How to Improve the Workforce for Working Parents (and Everyone Else, too)

This week, Maggie sits down with Mary Beth Ferrante, of WRK/360, to talk about how the workforce needs to change in order to suit the needs of working parents... and everyone else.

Are you a working parent? Do you think you will be someday? Not going to have kids but still want to have a livable work/life balance? This week’s episode is for you!

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Mary Beth Ferrante is a mom of two and advocate for creating inclusive workplaces for parents. She is the Founder & CEO of WRK/360, a training & development platform designed for working parents and managers to help companies support, retain and recruit working parents.

As a former SVP in the finance industry, she always valued growing her career and like so many other career-driven mamas, she was surprised to hit the Maternal Wall. Her own experience propelled her to dive deeper into maternal bias, to influence changes to workplace culture and to advocate for a national paid leave policy.

In addition to being a senior contributing writer and thought leader for Forbes, her work has also been featured on Today, Thrive Global, Working Mother, Her Money, FairyGodBoss, The Ladders, Medium, ScaryMommy, and other leading publishers.

To learn more about Maggie and her coaching and speaking services, visit

The theme music is called Escaping Light by Aaron Sprinkle. The podcast artwork design is by Maggie’s dear husband, Dan Rader.


Maggie Germano 0:07
Thanks for listening to the money circle Podcast. I am your host, Maggie Germano and I’m a financial coach for women. I’m passionate about helping women improve their relationship with money so that they can take better control of their futures. Part of that journey is making personal finance education more accessible and less judgmental, which is why this podcast exists. Each week we’ll discuss a new financial topic to help you explore how you can make a difference in your own financial life or in society as a whole. If you’re interested in diving deeper into issues like income inequality, debt or money, shame, check out my new money circle community. In the safe feminist space women gathered to talk about money without fear of being judged or shamed. We will break down shame and build community and safety for everyone so that you can find the support you need to gain control over your finances. Visit Maggie slash money circle to learn more and to join the community today. I can’t wait to see you there.

Hey there and thanks for listening. I’m your host Maggie Germano, and this week I’m chatting with Mary Beth Ferrante. Mary Beth is the founder and CEO of work 360, and an advocate for creating inclusive workplaces for parents. In this episode, we talk about the barriers and biases affecting working parents, especially working mothers. We discuss what individuals can do to improve their own situation, but we also dig into what employers and lawmakers need to change so that the system changes overall. If you are a working parent or you think you might be someday, or if you’re just a person who’s looking for more work life balance, this episode is definitely for you.

welcome Marybeth. Thanks so much for being here today.

Mary Beth Ferrante 1:59
Thank you. You so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Maggie Germano 2:02
Me too. So before we get started, why don’t you just take a minute to tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Mary Beth Ferrante 2:10
Sure. So I’m Mary Beth Ferrante, first and foremost, I’m a mom of two. I’m also the founder of WRK/360. We are a coaching and career development platform for working parents. So we primarily work with parents, who are ahead of making that big leap from being a working professional becoming to becoming that working parent professional and then ongoing, so beyond just return to work, how you integrate career and family, and really establish both your personal and your professional goals at the same time. I also am part of a dual career couple like most millennials, so my husband works full time as well. And you know, so were we in typical times we’re having this conversation during COVID So right now we’re both working remotely from home. But we both actually travel a fair amount in normal times. And so that is an interesting perspective when you talk about kind of juggling that intersection of work and family. So that’s us. I’m a native Midwesterner. But I live in Los Angeles and never thought that I’d be raising kids on the West Coast but here I am, and you know, have found to love it and you know, plan to be here long term.

Maggie Germano 3:30
That’s great. And I it’s always funny, where you end up in ways that you never really thought before.

Mary Beth Ferrante 3:36
Oh, absolutely. I actually went to undergrad in San Diego and remember saying like, I will never live in Los Angeles. No way that is just not on my, you know, to do list or like here. I’ve been here over 13 years now. I think so. You know, never say never.

Maggie Germano 3:54
Yeah, I guess it worked out. That’s really great. So tell me a little bit how you got into the work. Could you do it sounds like it’s very specific in terms of its focus. So how did you get into that?

Mary Beth Ferrante 4:07
So, I had a baby. Um, so basically, I grew up in the financial industry. So, you know, I was always working in corporate America fortune 100 companies, um, you know, spent my time at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America for the majority of my career, and, you know, really thought it’d be there forever. You know, I thought that was the trajectory that I was going to go on and just kind of continue to climb the corporate ladder, so to speak, and, and, you know, continue growing. I always say, though, that this pivot, you know, there were two big factors. One was obviously having my daughter and my experience returning to work. But the other piece of it is that I didn’t absolutely love my job. And I think if I had loved it, I would have just pushed through some of the bias and some of the frustration and some of the kind of negativity that I feel Felt returning to work. But because I didn’t love what I was doing, it was just even more apparent and more stark and really made me take that step back and kind of reevaluate, you know, what I was doing, why I was doing it and where I wanted to go. And so, really, the work that I do today was born out of that initial experience. So I, you know, worked for a company that had great policies, I had a paid leave. That was, you know, substantial for America, not for the rest of the world. But you know, for America, I’ll I took my 12 weeks and it was fantastic. And the return experience though, just was really challenging. I came back into a team of all men, all x consultant men too, so they’re as particular breed of overwork and busy and you know, an executive who so crazy when I think about it, but he actually very soon after I was back at work, he actually had his second child and didn’t tell anybody on the team. He just like took a few days off and worked remotely for a couple weeks. And like that was it and we really, okay. So it was just very much a culture of we only do work, we focus on work, and we were working, you know, most weekends and things like that. And so I just felt like I didn’t have a community like I didn’t have people to really connect with. And, you know, while I was on leave, I did go to a mommy and me, which was fantastic. I mean, really good friends, but none of them were returning to work as quickly as I was. None of them were going back into kind of that corporate setting. And so I just didn’t really feel again, like I had support and so that kind of started me on this path of like, well, what would support even look like? Like, what would I want and certainly talking to my friends and started talking to colleagues who had gone through it and really didn’t Kind of also looked at my strengths. And I had spent a lot of time running like leadership development programs, I was like, overseeing our Women’s Network, you know, our, like employee resource group for for the bank in Southern California. And I knew that it was about like mentorship and leadership development. And also just like that, again, that sense of community, just people to talk to. And so that really is what I started to then work through and work on and create with work. 360. And so, you know, I went back and I became a certified coach and, you know, in career and organizational development as well as in partnerships, because I think a lot of it is about how are you connecting with your partner at home, but also how are you connecting with your workplace and your manager and your people, leaders and your peers, and that really is you know, how your experience is going to be dictated. So, just went back and did a lot of that work and started working primarily with with moms. And then over the course of a couple years, recognized that in order for us to really significantly create some change, we also need to be doing it with the employer. And so now we primarily are our services are employer sponsored, but you can also still work with us individually to.

