While many people mistakenly believe that Orthodox Jewish women aren’t allowed to work, Physician Assistant, Chaya Lighten, and board certified lactation consultant Marinina Hersh not only work – they work to help mothers get back to work. All over the world, women who have just given birth face numerous challenges returning to their jobs, particularly in the areas of pumping and wellness. Hersh and Lighten decided to do something to ease that transition and started Togethernest: a company that focuses specifically on mothers returning to the workforce after maternity leave – giving them the tools they need to advance their careers while caring for their families as well as themselves.
For Hersh and Lighten, the statistics spoke for themselves: “Women with children are the fastest growing segment of the workforce today and more than 60% of women with children under the age of 1 are working outside the home, and 70% of all moms are choosing to breastfeed now, so this is a very relevant issue for today’s employer.” However, the numbers do not tell the full story, as many companies do not provide any sort of reintegration programs for the vast amount of new mothers in the workplace.
Togetherness aims to educate both employers and new mothers about the importance of creating comfortable and functional spaces for employees who are pumping. The status quo in many organizations simply is not good enough, “They’re not making it a priority, it’s usually an afterthought…Most moms are pumping in closets, literally closets.”
Hersh and Lighten inform companies about the necessary requirements to provide for their workers, explaining that this new approach lends itself to improved company morale and increased productivity. “If you show women in the workforce that you value them and you value what’s important to them, they’re just going to be more productive and they’re going to give their work their all. So much energy is lost on anxiety, by not knowing where they can turn to next by not knowing where they can pump.”
A huge piece of their mission is not only educating the employers, but also teaching the mothers themselves through a variety of blog posts, coaching sessions, and seminars. Oftentimes, employed mothers are not fully aware of the regulations already in place to provide them with a productive and healthy environment. Notably, the Affordable Care Act, which established rules that employers must provide moms with adequate time to pump in a private room, not a bathroom, free from the threat of intrusion. It can be very intimidating for some new mothers “but we are definitely trying to empower moms to know that they have these rights and sometimes need to trail-blaze and potentially be the first ones in their workforce to bring it to their employer and say ‘this is the law, you need to accommodate us.’”
This mission is incredibly important on a personal level to both Lighten and Hersh who have daughters of their own whom they hope will be able to function well in the working world one day and will not have to stress about taking care of themselves and their babies. “Women are the heart of the home and giving them the tools that they need to feel like the mom they want to be, the employee they want to be is going to be huge.”