In response, many companies scrambled to cobble together solutions, offering their employees everything from flexible work hours to additional days off.
Verizon, for example, which is part of the council, gave employees a stipend of up to $100 a day for child care that could be used to pay anyone, including family members or friends, to babysit. The company realized that simply extending existing child care benefits made no sense when child care centers were closed or care professionals were hard to come by.
More than 11,000 employees used that benefit, said Christy Pambianchi, the chief human resources officer at Verizon. As a result, the company’s female employee turnover rate stayed at a record low.
“There’s a cost to turnover; I didn’t want them to quit because I’d have to replace them and train them,” Ms. Pambianchi said. “All of that would have cost way more than just giving them that backup care.”
But even with new policies and support systems, Ms. Pambianchi realized there was only so much that Verizon, as a private business, could do to help employees when child care centers remain shut and school summer vacations loom.
The issue is “bigger than something we can solve on our own,” she added.
The pandemic also made clear for many executives that the corporate culture that existed before the pandemic “really wasn’t working either,” so reverting would be counterproductive, said Samantha Saperstein, managing director at JPMorgan Chase who leads the company’s Women on the Move program.
At one recent internal panel, a male manager — a father of four — acknowledged that he didn’t really take parental leave until the arrival of his fourth child just before the pandemic, Ms. Saperstein recalled.