Maggie Germano 8:19
That’s fantastic. It sounds like I mean, obviously, like kind of winding road to like, get you there and I’m sure you’ve shifted and changed like at since you’ve gone the business and everything. But I think you’re the exact same in terms of almost every woman I speak to who starts their own business, it’s because of some necessity, based on an experience they had or something that they saw people they cared about going through and it’s like, Okay, this is a huge problem. I’m going to fix it.

Mary Beth Ferrante 8:50
Absolutely right. And, you know, and sometimes I go through that, you know, imposter syndrome of like, Who am I to be the one trying to fix this, but I think that I tried to take that step back and say, Well, if not me, then who and, and I also think that in this particular space with, you know, supporting families, particularly supporting women, there’s so much work to be done, that there could be 1000 of us, there probably are 1000 of us trying to do the same thing in different ways. You know, there’s some great startups that are much further along, but like, we need all of it. We need you know, it’s not I think the big difference when I think about this space in particular, and also just the women who are working in this space and some men, we’ve had some really incredible men doing some great work to it is this like collaboration mentality of like, there’s room for all of us, because there are so many businesses and so many women who are having babies in the US and beyond, and just not getting the support that they need to make that transition back to work and to also Like, really change how we work? Right? I think COVID has had a few silver linings. I mean, like to, let’s be honest, there’s not many. But one is being that we have proven that you can work remotely, right. But I think even in that, even in the understanding that we can work remotely, it is still about, well, what support Do you need to be able to work remotely, you still need child care, you still need mentorship, you still need, you know, connection. So there’s, I think, this move towards how do we build this future of work as opposed to just going back to what it’s been because it’s always been broken for working families, particularly for working mothers?

Maggie Germano 10:42
I totally agree. And that’s one thing that I’m hoping to see as like you said, a somewhat silver lining of this whole experience. Obviously, it’s been really terrible for a lot of people. But yeah, hopefully seeing changes in terms of childcare options. And remote working and flexible work hours and those sorts of things where hopefully, employers don’t kind of dig their heels in to say, No, no, no, it should be nine to five in person no matter what it’s like, because we’re seeing that people are still able to be productive and like, entire industries that can be remote are not failing right now.

Mary Beth Ferrante 11:21
Absolutely. I mean, it’s almost 40% of the workforce that can do their job 100% remotely, which is kind of insane when you think about it, right, that it’s that large of a population. And, you know, and yes, there are still so many jobs, that cannot obviously be done remotely and that you’d have to physically be there. I mean, obviously, anything in medical, even in government, right, like, you know, there’s massive industries that require your presence, anything in terms of like a factory line, but I think it’s at least giving us this opportunity to rethink even those scenarios of how do we operate and how do we kind of integrate more flexibility within even those kind of, you know, frontline jobs as well as give with more of those kind of corporate or computer based jobs.

Maggie Germano 12:11
Yeah, I love that. I can’t wait to see how more of that kind of shakes out over time. Can you talk a little bit? You started mentioning this a little bit in the beginning, but he talked a little bit more about what kinds of bias and discrimination and negative experiences you were having as you were re entering the workforce even just after 12 weeks what that was like for you?

