively low graduation rates and student achievement data in many districts with high PPE’s, while other districts with lower PPE’s have higher success rates in these areas.  I would love to cite to some sources here, but this would take up an entire blog post in and of itself, so this busy mom is going to shelve that for another time.

Violent Crimes Per 100K:  1,639.  Ok, but isn’t the violent crime rate a factor that speaks to quality of life for people in general, not just to working moms?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t celebrate the little successes and milestones we’ve attained in the struggle to make life easier for working moms, and dads.  But it’s clear we have a long way to go.  Do you live or work in the capitol region, and what’s good, or not so good, for working moms at your place of employment?

Leave Some Comment Love