Parent Friendly Work Culture

Julia Kanouse

CEO at Illinois Technology Association (ITA)



As tech companies grow and mature, so do their employees. What worked early on in a company's lifecycle may not translate as employees look to start and raise families. Trends show that parents – especially mothers – are abandoning tech careers at a faster pace than their peers. ITA's Women Influence Chicago initiative brought together over thirty tech leaders (men, women, parents, and non-parents) to discuss these critical and emerging criteria in creating inclusive work cultures.

Actions taken

We came together and engaged in robust conversations concerning best practices as a working parent, what companies are doing to support these familial dynamics and integrating professional and personal life as an employed mother or father. The discussions at our newly launched WIC events are often laden with insights that reverberate beyond the typical and provide insight into areas of work culture and practice beyond just gender parity. As with many of our events, we focus on providing these kinds of ideas to attendees. Beyond our events, we're inspired to imbue these types of takeaways and insights into our outreach as well as our collaborative content with our members. Later this fall, we'll be shaking up our email and content mix with some new variety to keep things fresh but not flood your inbox with additional frequency. Be on the lookout.

Lessons learned

Here are the top four takeaways from the event which was sponsored by Lantern Partners:

  1. "Any meaningful cultural norm must come from the top." Senior leaders need to be transparent about spending time with their families. When you leave early for a kid's soccer game, put it on your calendar and tell your team about it. Don't let your team assume you are headed to a client meeting or try to "sneak" out of the office. Celebrate how you integrate life and work in a public way.

  2. "Create an even playing field for people with children and those without to avoid an 'us' vs. 'them' culture." Allow everyone within the organization to have a "virtual baby" or "one special thing" that takes them away from work. Team members share their special thing with the rest of the team ("I coach basketball" or "I run four miles three days a week" or "I have dinner with my parents"). When those things are on the schedule, and someone has to leave, there are no questions and no guilt. Compensate (with salary or bonus) those employees that pick up the extra slack when a team member is out on leave.

  3. "Ensure you have a robust leave policy and be proactive about putting it in place." Don't wait until your first employee is expecting and require her/him to blaze a trail. Think through all the options: mothers, fathers, adoptions, return to work, intermittent leave and ensure your plan exemplifies your culture.

  4. "Change the profession." Often leaders will throw up their hands and say, "it's just how it is in our industry." There's too much travel, too late of nights, too many hours for working parents to thrive in this industry. Forward-facing leaders recognize that the profession may have to change to accommodate the way working parents want to work. It may no longer be enough to ask employees to conform to the profession.

Source: Illinois Technology Association

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Julia Kanouse

CEO at Illinois Technology Association (ITA)

Leadership DevelopmentOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentCareer GrowthInclusion in TechDiversity and Inclusion InitiativesDiversity ImpactDiversity HiringIndividual Contributor RolesLeadership Roles

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