Mary Beth Ferrante 12:33
Yeah, absolutely. So you know, there’s a term that we refer to very often called the maternal wall, and oh, my gosh, I’m gonna blank on her name, Joan. Ah, who actually coined the term back in I think, the early 70s. But, you know, it really is about kind of hitting, you know, we talked about the glass ceiling all the time, right, we talked about like, oh, women are trying to break the glass ceiling. We’re trying to get into that C suite. You know, we’re trying Get on boards, etc. But when we really step back and take a look at where the challenges are, you know, it’s as far back as that first promotion. So, you know, women are getting promoted into that first manager job at a lower rate than men are. But then we get to this place where, you know, where we are trying to grow our families, and we hit what’s called that maternal wall. And so, you know, part of it is logistics and circumstantial. And part of it is this bias. So, you know, I think especially in the US where in most cases, women have limited to no paid leave men, typically, if they have anything, have two weeks, right, someone that is shifting, but still today, only 20% of you as employees have access to paid leave. So that’s a huge problem. But it also means that, you know, in a heterosexual couple, for example, which is still you know, I think the majority of couples and families MX are shifting and we are so important, I think is making sure that we’re providing support for all parents, regardless of how you start your family. But particularly in heterosexual couples, we see this huge gender divide, right? So, you know, the pert the birth the mom is home, because they’re the one that has to physically recover. Right. And so the other partner has to go back to work because they probably don’t have access to paid leave. And so you kind of dig your heels into this gender dynamic right away. So it’s, you know, I’m home I, I am taking a step back. And then there is this perception that when you walk back into work, if you aren’t exactly who you were before, then you’re less committed, you you know, you’re getting mommy tracks, you shouldn’t feel like you have the opportunity to really grow you know, or that this especially in like client facing roles that it just doesn’t work logistically and people are unwilling to be flexible. And so, you know, for me, it was a few things and all of it It was like pretty subtle To be honest, I didn’t have anything completely blatant happen. And I think the biggest thing for me was just really this lack of even interest in my new role as a mother, right? There was no, it’s kind of like that first couple days was like, Oh, you’re back. How’s your baby? Great. Okay, then we never mentioned it again. Right? So there’s this culture on my team of secret parenting. That’s a big one. You know, then as I said, I had this executive that like, didn’t even take any time off. So that really reinforced that culture of secret parenting, and I’m like, we don’t, you know, we can’t talk about the fact that we have to leave for a doctor’s appointment for ourselves or for our kids. Like, you know, it was very much that we’re just always talking and focused on work. A few other things happens like for example, I’m pretty Taipei and you know, and I very much was nervous about the impact to my career. And so I actually requested that my accent stay turned on while I was on leave, and I was denied which is fine. They were trying to be nice. So this is benevolent bias, right? They’re trying to be kind to you and say, Take time with your baby, you don’t need to check in on work now we’re gonna deny your access. But the problem is, is that I had two male peers have children, you know, subsequently in the, like, within six months basically of my return. And we did at that time have paternity leave that they still do. But so they both took some time, much slower, much less time, but neither of their access were turned off. Right? So it’s just it’s this difference, right? There’s this there’s a stark difference between what it means to be a mom on my team and what it means to be a dad and what those expectations are. And then when I was actually returning to work, it was kind of like this weird push and pull of, Okay, we’re not going to give you as much opportunity, but we actually still expect you to work all these really crazy hours. So it wasn’t getting put on the like, great projects anymore. But I was also supposed to be working from seven people. Until 11pm, every night, because I was on the west coast and most of my team was on the east coast and they needed me to turn turn documents and you know, get information like in their inboxes by 6am. And so it’s like this really crazy situation where you’re like, Okay, but I’m still doing all this work, but I’m not getting these great assignments because you think that I can’t handle it. But yet, I’m still working 5060 hours a week, right? So it’s just a lot of this kind of lack of understanding and, and something that I call the boss lottery. Like, I think if you think one of the biggest challenges right now in corporate America is that if you have a great boss and empathetic boss who’s flexible and understanding, your return to work can be fantastic. But if you have a boss who just doesn’t really get it doesn’t understand it isn’t sure what to say, isn’t willing to have conversations with you about flexibility or boundaries or any of that, then your experience is much worse and you could be at the same company with the same policies with the same business. If it’s but it really is about, about that culture of your team. And so that’s one of the things that we’re really working on at work. 360 is actually providing more support and training for managers, in addition to the support that we provide for working parents, because we recognize that the the lack of conversation is such a big pain point, I think for employees returning to work, and then the other piece is, you know, what’s happening at the home fry, and I remember my, my husband, like, he, when I was pregnant with my second child, you know, he had said something to his boss, and his boss was like, Oh, well, we got to get you more money. And I was like, like, okay, yes, go get more money. Like, yes, I want you to do that. But like, also is this 1960 like that I am having a baby. So he needs to get more money in his job. Like it was just so backwards. But also like, I’m not gonna say don’t do it, right. We You know, it does help support our family. So I think there’s just still this, you know, This big, cultural, you know, divide around what it means to be a working parent and what it means to be a working mother. And for working moms, it’s really challenging because the ideal worker is, you know, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, constantly responsive to email can travel at the drop of a hat. And the ideal mother is also available to her children 24 hours a day, seven days a week drops everything for what they need is always you know, focused on their needs above anybody else’s. And so it’s really just this huge push and pull between those two roles and how they interact with each other in a work setting.

Maggie Germano 19:39
Yeah, and that’s, it puts so many people in an impossible situation on both sides, because and even what you were saying earlier about secret parenting and how you’re just the employee when you’re at work when it’s like, we are so much more than just what we do at work during the day, guys That also kind of assumes that like, if you were going through a tough time, or maybe you had an illness or whatever out there that you were caring for an ill family member or something even beyond raising children, it’s like, you just have to pretend that that’s not happening and just be like, this fake person at work has to function at 100% without any kind of leeway. It’s it really it harms everyone.

Mary Beth Ferrante 20:24
It does. And I think that’s one big thing that we’re trying to really focus on with work through 60 and as we continue to grow is that it is beyond just the working parent, right? It’s all caregivers, but it’s really all people everybody’s got something going on in their background and, you know, something that’s important to them personally, I think one thing that we have focused on you know, obviously I think my experience of going through this as becoming a new parent really drove you know, our focus on working parents initially, but it also is like, like 40% of employees are working parents and the majority, about 80 85% of professional women will become a mother at some point. Right? So it’s a huge population. So it’s a, it’s an opportunity point for people to really, you know, open up that dialogue to have those conversations to recognize that need to be able to talk about our lives, in our personal lives. And if we can, you know, move from secret parenting to an AI, in a culture where we can parent out loud, you know, then we can really be our authentic selves even beyond that. And so for us, it’s like, working parents is our first user case, right? But like, we recognize that this is something about just having these critical conversations and being able to be more authentic in the workplace and being able to bring our whole selves to work. And it all sounds great, but how do you actually do that? And I think it’s a lot of understanding what it is that you need first, and then what are those critical conversations that you need to have at home at work and at work to be able to do so?

