#TBT: White House Summit on Working Families, a Year Later

Welcome to our new #TBT series. In the weeks to come, we'll revisit and reconsider HR topics that have made news in the past. Come back every Thursday to see how HR, the workforce, and work/life topics are evolving.

"Our economy demands it."

Those are the words President Obama used a year ago at the White House Summit on Working Families, spoken to illustrate the fact that support for parents in the workforce has broad economic implications.

"It's going to help us compete," said President Obama. "It's going to help us lead."

Working Families by the Numbers

It's a message that continues to resonate, especially when you look at the numbers:

  • 80 million families in this country (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Almost half have children under age 18
  • 40% of families have a female as the sole or primary breadwinner (Pew)
So supporting those millions of working families means capitalizing on a substantial resource for top-contributions.

Supportive Workplace: Policy and Progress

It's been a little over a year since Bright Horizons CEO Dave Lissy joined the President, business leaders, and policy makers in Washington with a singular goal; to lay the foundation for 21st century workplaces that enable working mothers and fathers to grow their families without cost to their careers.

And the conversation is still critical. Last year, weary working mothers and fathers told Bright Horizons Modern Family Index they were feeling hampered by work/family conflicts, fearing responsibility for children would get them fired, and using precious vacation time to take care of families instead of recharge.

This year, as we move through the middle of the decade, Millennials told us they were also feeling the sting and ready to pledge allegiance to the bosses who support them.

Defying their reputation as perpetual job hoppers, in fact, Millennials told us they'd not only prefer to stay with one job long term, they'd actually gravitate to companies willing to help them find that optimal intersection between work and life.

The High Stakes for Businesses

And the stakes for businesses continue to grow:

That last fact is of particular note. There might be a prevailing myth about Millennials -- that they have work/life balance all figured out -- but it's not true, especially now that their idealism is being challenged by the realities of promotions and families. "Millennials are now having children and moving into managerial roles," wrote Horizons Workforce Consulting's Rachel Hill recently. They're "finding out what their predecessors already know - that work-life balance is hard to realize."

Millennials and Positive Business Cultures

But one fact about Millennials and work/life balance is true: they're determined to achieve it. So the economic rewards of a Millennial-fueled workforce will ultimately go to the businesses that recognize and respond to their desires.

It's heartening that leaders are stepping up, with Employee Well-Being Month providing employers an opportunity to make their pledges (as Bright Horizons did) and legislators, including the President, investigating policy on a state and national level.

Months after the Summit, in his State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his stance on support for working families with some definitive words that were music to our ears.

"In today's economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality child care more than ever.

"It's not a nice to have," he told the joint session of Congress, "it's a must have."

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.