Beth Shelton, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, is leading by example. A mom of three herself, the executive just introduced a program she hopes will help new parents who are making the transition back to work. The Infants at Work initiative allows moms and dads to bring their infants to work every single day for six months.
“We want to practice what we preach, and normalize a reality where having children and advancing your career are not mutually exclusive,” Shelton says in a Facebook post, which has since attracted a lot of praise.
For the mom and CEO, there are many personal reasons for launching the program.
“The impossible juggle of work and life, performer and mother, shapes my very DNA,” she explains. Which is why she wants other parent employees to know they are valued and supported at work.
“I have felt deep in my bones the fatigue of reporting to a board of directors after being up all night with a newborn, juggling media appearances while frantically cleaning spit up off my lapel and shaping strategic plans while seeking an appropriate place to pump at executive meetings.”
A work environment that encourages family life has been a driving force in Shelton’s mission. The Infants at Work initiative joins the already established eight weeks of paid parental leave for mothers, fathers and guardians, as well as flexible work arrangements and five days of paid bereavement for miscarriage.
She knows babies and work don’t normally mix, but it’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make for the greater good of her employees. Because if that’s what it takes to keep her employees on her team, she’s all for it.
“We know babies cry. We know they need attention and care and diapers and quiet places. And yes, we also know that productivity will dip for parents who are multi-tasking with their infant present,” the CEO admits. “But we also know that we want to attract and retain talented employees, provide economic savings for employees and support employees in their transition back to work. We want to support women who choose to nurse, and support babies in a developmental period of importance.”
Shelton is on to something. A recent study found the more support breastfeeding women receive from their colleagues, the more successful they are in believing they can continue to breastfeed.
“Empowering people is our rally cry. It’s tiny and comes in swaddling clothes. But it’s a start.”