Maggie Germano 22:00
Yeah, no, I think that’s so important. And I love how you keep saying that it’s not just about the individual making different decisions or having to change things up in their own lifestyle or whatever it might be. It also needs to be a conversation within organizations within the system as a whole. Because I feel like with career issues with money, issues with health issues, like pretty much anything, it it’s traditionally talked about, in a way that it’s like, it’s the individual’s responsibility to figure it out yet, but but it’s really about the system. And it’s really about forcing the systems to change along with how society is changing and how families are changing and how people’s expectations and needs are changing, versus the individuals bending and breaking under this system.

Mary Beth Ferrante 22:49
Absolutely. And I think that’s a huge piece of this right. 78% of millennials are part of dual career couples. Well, only about 47% of baby boomers are right so You take a look at the leadership and you take a look at the population who’s actually kind of becoming the leadership, right? They’re kind of mid career, there’s a huge difference between what their needs are, and what the expectations are right? Like, there, there is no one at home caring for your child anymore. And most people are working and most parents are working. And so, you know, and if you look at working mothers in the US, 76% of them have children under six, right? So they need support, they need that opportunity to care for their young children. And so it is systemic. It’s, you know, in, like, work, working, whatever the whole idea of balance. I mean, everybody is fully aware that that’s just complete Bs, right? There’s no way that you can really balance anything but I think this expectation that if it’s just, if I just do one more thing, or if I’m one quick fix, or if I just implement this one tool, everything’s going to be perfect, like there’s no way right So we do want to look at how can we support the individuals to make work work for them and figure out what’s best for their family while also simultaneously working with managers influencing cultures you know, I advocate for paid family leave I’m you know, friends with other people who are doing incredible work when it comes to addressing the child care crisis. Like we need to be looking at this completely holistically, both in our in our families right holistically. It’s not just about what’s happening at work. It is about what’s happening at home. And one of my friends and colleagues Eve Brodsky wrote a book called fair play, it’s all about the homefront, right. It’s all about how you’re splitting up responsibilities and ownership between you and your partner. And if you’re not sharing responsibilities at home, like you can’t be successful at work, right? It just there like something has to fall. So I think it’s about really looking at this from that 360 vantage point of how are we supporting at home How are we supporting at work? And then how are we supporting cultures to actually make these changes and be more supportive and have policies that are more inclusive of working parents like one really simple thing. So if by any chance anyone listening as an HR leader, or has the ability to influence your company or your organization’s policy, like when you take a look at paid family leave it there should no longer be maternity leave, right? There should be parental leave. And we need to be providing opportunity for every parent to have that time to bond with their child to care for their children to care for their family. So I think that’s a really big shift in how you can just change a policy to really be more inclusive of all parents to be more inclusive of LGBTQ a parents as well as you know, it doesn’t diminish heterosexual couples or put anyone in a worse position. It’s about being more inclusive and including dads and non birth parents and I think there’s just a huge opportunity to take a look at policies to make them more inclusive. But the big thing is, then you have to have the culture change behind that. So how do you then work with companies like ours or something to actually help influence that change into train leaders on why it’s important, so that you don’t have you know, my colleagues who a we had the same leave for both men and women, yet the the men on my team were like, so how much am I supposed to take? And, you know, often got met with, oh, you know, take what you need. But that came at a very heavy weight, right? What does that mean? Does that mean all of it? Does that mean half of it? Right? So, so it’s we have to have the policy but then we have to have the culture change that that supports the policy.

Maggie Germano 26:51
That’s so important, because yeah, it’s like, just because of policies in place doesn’t mean that people are encouraged to take advantage and I know that Even just the example of, like, universal or no a paid leave, or unlimited paid leave. Yeah. And a lot of places, it’s like unlimited paid leave, oh my god, you could like take so much time off, but people actually take less time off when they have the head because there isn’t a culture saying like no really take as much leave as you need. And so my husband’s company just implemented unlimited paid leave and I was like, okay, we need to sit down and decide what that’s actually going to look like for us and have kind of an agreement of like, is it five weeks out of the year? Or is it more than that and so that we can track it together so that you’re actually taking the time instead of feeling like you need to be comparing yourself to what other people are doing, which I assume would be the same for men or non birthing parents who are like, wait, I don’t need to physically recover. So like Why should I need to take time off?

Mary Beth Ferrante 27:52
Exactly, exactly. Yeah, we know that the health outcomes for both mom and baby are significantly higher. Later partners are getting Take that time off, right? Like it’s, you know, it’s kind of when you get into the statistics, it’s like, it’s a no brainer. People like, oh, why are we here yet? But hopefully, knock on wood in the next couple years, we’ll get to a national family paid paid leave policy, but I think it is starting to recognize like, what are those benefits and, and also that even in a work setting, I think it’s really fascinating. You know, your brain actually changes when you have a baby. But your brain can also change just from bonding with a newborn and carrying from a newborn. And so if you’re able to be there, in those first few weeks and months, you are becoming more adaptable, you are becoming more flexible. you’re figuring out new ways to communicate with this infant because guess what, like, birthday moms don’t know what we’re doing either. We’re just thrown into the fire and left to figure it out ourselves. And everyone says like, Oh, it’s intuition, maybe. But I think it’s also that we just don’t have any other option, right? We have to figure it out. And so if we give number the parents Same opportunity to figure it out, it actually helps them have those same or similar brain changes that a birthday mother does. And they’re all qualities that are necessary for leaders, especially now, right with a future of work, being more adaptable, being flexible, being able to, you know, shift your communication style to work for people, for different styles of people. It’s really kind of incredible when you think about it, that parents are really put in this position to become better leaders simply by becoming parents.

Maggie Germano 29:32
I love that. I love that framing, because that’s not the way we typically talk about it. But it sounds like yeah, being able to be flexible. I mean, especially now with COVID. like everyone’s had to just throw everything we’ve typically done out the window and start from scratch.

