A senior executive with more than 20 years’ experience in the medical device industry, Annette Brüls serves as CEO of Medela as of May 2018. Previously, she held a number of global leadership positions in several multinational companies, most recently as President of Diabetes Service & Solutions at Medtronic.
As a woman leader of an organization committed to women’s health, and a mother and wife who has pursued career growth alongside motherhood responsibilities, Annette is personally dedicated to improving the opportunities available to mothers in the workplace. A champion for diversity and inclusion, Annette is a passionate advocate who aims to inspire her employees to thrive in their workplace and personal lives through her presence in social media, public speaking and editorials. She was awarded Best CEO for Women and Best CEO for Diversity in 2020 and 2021, and Best CEO by Comparably in 2020.
As we wrap up 2021 and continue to manage the repercussions of the pandemic, Medela and the New Moms’ Healthy Returns team remain committed to helping employers create more supportive, equitable environments for working parents, including those working onsite and remotely. This mission is fully supported by Medela’s CEO Annette Brüls, who shares her thoughts below on how best to support working moms and parents.
What changes do you hope to see for new parents as we head into 2022?
As with previous years, I continue to hope we see even more acceptance and support for breastfeeding families and parenting in general, especially from their employers. The benefits of breast milk are well known, and businesses can only benefit from improving the support and resources they make available to breastfeeding women. We have all witnessed how the pandemic has had a particularly negative impact on women in the workforce, but I am hopeful that we will see women going back to workplaces over time where they can successfully manage both their career and parenthood.
A recent study conducted by our New Moms' Healthy Returns team surveyed more than 3,100 moms to understand why they left the workforce and what it may require to motivate them to return. Results revealed that nearly 1/3 of mothers left the workforce during the pandemic. Of those who left and are not planning to go back to work for another 6 months or longer, 75% said the primary reason is they are concerned about balancing work and family.2
Unfortunately, since the start of the pandemic in 2020, more than 3 million women have left the U.S. job market and even though most experts predicted that women would return to the work force this Fall once children were back in school, we haven’t seen that happen. In fact, in September 2021 300,000 women left the workforce.1 Fortunately, the economy grew rapidly in October, added 531,000 jobs of which women accounted for 251,000! I am so encouraged by this news and am counting on more employers stepping up to offer parental support benefits that will help attract even more women back into the workforce.
What can employers do to better support employees when they become parents?
This looks different around the world, but for the U.S., I believe they need protection in the form of acceptance and support – from their family, care circle, healthcare providers, and their employer. Organizations that offer family-friendly, supportive benefits and programs are critical for parents to ensure they have what they need to successfully return to the workforce to continue their careers after the arrival of a baby.
At Medela, we take this very seriously and we support all Medela parents who have a new child, so our parental benefits include 16-weeks paid parental leave for all Medela U.S. employees and full access to our New Moms’ Healthy Returns program offering. All parents, regardless of hourly status and gender, are eligible. We are committed to supporting Medela parents as they successfully transition back to work after baby.
How has Medela supported working parents in the past year and throughout the pandemic?
By way of example, the Medela USA team has worked over the years to create a supportive workplace culture that provides new mothers with solutions that encourage their success – however they define it. We took feedback from employees and improved the mothers’ rooms around the buildings. We also increased communication to help expecting mothers navigate the necessary paperwork and ease the transition to new parenthood. In addition, we learned that offering flexible scheduling and remote work options was very valuable for employees, so we made these a permanent benefit.
This passion-fueled work led to what we now offer to other organizations through the New Moms’ Healthy Returns program, which is designed to help employers support their new parent employees. Since the inception of the program we have partnered with companies like Mamava and Milk Stork to lead the way in creating supportive, equitable environments for working parents. We believe that by resolving the some of the key challenges new parents face as they return to work, we can contribute to broader gender equity and improve the health of future generations.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Data collected in a September 23-30 study of 3,189 working parents by Medela and Mamava