Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Best Cities for Working Mothers

This year ForbesWoman inaugurates its first annual list of the Best Cities for Working Mothers. To calculate the rankings, we started with the 50 largest cities in the U.S. and the premise that different mothers have different needs. So while it's safe to say that all moms want a secure and protected place for their children to live in, first-rate medical care and excellent schools, if they're running a business or earning a paycheck, there are other important considerations.
The potential for a relatively high income, job opportunities and family-friendly cost of living are obvious ones. But childcare is way up there too. Some big cities that seem like choice places to raise a family, such as Salt Lake City, Utah, and Orlando, Fla., offer comparatively fewer childcare options--including daycare centers and pre-K--for moms who work.
We took a slightly unusual approach to evaluating a city’s health care quality. We realized a mom wants options when it comes to pediatricians; trust and a good rapport are just as important as competence, after all. But we also included information from Dartmouth Atlas, which tracks the quality of health care across the U.S.
Researchers at Atlas, affiliated with Dartmouth College, have found that cities with a higher proportion of primary care physicians to specialist physicians have a better health care system. When there are more general practice physicians, their research suggests, a mom has a greater chance of getting in to see a doc when she needs one, and her child's care will be more closely overseen.
We also used two different data sets to evaluate education--the amount a city spends per pupil and ratings given by parents whose own kids attend a city's schools. The latter data comes to us exclusively from GreatSchools, a nonprofit which works to involve parents nationwide in improving school quality.

Working mothers also want to be able to afford to live (and play) in their city of choice, so we counted cost of living among our priorities. Many of the "obvious" but expensive West Coast meccas, such as San Jose, San Francisco and Seattle, are clearly still attractive despite their high costs. Some less-heralded cities, such as Columbus and Virginia Beach, may be less stylish, but their lower cost can translate into a good quality of life.
So how did New York and Austin end up as Nos. 1 and 2 of the same list? Austin does have a reputation for offering a high quality of living for all age groups, but New York is a playground for grownups, not a sanctuary for kids and their moms, right?
Answer: Austin and New York each shine in different categories of what a working (or job-seeking) ForbesWoman reader wants in her city of choice.
New York is--unfairly--known for being crowded and dangerous. But what it does have is plentiful park space and a low violent crime rate. Salaries there are also good, among the six highest of the cities we surveyed.
And the Big Apple is generous when it comes to what it spends on educating its students, coming in at the second highest, right behind another New York metropolitan area, Buffalo-Niagara Falls.
Austin parents love their schools. The city's unemployment, at 6.1%, is one of the lowest of the cities on our list. Like New York, it also boasts plenty of outdoor places for the kids to work off steam. Both cities score high for plentiful childcare options.

Four Florida cities make up the bottom 10--Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami and Orlando. They all have a dearth of outdoor space. Primary care physicians are also relatively low in number. When it comes to parent opinion of the public schools, parents in Jacksonville are particularly unhappy.
Do you agree with our results? What data categories would you like to see in next year's list?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

HotJobs 100: Updated for 2009

Find great jobs from our top 100 companies, hiring now

* Enhanced profile information available
1Tenet Healthcare Corp.
2Kaiser Permanente
5Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings
6UnitedHealth Group
7Bayada Nurses
8Army National Guard
9Providence Health & Services
11Coca-Cola Enterprises
12Kindred Healthcare
13Catholic Healthcare West
14The Univ. of Texas Medical Branch
16Sutter Health
18Verizon Wireless
20RadioShack Corporation

What to look for in companies that are hiring now
When you're considering taking a new job, it's important to find out how a potential employer treats employees. But getting the answer to that question, along with others that will help you determine if you'll be happy at the company, may take some sleuthing.
Here are five questions that will help you decide if the company is a fit -- and some unconventional ways to find the answers:

What makes employees join this company and stay here?
You can always ask your potential manager this question in an interview. But if you ask the employees you see while walking around the premises, you'll get a wider variety of answers -- and possibly more honest ones.

How are people treated here?
You may not even need to ask anyone this -- just observe carefully from the time you set foot in the building. When you arrive for your interview, are you kept waiting with no explanation? Does the interviewer interrupt your conversation to take phone calls?
"Try to come at different times if you have multiple interviews," advises Gail Ginder, a leadership coach with the Claros Group in Healdsburg, Calif. That way you'll see if the mood around the building changes with the time of day.

What are the unspoken rules?
For this and other questions that are best asked of employees, you have two options. One is to use your network to find employees who work at the company but aren't involved in hiring you. The other is to ask your interviewer -- but only when it's clear that the interviewer has decided you're the best candidate and is trying to get you to sign on. "When they've decided you're the one, you can ask pretty much anything as long as you ask it well," Ginder says.

What happens when people make mistakes?
The answer to this will give you insight into the company's management and culture. You can ask it of an interviewer late in the interview process, or ask employees who aren't involved in hiring.
The key is to pose the question without sounding like someone who is planning to make a lot of mistakes. Use humor, Ginder advises. "Say, 'If I were lucky enough to be offered this job, I would never want to make a mistake. But what happens here when people make a mistake?'"

What is a typical week like?
The answer to this question can give insight into everything from how long the workdays are to how many after-hours phone calls you can expect. Vic Snyder, senior career counselor at the University of Washington's Center for Career Services in Seattle, suggests that in informal conversations with employees, you pair this question with one about how often employees take their full vacations.
Getting answers you need to these questions will help you make the best-informed decision about your next career move.