Mary Beth Ferrante 29:50
For sure, for sure. It’s so challenging. And and you know, and I think especially in this climate and kind of thinking about COVID and, you know, I really Do you think at the end of the day that you have to do what’s right for you and for your family, and so that is going to be different than your best friend, your sister in law, you know, etc. And so it is about making those those judgments. But I also think it’s about ensuring that you’re kind of exhausting all possibilities to write, we know that women are quitting at a higher rate a significantly higher rate than men right now, about 47%. more women than men are quitting or being let go because of COVID. You know, and that quitting is because they’re having to deal with the lack of childcare or the fact that they’re homeschooling. We also know that women who are still working are working four to five less hours a day, which is significant, you know, you can see it really clearly in academia, and men are publishing more papers than ever, and women have really stuttered. They haven’t had the time because they’re really just blame all the pieces at home. And so you know, I think it is an opportunity to to say before you quit before you make that decision. And I always think about this to just simply in the return to work before you make that decision to quit, you have to really think about, okay, what do I actually want, both from a career and professionally or personally, right? And if you want to be a stay at home, mom, and that’s always been your dream, like more power to you? Absolutely. But recognizing that if you feel like you’re getting pushed out, or you feel like that’s your only choice, what are those things that you can shift? So is it about changing the dynamic in your home so that you have more space to work? Is it about having those conversations at work and asking about flexibility or going part time or a job share or, you know, just even a ramp period where maybe you come back at 50 or 75% for three months and then you get back to that hundred percent? So I think we we feel like we can’t ask because we don’t want to be Difficult we want to be in we’re at this point in our careers, oftentimes, we’re having babies in our late 20s and early 30s. We’re right in this place where we’re trying to get to that influential position, but we’re not quite there yet. And but I do think by having and asking for those things, you know, it recognizes the need for it. And if you get that pushback and ultimately decide that’s not the right fit for you, at least you know, that you’ve kind of gone down that path, and then you can look for an opportunity in the culture that is a better fit for you. Because right now 50% of millennial women, you know, change their job status after having a baby simply because it’s not working for them. And I think oftentimes, because we’re not having those conversations and so well, I hate to put it on the mom or on the parent, to always be the one to speak up. And that’s what we are very focused on shifting as you know, getting that into the hands of the manager to have those conversations in the culture of the organization. Right now. Still predominantly is and so we don’t speak up, you know, we really kind of are setting ourselves up for that feeling like we have to or we’re being forced into quitting. And from a financial perspective, and I’m sure you’ve talked about this, you know, it’s a huge, huge gap. You know, if you’re making about $75,000 a year, and you’re out of the workforce for five years, that compounds to millions of dollars, because it’s not just salary, right? It’s salary and benefits and 401k match and opportunity to continue to grow in your career. So your salaries increasing, right? So all of those factors that really end up kind of creating this huge gap and where we see the wage gap is almost almost not all, but it’s almost all the difference between motherhood and fatherhood. When you really get in, there’s a huge story in box actually, box media did a really big analysis in other countries as well as the US and I’m really ready Recognizing that the wage gap is really about childbearing, which is kind of crazy.

Maggie Germano 34:06
It’s very upsetting. And it touches back to what you said earlier about how when your husband told his boss, he was having another kid, they were like, oh, let’s pay you more women are gonna have the opposite experience of that. And it’s just so yeah, infuriating.

Mary Beth Ferrante 34:22
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And actually, one of the things I didn’t mention was a piece of the reason that I left was financial, you know, I had been promoted, I’d actually been promoted on a leave, which was crazy and great. So I’ve been promoted to SVP and came back and realized, though, that even though I had been promoted, I was still making less than my male peers who hadn’t been promoted, you know, kind of went down that path to have those conversations actually before may leave them as I came back and they kept saying, oh, we’re going to make it up to you. We’re going to make it up to you and then it was we’re gonna make it up to you in your bonus. And I was like, Okay, great. And when my bonus came around that year, it was $1,000 more than the previous year looks like and how is that making it up to me? That was really the final straw for me where I was like, Oh, you don’t actually value what I’m bringing to the table. So I think I’m done.

Maggie Germano 35:15
Yeah, that that makes a huge difference. I mean, just seeing the discrimination happening in front of you. And even It sounds like you were having those conversations and pushing to be paid what you should have been paid. And they still, were not doing the right thing.

Mary Beth Ferrante 35:32
Yeah, exactly. Right. And so I think that’s the point, we need to think about how we can raise our voices, but we also need to be looking at it from that 360 view of what are we doing structurally and culturally? And how are we really looking at tackling this? Because it is a bigger problem than just any one of us. But I think we all have to also stick up for ourselves too.

Maggie Germano 35:54
I totally agree. So yeah, it’s it’s just like with the wage gap conversation around negotiating And how important it is to negotiate individually. But obviously, it’s a systemic issue that discrimination that bias is so built in, there needs to be actual policy changes to enforce that long term change. But that doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for yourself in the moment. So it sounds like it’s the same for working parents as well. Absolutely. So you started talking about this in terms of like the lost wages and benefits and things like that. But can you talk a little bit more about the financial impact of discrimination against working parents and how the system is not really built for them?

