Getting on “The List”—Tips for a Better “Working Mother” and “NAFE” Submission

The application is out for both “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” and “NAFE’s Top Companies for Executive Women.” (No, I don’t have a problem with subject/verb agreement—it’s the same application, with just a few extras you need to complete in order to apply for both.)

As always, the application is more than 60 pages long, and includes a 2,500 word essay for each of the awards. So although it’s not due until March 9, it’s never too early to start planning your attack:

1. If you haven’t already gotten a copy of the application, go to http://wmmsurveys.com/100BestReg.html  to read the rules and download it now.

2. Start assembling your team:

  • If you’re not familiar with the application, take half an hour to skim through it. That’ll give you a good idea of what kind of content expertise you’ll need to tap at your company. Many organizations form a core team including representatives of departments or programs such as IT, benefits, women’s advancement, work-life and wellness.
  • Who is going to write the essays? Ideally, you’ll want that person to be part of your team from the start, too. The limited essay space needs to be used wisely to highlight details that might not be clear from the rest of the application, so deciding what goes into the essays requires a big picture understanding of the entire submission.
  • Who is going to track incoming information and follow-up on missing data? Make sure the project manager/coordinator is at the table from the start, too.

3. Once you have a team in place, waste no time in getting everyone a copy of the application and planning a first meeting to run through it together. There are bound to be some stumpers among the questions and you’ll want to give yourselves plenty of time to figure out how to address them.

Three Keys to a Better Submission

1.   If you’ve applied before, chances are you’ll start your process by filling in the application with last year’s answers. (You can’t do this for usage and demographic data, of course, but lots of questions just cover what your company has to offer.) While this makes absolute sense as a starting point, don’t let it lull you into complacency. There are two possible truths about last year’s answers:

  • They failed to get you on the list or
  • They succeeded in getting you on the list.

If last year’s answers failed to get you on the list, you’ll want to review them all to ensure they were accurate in every possible way. Does nobody, across the whole company, offer the program or policy being asked about? Does that program you call, say, “Career Steps” include a mentoring component you forgot about? Of course you need to be truthful in your submission, but you also need to consider each question carefully, with the goal of getting to “yes.”

If last year’s answers got you on the list, see above. You can’t assume what was good enough last year will be good enough again. The bar is ever higher as companies add programs and innovate on existing ones. (Think about it: when the Working Mother list was first published, corporate elder care programs didn’t even exist.) I’ve seen companies fall off the list, despite submitting pretty much the same answers as they did the year before.

2.   Whether or not you’ve applied before, don’t forget the little programs. Some companies are run as tightly as the army, with everything flowing from Central Command. Employees at these companies have access to the same programs and policies even if they work remotely from an island off Alaska. (If you’re with one of these companies—good for you—you can answer “100%” to every question about employee access!) Other companies have different policies on telecommuting, depending on whether you’re in accounting on the 7th floor or IT on the 3rd.

Make sure you know what all your work-sites and business units are doing. There may be some wonderfully innovative stuff going on in a particular area and nowhere else. It’s not cheating to include these programs, as long as you make it clear that they’re local. (Since Working Mother nearly always asks about access, you don’t generally have to go out of your way to make this point.)

3.   Gather data even if it isn’t asked for. The folks at Working Mother love data. If you’ve got some good stats about  your programs and policies—especially if usage has been on the rise—you’ll want to be sure to include that in your essays. So as you turn your team loose to start sleuthing for answers, make sure they know to follow up on every clue.

Sound like a lot of work? It is. But getting on one or both of these lists is a rich reward. If you’d like some help with this process, from consultation to roll-up-my-sleeves information gathering and writing, just let me know.  And check back for upcoming blogs with more tips.

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