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Ventura County Perspective

Lightening the Load for Parents

September 21, 1997

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but for many working women, motherhood necessitates whole new levels of inventiveness to balance the conflicting responsibilities of family, work and self.

Some companies add to that challenge with attitudes and policies rooted in the "Leave It to Beaver" era. But others have long since realized that a little creative support can do a lot to improve productivity, morale and company loyalty.

Two of the best are headquartered in Ventura County.

The annual survey by Working Mother magazine this month named biotech firm Amgen Inc. of Newbury Park and adventure-clothing maker Patagonia Inc. of Ventura among the nation's best 100 companies to work for.

Both help their workers out by offering such options as flextime, compressed workweeks, extra leave for childbirth at full pay, paternity leave, adoption aid, resource and referral services for child and elder care, on-site child care, summer care, backup care, and reimbursements for care expenses caused by business travel, among other benefits.

"It's important to balance the real world with the demands of earning a living, especially in a demanding business like ours," said Debbie Costa, associate director of human resources for Amgen, which employs 3,325 people in Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks. Nearly half of Amgen's employees in Ventura County are women; 44% of employees have children young enough to be covered by the medical plan, according to company records. Costa is confident that the employee-friendly benefits increase productivity and notes that worker turnover is significantly lower than normal for the biotech industry.

At Patagonia, which has been saluted by Working Mother for the last 10 years, spokeswoman Lu Setnicka said: "We always enjoy filling out the survey. It gives us a good opportunity to take a look at what we're doing and see what we could do better." Among Patagonia's 300 employees in Ventura County, 66% are women and 43% have children in high school or younger.

Being a good parent is tough under the best of circumstances. In these times of many single-parent families, corporate downsizing, longer workweeks and faster pace, it is downright heroic.

We salute the efforts of Amgen, Patagonia and all other employers, large and small, who are taking steps to lighten the load.

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