Mary Beth Ferrante 36:37
Yeah, so there is just again, kind of when you get into the data, there is a motherhood penalty of about 4% of salary with each child, whereas there’s actually a fatherhood bonus. So kind of like my husband’s experience, where they actually tend to get paid more with each child and so this is where that gap starts to Be persistent, even though what I mean, where it’s most Stark actually is there was some research done around MBA grads. And you know, looking at men and women who both were very committed to their careers, right, they obviously went back to school, they got their MBA, they started working again. But the wage gap after 10 years after having children was 45%, between mothers and fathers, so huge discrepancy. And some of that has to do with a godness kind of like getting pushed out, right, we think about, you know, like I said, 50% of millennial mothers are making a job status change. And a lot of that is that they are moving into, you know, flexible work or they’re moving into maybe part time, or they are, you know, opting out of the workforce. And there is definitely a portion of that that is chosen. You want to have more flexibility, but I think a lot of it too is that it’s being pushed on you You’re not given that flexibility in your current career. So you have to make a change, you know, whether that’s changing the type of work you’re doing, or whether you’re doing it just another company or another culture. But you know, it’s really a huge loss on these companies. You know, if you lose just 14 people after the birth of their child within the first year, it could cost your company a million dollars, right? Like, why aren’t we trying to retain parents? It seems like a very easy ROI. So there’s a lot of kind of compounding factors into how that wage gap persists. But I think one of the biggest things too, is just when you’re thinking about it individually, and you’re having that conversation with you and maybe your partner or spouse of Should I go back to work or should I go back full time, is that you never want to put childcare against just one person salary. Right? You always have to think about that as childcare against both of your salaries because it’s enabling both of you to work right. And and that’s a significant thing. I think. Miss when we try to just put it against one person salary and say, oh, it just doesn’t financially make sense. Well, again, it’s not just about your salary today, it’s about your salary next year, and in five years and in 10 years, and if you’re given that opportunity to stay in the workforce, you have that continued growth trajectory. And then the other piece of it is, of course, like loss benefits, lost retirement, you know, you think about kind of all those compounding factors. So it’s not just your salary, it’s like, paid vacation, you know, guess what, stay at home moms don’t get paid vacation, tell you neither do business owners, but okay. We’ll get there eventually. You know, I think just really recognizing that there’s a lot more value to just what your take home pay is. So really making sure that you’re doing that evaluation holistically, and that you’re doing it against both of your salaries. If you’re part of a dual career couple. I think it’s really important. Just kind of message to hit home when you’re making that initial Evaluation within your, your own family.

Maggie Germano 40:02
I think that’s really good advice. Because Yeah, I mean, especially with the wage gap persisting, it might automatically seem like, Oh, of course, the woman is going to be the one to stay home because she makes less. But yeah, like you said, it’s it’s not that simple. And, and I I also think with like quality of life issues and just, you know, does she really want to leave the workforce? Or is she going to be really unhappy with that and really regret that decision? I think that that is something that should be majorly considered as well.

Mary Beth Ferrante 40:32
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, and I do think that we have an overworked premium problem in this country, right, where we, you know, you look at a couple right or like, we’re looking at two couples. One couple is, you’re both working 40 hours a week, and they’re still both working, or you have another couple where one is working 60 hours and the other person is working 20 hours, like most likely the couple that’s doing the 6020 split is actually going to be more fun. Angeles to stable and have more money because the person working 60 hours is getting such a premium. They’re getting more promotions, they’re getting more opportunities, they’re rising quicker, because they’re, you know, providing that overwork. And we really do put a premium on it premium on it, especially here in the US. So God like it is about what works for your family. And I think until we really fixed that, which again, was more of a systemic issue, you know, it is going to be a persistent wage gap. But I think recognizing, what do you want? And what are your professional and personal goals? And how do you set up your family in a way that’s going to enable you to do what you both want, and you know, and that might be switching back and forth between who gets to go for that promotion, or it may be that one person does take a step back and that’s okay, too. But, again, it’s just I think, from my perspective, it’s about making sure that it’s an intentional decision and not feeling like you were forced or pushed into it, or that there was no other option. And so making sure that it’s a conversation both at home and at work, and then it’s, you know, again, not just something that you’re like, well, this is all I can do, and you kind of wave your hands in the air and say I have to be, you know, I have to step back or I have to quit or it has to go to a different company, you know, or, or I have to, you know, appease my spouse or my partner and allow them to be able to work those crazy hours. Again, it’s like if that works for you, great, but just make sure it’s intentional and not something that you feel just happened to you.

Maggie Germano 42:33
That’s that’s really good advice because it is more empowering in that way. It rather than like you said, it feels forced and you just kind of had to fall into it.

Mary Beth Ferrante 42:42
I mean, like a perfect example of this is just like the first time your baby gets sick. Hey, what happens is it just assumed that mom’s day so why, right like, everyone’s time is valuable, everyone’s time should really be valued the same. So You know, again, if that is just the assumption, okay, that’s fine. But have you had a conversation about it? What’s gonna happen next time? Are you guys gonna switch off? Are you going to go back and forth? Is it always going to be on the birthday mom, right like, so just again, being intentional about that conversation, it’s just a really simple example that will happen, your child will get sick, you will have to stay home from work. So how does that influence kind of the dynamic in your family?

Maggie Germano 43:26
Yeah, no, I like that. It’s important. So I love how much you’ve been talking about how you’re also working with employers as well and advocating with them. So can you talk a little bit more about what kinds of changes you’re advocating that they make, you know, working with them to make as well as policies to kind of put in place and, and how that looks from the perspective of the employer?

