4 Ways to Make a Workplace Inclusive for Breastfeeding Moms
Inclusivity is an important goal for HR experts in today's workplace. Yet many workplaces are not supporting breastfeeding mothers when they go back to work. And now that women make up more than 50% of the workforce, it's time to make room for them by making sure they have access to a private lactation space.
If your objective is to create a work space and culture that is fully inclusive, here are four things to consider:
1) Do the right thing and don't wait for moms to ask.
Breastfeeding employees shouldn't have to ask for appropriate accommodations to pump breastmilk because that's not their job; it's the employer's job to provide a space suitable for their needs. Requesting appropriate accommodations from a male superior, or in a male-dominated workplace, can be uncomfortable (or even intimidating) given power relations, status, and hierarchy.
2) Send the right message.
If your workplace doesn't provide breastfeeding employees with a clean, secure, and private place to pump that's available when moms need it, you're actually sending the wrong messages because you're sending these messages:
I take care of my personal needs and everybody is just like me.
Breastfeeding moms can wait until they get home.
Pumping breast milk in a bathroom or empty conference room is totally acceptable.
If breastfeeding employees really need a space, they need to ask for it and justify their requests.
Regardless of your company's best intentions, messages like these are at odds with an inclusive workplace.
3) Recognize that not all moms work white collar jobs.
Some breastfeeding moms are fortunate enough to have private offices or to work from home. But the majority of women work in places without access to a space of their own: stores, cubicles, schools, factories, airports, hospitals, restaurants, distribution centers, and the list goes on. All mom have the right to breastfeed and all deserve a dedicated space to pump.
4) Dedicate space for pumping.
Breastfeeding employees need a clean and private space where they can pump. The space needs to be easily accessible to moms and available when they need it. No mom should ever be in the situation where she's pumping in an empty conference room...until everyone shows up for a meeting.
Now that millennial moms account for more than 80% of births in the U.S., consider accommodations that support all your employees who are currently breastfeeding, as well as those who will be in the future.