Angela Meyers, an Alexandria marketing and communication specialist, has a packed schedule.
She is a mother, in the process of launching her own consulting business, supplemented by contract work, and settling into a new home. Most working mothers would classify themselves as “busy,” but Angela is one of the few who has found a resource to help her steady the scale of the work-life balance.
Meyers’ contract work will be made possible by Momentum Resources, a Richmond-based staffing firm that recently opened a branch in Alexandria.
The company matches candidates who want flexible hours with companies that want mid to senior-level employees and serves as a resource for mothers that want a balance between careers and home life.
Though more women than men are graduating from college and attaining law and advanced accounting degrees, few reach the upper echelons of management.
Over half of new mothers return to work within four months after the birth of her first child, according to the Census Bureau. Of that set that go back to work, many peter out of the workforce due to the highly desired but rarely achieved “work-life balance.”
Jennifer Folsom, the mother of three and director of Momentum Resources, said that her goal is to help women stay in the workforce with an original business model.
“We’re a little different from typical staffing agencies in that sometimes we start with a great candidate, and other times we start with a great organization,” Folsom said. “When candidates come to us, we spend a long time discussing their goals, what they’d like to get out of their professional life, and what they’d like their professional life to look like. We then advocate for these women (and sometimes men!) by searching for the professional ‘right fit,’ setting up interviews and putting them in front of smart, work-life balance friendly organizations.”
Folsom said that for employers, she represents extremely talented, mid- and senior-level talent that they cannot access from traditional channels. “Think about the mothers you know, they get more done by 8 AM than most people get done all day,” she said. “The pay-to-productivity ratio is remarkable for our clients.”
She said that an organization can get a senior-level employee for 30 hours a week or someone with one or two years of experience out of college full-time. “Take a guess as to who gets more high-quality work done in a timely manner, with less investment and time in training?” Folsom asked. “Our candidates hit the ground running, make fewer costly business errors and bring a breadth of experience, skills and networks.”
“I have found that I am more productive in both areas when I can blend the two areas of my life,” Meyers said. “I am a very dedicated employee and a dedicated mother. Working with an organization that recognizes that those two components are not mutually exclusive is a benefit to me and to my employer. Companies that work with Momentum Resources understand that being flexible doesn’t compromise productivity or quality.”
Folsom has found that firms and organizations win the war for talent and cut costs simply because they are willing to allow their employees to work at reduced hours or at home. Making minor and inexpensive accommodations for mothers also makes business sense.
“It costs an organization an average of one-and-a-half times an annual salary to recruit, staff, and train a replacement,” Folsom said. “With attrition costs that high, it makes business sense for an organization to retain women as they need to ramp up and down along their career arc. In order to remain competitive, organizations must attract and retain professional women as they juggle children and elder care responsibilities.”
Though companies and organizations have much to gain by offering reduced hours, job-sharing, telecommuting and part-time work to mothers, Folsom has been met with reluctance to deviate from the traditional workplace model. Especially with the economic downturn, companies and non-profits are facing a “conundrum” when faced with hiring risk in a tight labor market, she said.
In Mothers on the Fast Track, Mary Ann Mason and Eve Mason Ekman wrote that part-time positions are the Holy Grail of work/family activists — a track that when implemented correctly, can deliver on their promise.
Like the Holy Grail, such positions continue to be elusive.
“Part-time tracks of any kind are still rare in the corporate world and are often given arbitrarily,” Mason and Ekman wrote. “Even though studies have shown that flexible family-friendly policies will improve productivity, the corporate world, for the most part, is still committed to a one-size-fits-all workplace.”
Momentum Resources was founded in Richmond last September by Tanya Cummings and Whitney Forstner, two mothers of two children each, seeking greater control of their own professional lives as well as being advocate for all women seeking greater work-life balance.
Folsom, an Alexandrian herself, was asked by her former classmate and co-founder, Whitney Forstner, to conduct market research in Northern Virginia.
After a month, she found a company like Momentum Resources is much-needed and in high-demand, from both the candidates’ and clients’ perspective in the larger Northern Virginia area.
Alexandria, specifically, is home to a number of small- and medium- sized firms and non-profit organizations, which are receptive to creative workplace solutions.
Momentum Resources also made sense for Folsom, personally.
“I had twin boys in my second year of Business School at Georgetown, then struggled for work-life balance in the Big 5 Consulting world for four years before taking an ‘off ramp’ to re-focus on my family life and add one more little boy to my family,” Folsom said. “Momentum Resources was born just after my youngest child and the timing was perfect for me to ‘on ramp.’ This position feels like the culmination of all of my previous professional experiences and I truly look forward to working every day.”