Mary Beth Ferrante 43:50
Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, from a policy perspective, it does just start with paid leave. So what is if you don’t even have paid leave, like okay, let’s start Right. It’s kind of crazy. If you look at the 100 Best Places to Work for women, if you actually get into the details, a lot of those companies do not have significant paid leave policies. They may have two weeks, they may have four weeks, right. But we should be in a position where we’re at a minimum of 12 weeks, ideally more between 16 and 20. The World Health Organization and the new American Foundation both recommends six months. I recognize that in the US that sounds crazy. But compared to the rest of the world, we are woefully behind. With most countries having six months or more. You know, when it comes to that paid leave policy, we really follow what our friends over at pay leave us or plus are recommending. They’re a nonprofit that is fighting for paid family leave and they recommend equal, equitable or equal accessible and adequate leave policies. So what do you think about that equal is about you know, all parents, all families Right, so that everyone has that same opportunity to take leave. When you think about accessible, it’s all levels. Right? So are we giving that same opportunity not just to corporate employees, but to our frontline workers, our retail workers, our factory workers, right? You know, are they giving that same opportunity and benefit? And also, is there portability? So Can someone take this leave if they haven’t been with the company for a year? You know, I think one of the biggest challenges for women is you start to you start to get to the age where you want to have children and you start to finally realize you got to look at these policies. One, you might find out that your company doesn’t have one, which is always a bit of a shock thing. But to is that recognizing that to qualify for even FMLA, which is unpaid. You have to have been with your company for a year, which means that you can’t make the same job transitions that most men can because they aren’t going to get paid leave anywhere so they don’t care as much and they’re able to continue to make those leaps in those operations. So we really want to look at companies who are open to providing leave, you know, no matter how long you’ve been with the company, or at least minimizing that. So coming from a year may be down to six months or down to four months or three months. Because ultimately, the paid leave time is a blip, right? In the course of a career. You know, when you really think about it, if it’s 1216 weeks, three or four months, even if you have two or three kids over the course of a 40 year career really is nothing. And so we really want to look at how can we make that more accessible. And then the last piece is the adequacy piece. So 25% of birthing mothers right now go back to work within two weeks. You’re not physically ready. I don’t care who you are, you can be Superwoman. Like your body is not ready, your baby is definitely not ready. Like none of that is good. And so we really need to look at having adequate paid family leave policies. So again, that to me as a minimum of at least 12 weeks, ideally 16 to 20, if not even longer to get to that, you know, six months threshold. So those are that’s what we can look at from like a policy perspective. And then it’s the change management around that. So once you have the policy, how do we actually implement that transition to utilizing it. So training managers, providing them with tools and resources as to why it’s important, helping HR leaders to make sure that they’re checking in with all new parents and anyone using paid family leave, about how they’re using it, how long they’re using it, etc. We actually have a manager training program that really goes along the same timeline as the employee journey. So kind of think about like the bumper or any of those apps where they’re like your baby’s the size of a banana or whatever, right? So it’s kind of the same thing, but from a career perspective. So really kind of starts with your employee just share that they’re expecting, how did you react? Right and we give them a little bit of feedback on how to best react and kind of walk them through how to help prepare. They’re employed for their leave, create transition plans, create communication plans, make sure that you know nothing that’s kind of left to the wayside, that everything’s really set to go in about 36 weeks, and then also supports them in that return. So how can you have conversations about flexibility and accommodations? And as a manager, what are the things that you can do to really influence the career trajectory of a working parent on your team? And so it’s really meant to kind of again, follow that same journey of the employee and give them the tools to help them navigate a really tricky situation. And we we designed them primarily because we heard from a lot of managers we did a lot we’ve done a bunch of workshops, right. But it’s always kind of in one ear out the other right, you know, it’s in the moment, but oftentimes, we heard from managers that like they just didn’t know what to say. They didn’t know what to do. So they didn’t really broach it and and then it really is all up on the employee. And I think regardless if you’ve never had a child before Never been there. So you can’t really rely on your own experience. And if you have had a child before, we often see that there is some of this kind of affinity bias of, we’ll just do what I did. Right. And that doesn’t always work for every family. You know, if you are in a much more senior position, you’re making more money, maybe you have the ability to pay for in home care. You know, if you’re still kind of growing your career, and you’re having to deal with daycare drop offs, and you get charged $5 a minute if you’re late, right, like you have to be out the door, or there’s no flexibility there. So I think again, it’s just trying to give managers those tools to have those conversations in the moment as it’s happening and really support that leave process and return to work.

Maggie Germano 49:44
That sounds amazing. I, I’m sure that’s making the managers so much better at their jobs to like, they’re just being more supportive of their employees and you’re like guiding them along this process. So like you said, it’s not just on the individual And it probably goes beyond just dealing with employees that are expecting a child to like becoming a more understanding kind.

Mary Beth Ferrante 50:09
I mean, it’s not to say at the end of the day, like what I’m really teaching is empathy. Like, let’s be honest. It’s, you know, it’s about this point in in a very common point for working professionals, but it is about just okay, how can you be a little bit more understanding more open to possibilities to really, you know, taking some ownership and having the conversation to?

Maggie Germano 50:35
Yeah, that’s so important. So what are some of the policies and changes that you all are advocating for or at least support when it comes to more of that? local state national level?

Mary Beth Ferrante 50:48
Yeah, so definitely national family, paid family leave 100%. We are extremely supportive of a national leaf policy. I think state policies are fantastic, but it’s really, really challenging. for companies to implement number one, and also for, you know, employees to kind of like take jobs where they need to or where they want to. And now with remote work, it becomes even more complicated because the company is based in California where there is paid leave. But the employees based in Kentucky where there isn’t paid leave, it gets really really, you know, kind of messy. So, national paid family leave for sure. Also universal childcare. I think the expansion of child care is a really big one. not to get too political. But I think the fact that we have a presidential candidate at least including childcare in their campaign message is a huge win and really will kind of move I think the conversation regardless forward which is very exciting. So looking at affordability, you know, childcare is more than most people’s mortgage mine. It’s more than my mortgage for two kids, which is frightening. But we’re also not paying our care providers Well, right, so it’s a really challenging situation. So I think when we look at Universal child care, you know, definitely starts with universal pre K, universal preschool. And then you know, can we even get into infant and younger care as well. So supporting those policies is a big one for us, too. And then I think just also, I think there’s so much going on in the DNI, world, di world around inclusion, and, you know, so just looking at, you know, how you’re creating cultures and policies that support inclusion at all aspects of the in plane experience. I think it’s being not authentic person and being able to bring your whole self to work, whether that’s about being a parent, or whether that’s about your race or your ethnicity. You know, I think all of it is very intersected and, you know, particularly in the work that we’re doing, you know, black women are, you know, four times more likely to die in childbirth in the US They’re also four times more likely to be the breadwinner of their family. So they need that support as they’re becoming a working parent even more acutely. So there’s a lot, I think, to be kind of looked at too with a lens of intersection between, you know, race and motherhood and how that impacts companies overall. So we’re kind of looking at all of it. And we’re definitely super supportive, like I said, a national paid family leave and universal childcare.

