Last week’s announcement that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is now the first-ever pregnant CEO of a Fortune 500 company gives working mothers everywhere a lot to cheer about. Mayer herself said that the board had knowledge of her pregnancy during the interviewing process, and their decision to hire her “showed their evolved thinking.”
This should make every woman in America say “Yahoo!” for Yahoo. This news came just three months after National Public Radio aired a piece called “Working Moms’ Challenges: Paid Leave, Child Care.” That story said two-thirds of women with young children now work.
What really needs to be celebrated here are the numbers of small companies in our country, and right here in Maine, that already have “evolved thinking” when it comes to working mothers. You probably know of one in your own backyard or down your street.
One that comes to mind is a small promotional advertising company called Brian Gilbert Associates in Cumberland. Behind the working moms at this company is a very understanding man. The owner, Brian Gilbert (known to his golfing buddies as “Gibby”), has always had an open mind when it comes to maternity leave and child care issues.
“When I was a kid, my father worked a lot of hours in a day, but he would never miss a sporting event of mine,” Gilbert said. “It impressed me that he would get out of work.” Gilbert has a strong belief that parents and kids need to be together because kids “grow up so fast.”
Gilbert doesn’t have kids of his own, but in his company’s 12-year history, he has employed 10 working moms, three who took maternity leave a total of five times.
“My employees have always been able to bring their newborns and young ones here into the office,” he said.
Gilbert’s office manager Rachael Jaynes gave birth to her first child nearly two years ago. “It’s a very relaxed atmosphere working here,” she said. “There’s a real relaxed feeling you get from Brian. Pregnant or not pregnant, mom or no mom, Brian’s been like: your life comes first.” Jaynes and her husband really appreciate that approach, especially when the issue of child care came into play.
Jaynes went back to work shortly after her son was born, and she did not yet have day care set up.
“Brian said, ‘Well, why don’t you just bring him in here?’ So I set up a crib and brought him in for at least two months.” Jaynes says she would slip into the bathroom every hour and breast pump while Brian kept an eye on her sleeping son. “For not having kids himself, it’s really incredible that Brian understands.”
Today, Jaynes’ son is nearly 2 years old and attends the day care across the street. Each day, she picks him up and brings him into work for the last hour or two in the afternoon. “Even when Brian is really busy, I can’t keep Brian away from him. For not having a family, he’s a real family man.”
Cindy Bowden has three grown children who were teenagers when she started working for Gilbert seven years ago as his embroiderer. “He’s always very accommodating when I needed time off to attend school events and swim meets,” she said. Bowden lives on a farm in Cumberland. “Even with my horses and other animals, he’s very, very understanding with any kind of family stuff.”
Even as this column was being written, Bowden came to work with her 5-month-old puppy.
Brian Gilbert Associates is just one company, and there are many others who have understanding, accommodating owners. If any stand out in your mind, remember to give the owner a big “Yahoo!” the next time you notice.
Gigi Guyton is microenterprise coordinator for Women, Work, and Community covering Cumberland and York counties. Her office is in South Portland, and she can be reached at 799-5025, or by email at email@example.com. She also is a part-time bookkeeper at Brian Gilbert Associates.