EXCERPT FROM THIS
MS. SPECIAL REPORT BY BETTY HOLCOMB
might assume that Lynnell Minkins, a single mother of
three, would be thrilled to work for Marriott International.
Last year, Marriott made Working Mother magazine's list
of the 100 best companies for working mothers, largely
because it offers flexible work schedules, hot lines
to help employees deal with child-care emergencies,
and three on-site child-care centers. Minkins, a food
server at the San Francisco Marriott, could use that
sort of help. But it's not available to her. Instead,
she never knows from week to week what her hours will
be, making it hard to find and hold on to decent child
care, let alone make plans. "How can I get doctor appointments
if I don't know when I'll be working?" she asks. "A
month ahead, the clinic says there are only these days.
I take them, and then I have to work."
her kids were younger, she relied on a neighbor, paying
a flat rate to send them over whenever she had to work.
But now that they're in school, she has to figure out
how to get them there on days she has to be at work
early. A simple schedule change could solve everything,
but she hasn't asked for one. "I don't dare bring it
up. I'm afraid I'll get written up." A write-up means
getting disciplined, and too many write-ups can lead
to losing her job.
irony is that, at least officially, Marriott offers
flextime to its approximately 135,000 U.S. employees.
Yet the one time Minkins tried it, her supervisors constantly
pressed her to fix the "problem," and in her annual
performance review that year she was described as being
"challenged" by time management. "I should have called
them on it, but I let it go," she says. "People who
work in these jobs, they need the money. So you don't
tell anybody what's going on." Senior managers, says
Minkins, don't seem to suffer the same scrutiny. "It
doesn't look like their job is being challenged. The
lower people, the people in the back of the house, they're
having the problems."
it goes for hundreds of thousands of lower-level workers
at companies widely recognized for their "family-friendly"
policies. In fact, the research conducted by the Families
and Work Institute exclusively for this article shows
that the workers who most need benefits such as child
care and flexible hours are the least likely to get
these facts from the study. Workers in low-wage jobs
half as likely as managers and professionals to have
less likely to have on-site child care;
more likely to lose a day's pay when they must stay
home to care for a sick child;
three times less likely to get company-sponsored tax
breaks to help pay for child care.
addition, other studies show that workers in entry-level,
low-paying, or low-status jobs are much less likely
to be offered a paid maternity leave than managers are,
and in the case of unpaid leave, they are less likely
to get as much time off after having a baby.
clear that more advantaged workers have more access
to certain benefits," says Ellen Galinsky, president
of the Families and Work Institute. Put another way,
some families seem to count more than others. "You ask
yourself if people really care about the family benefits
of people who clean the toilets, who clean the office
buildings after everyone else leaves," says Netsy Firestein,
director of the Labor Project for Working Families in
Berkeley, California. "Who's taking care of their kids?
Often it's older children putting younger ones to bed,
while the parents struggle to make wages and get health
the first time, research shows that the gap between
the haves and have-nots is becoming wider," says Ellen
Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute, which ran
the numbers below for Ms. "Some of the statistics are
startling," she adds. "Only two in five low-wage workers
are allowed time off--without pay--to care for a sick
child." Equally startling is how few family-related
benefits are available to anyone: less than a quarter
of workers get help finding child care. Trying to right
the imbalance for low-income workers, in 1996 the Institute
helped found the Employer Group, which is searching
for new solutions. "The picture is bleak, but there
is light ahead," says Galinksy. "The problem has been
that nobody has paid attention to this."