Maggie Germano 53:27
That’s fantastic. And I totally agree with you that like just the wonders that those two policies would do for communities for individual families, for companies like everyone will benefit when everyone is getting the care and the support that they actually need because then you can show up and be more productive because you’re not freaking out about child care. You’re not worrying about how you’re going to pay your your child care provider that month, and it’s just yeah, and also having time to recover before you have to go back to work. After

Mary Beth Ferrante 54:00
But it’s crazy if you start to be a total geek like me, and if you want any book recommendations just hit me up. But we actually almost had universal childcare in the 70s. It almost passed and it got blocked by President Nixon. So, you know, we were so so close to actually having something that was implemented, you know, 50 years ago. So it’s definitely been a topic of conversation, I think, for decades now. And I think we’re at a tipping point, actually, with with the pandemic to really shine a spotlight on just how challenging it is to be a working parent in the US.

Maggie Germano 54:36
Yeah, I totally agree. And again, with the silver lining conversation, hopefully that ends up being a big part of it.

Mary Beth Ferrante 54:42
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Maggie Germano 54:44
So is there anything else you haven’t touched on? I mean, you’ve provided so much information. But is there anything else you want to make sure our listeners know about this particular topic or the work that you do?

Mary Beth Ferrante 54:56
Yeah, it’s the last thing that I would say maybe maybe two things. Number one is if you are planning for your leave, you know, make sure that you really understand what benefits are available to you. You know, FMLA is the national policy, but it is not paid for new parenting, or for the birth of a child. But most of you know, again, some states and some companies have paid leave policies, and they all kind of overlap. And it can be very complicated. So if you’re first looking at it, and you have no idea, make sure you reach out to a colleague who’s recently been through it, make sure that you’re reaching out to your HR provider, if you’re still not getting the answers you want, you know, reach out to us at work 360 we’re happy to point you in the right direction. I think it’s really important to even understand your leave and it’s unfortunately, way more convoluted than it shouldn’t be. Until you’re kind of juggling like pregnancy, disability leave Short Term Disability leave paid family bonding, usually or a parental bonding, you know, and then you’re also having To kind of juggle whether or not that’s coming from your state, or if it’s coming from your employer, or if it’s coming from both, you know, sometimes we see employers do top offs, which means that if the state pays you 60%, but your employer will pay you the difference. So you know, especially from a financial perspective, it’s so critical to understand all the nuances of this in, for example, in that type of model, you know, if you’re getting paid by the state, oftentimes, you’re getting paid on a gross amount, not a net amount, so you’re not having taxes taken out, which means that you’re going to get hit for that tax liability later. So it’s super convoluted, like I said, and complicated and nobody really knows how to spell it out. So just make sure you’re doing the research that you are understanding it that you’re getting your questions answered, because you should be able to take as much leave as you physically and possibly can. And then also recognize that even if you don’t get paid leave, you know, sometimes you can negotiate unpaid leave for a little bit of extra time and retain some of your benefits or Medical. So there’s some benefit to that as well. So just making sure you really understand that, I think the second piece to them your return is just making sure that you’ve talked to your manager about what benefits your company may have, whether they have backup care, or they have, you know, other services, maybe they help, you know, with matching to a child care center or anything like that. So, again, I feel like all these benefits are so hidden. So it’s just making sure that you’re really looking for them and asking those questions so that you get what you need. And then finally, I’ll say, you know, we’d love to see you over in the work 360 community. We have a library of oh my gosh, I think over 40 courses, everything from you know, planning for leave, through return to work through building your career and family strategy. We have some things in there that are COVID specific right now. And so it’s a really nominal fee to join that on demand community. So we’d love to invite you over there. Find us on Instagram at work 360 efficient Find me at minus MB underscore Ferrante on Instagram or on LinkedIn. You know, we definitely want to make sure that you’re getting the support that you need, so that you can really, you know, identify what it is that you want out of your kind of career and family strategy going forward.

Maggie Germano 58:20
Thank you. That’s wonderful. And I’ll link to all of those resources and social media profiles and everything in the show notes. So people have easy access to that. And I signed up for some of your courses as well. So I’m really excited to be diving into those. I’m just happy you have so many resources.

Mary Beth Ferrante 58:39
Awesome. I’m glad that you’re in there.

Maggie Germano 58:42
Great. Well, thank you so much for talking about this today. I think this is huge for so many people. And like we said it’s really going to end up affecting everybody in one way or another and so we’re better off making these changes now.

Mary Beth Ferrante 58:54
Yeah, absolutely. Well, thanks so much for having me. It was great to connect and for all of you thinking about having to And are already having children know that well, it is complicated and challenging. It’s totally worth it on the other side promise.

Maggie Germano 59:07
That’s good to know, too. All right, thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening to the money circle podcast this week. If you like the conversations we’re having here and you’d like to go even deeper, join the new money circle community. In this safe intersectional feminist space. We will break down money shame and build community and safety for everyone so that you can find the support you need to gain control over your finances. Visit Maggie slash money circle to learn more and to join. If you’d like to get more connected with me, subscribe to my weekly newsletter at Maggie Germano comm slash subscribe to learn more about my financial coaching services, my speaking and workshop offerings or just to read my blog visit Maggie You can also follow me on instagram and twitter at Maggie Germano. I look forward to hearing from you. Bye