Top consultancies named best companies for working mothers...
Booz Allen Hamilton, Ernst & Young LLP, KPMG LLP and PricewaterhouseCoopers have been named in the Top 10 on Working Mother magazine's annual list f the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers".

Accenture, The Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, Grant Thornton LLP, IBM and McKinsey & Company were also named on the list.

Leading a significant and ongoing culture shift, and cited for the third year, Booz Allen Hamilton is using company-wide benefitsand programmes to ensure the retention and advancement of working mothers. Benefits include flexible scheduling, childcare, paid parental leave, and programmes for alumni and children of working  mothers.

Ernst & Young has consistently been included on the national "100 Best" list; 2007 marks its 10th consecutive year in the rankings, and the 11th year overall. This year, Working Mother identified four key areas where companies that made the list have excelled. These areas include: encouraging workers to take personal time off, leading to greater employee satisfaction and productivity; offering unique benefits regardless of rank; accommodating the needs of parents of children with disabilities; and melding the communications styles of different generations.

Since the list's inception in 1986, KPMG has appeared on Working Mother's "100 Best  Companies" list 11 times. The magazine gave the firm high marks for its time-off and leave policies, flexibility, child care, company culture, and family-friendly programmes and initiatives.

At PwC birth mums and primary adoptive caregivers receive 12 weeks off, with nine fully paid.

And from this year, the firm willadd two more weeks for caregivers with twins, triplets or other multiple birth offspring.

According to CarolEvans, CEO and president, Working Mother Media, "Accenture not only offers essential benefits like flexitime and telecommuting, it goes above and beyond with arange of best practices and policies to ease the  difficulties for working parents and theirfamilies. The firm’s supportive culture makes a huge difference to employees who want to be great moms and great workers."

New parents at The Boston Consulting Group may take an unlimited amount of time off, with managerial approval, for the birth or adoption of a child. Birth and adoptive mothers are fully paid for 12 weeks, while fathers receive one week of paid leave.

Deloitte & Touche USA LLP has been named on the list for the 14th consecutive year.

Deloitte garnered its highest ratings for flexibility, company culture and total compensation.

IBM is concerned that its many flexi-policies won't be as effective if employees are working  too many hours. So last year it put the power in the hands of its people: a new programme, People Oriented Work Redesign (POWR), teaches employees how to cut thetime they spend on low-value tasks and boost their productivity, all in an effort to help staffers get home to their families sooner.

Most of McKinsey & Company's employees work off-site, so an on-site child-care centre wouldn't meet their needs. Instead, some staffers receive backup support during school holidays and when regular childcare falls through. They can choose in-home care or use a company-sponsored facility.

...while most are happy with work/life balance

An overwhelming majority of working mothers report that their work/life balance is always right or is right most of the time, according to the results of new report from Accenture.

In an online survey of more than 700 working mothers in mid- to senior-level management positions, nearly 90% of the respondents reported that, if there were no obstacles, they would work either full-time, part-time or under a flex-time arrangement (reported by 31%, 26% and 33% of respondents, respectively). Just 11%  of respondents said they would not work at all.

Additionally, almost three-quarters (74%) say that their work/life balance is always right or is right most of the time, and nearly sevenin 10 respondents (69%) believe that women can "have it all".

"Leading employers are offering innovativeprogrammes that help their employees balance their work and family commitments," said Jill Smart, Accenture's chief human resources officer.

"These companies understand that to meet the needs and realities of today's workforce,  they must offer employees choices across the lifecycle of their careers, providing new solutions at different points in employees' lives."

According to respondents, flex-time, part-time and a modified work week are the three most commonly offered flexibility programs (cited by 61%, 51% and 44% of respondents, respectively). But, while 37% say their companies offer telecommuting as a work option, that programme (at 50%) tops the wish list of respondents to whom it's not offered.

Other programs that respondents want but are not offered by their employers include flex-time, employer-providedalternative day care and a modified work week (cited by 47%, 44% and 40% of respondents, respectively). Just 17% report that their employers do not offer any flex programs.

The survey also found that:

● The great majority (85%) of respondents say their employers are understanding of their child-care issues. Nonetheless, working mothers missed work an average of three timesover the past year because of child-care issues.

● The most popularoption for back-up childcare is a spouse or significant other (cited by 65%). This was followed by relatives, friends/neighbours and alternative day care (cited by 58%, 32% and 14% of respondents, respectively)

● Just slightly more than half (54%) of working mothers take advantage of flex programs as often as they need to.