In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8 and this year’s theme, #BeBoldForChange, we are featuring stories from our leaders and employees throughout the month of March, describing their own bold moments in relation to workplace equality and honoring diversity and inclusion.

After becoming a mother, I kept pushing out the date I planned to return to work, knowing that I wanted to return, but wasn’t quite ready. My boss was very understanding — he had previously lost employees who came back too quickly and wanted to make sure the timing was good for both of us. I was able to work from home occasionally, and when we finally placed my daughter into a daycare down the street from my office, I felt ready to return.

Work was great. I was again part of a team, going to meetings and working on influential projects. However, the necessary “mom” things, such as taking pumping breaks, became the low point of my days. I reached out to other working moms and found their experiences were similar, and we agreed we needed better facilities for nursing mothers.

My “bold moment” was when I spoke to my local office management to suggest improvements for our lactation room while simultaneously researching standards and guidelines to help inform those improvements. There wasn’t a lot available at the time, so after we achieved our goal of better facilities in our own office, I took my cause further to help ensure there was a model all AECOM offices could follow. I wanted to see that moms who were very happy and willing to work had a place that felt comfortable and respectful of both our roles, as professionals and as mothers.

0178_690x355Kristi and her daughter, Keira, in September 2015.

I made connections with the Diversity and Inclusion (D+I) group at AECOM, which helped lead the effort to add lactation room guidelines into our overall Real Estate plan. The guidelines document I developed was reviewed by several different company functions — including Real Estate, Legal, Benefits, Human Resources, D+I, and others — and I was thrilled when the announcement came last spring that the guidelines were incorporated into the new Employee Handbook! The new guidelines include room design standards, from room privacy and location, to counter spaces and storage areas.

Meanwhile, a few of the mothers in my office started emailing back and forth on a regular basis. We decided to start a group on Chatter (an internal social network for AECOM employees) to make it easier to share ideas on how to navigate working motherhood, and “AEMOMS” was formed!

The group started out local in Arlington, Virginia, and we slowly added moms from other offices until we grew so big we decided to make it an open group. We now have close to 400 mothers in our group from all across the world! We hold monthly support calls where moms can talk through work-life challenges as well as keep each other informed of AECOM benefits that are especially helpful for mothers, including maternity leave, care.com and flexible work arrangements. I personally take advantage of the flexibility, working a part-time schedule so I can still have one week day to spend with my daughter.

I love that AEMOMS provides support and encouragement for women who want to stay in the workforce. I also enjoy helping people; the positive feedback and many “thank yous” I have received from my fellow moms are what drive me to continue to #BeBoldForChange.

 

Originally published 03.27.2017