Bankers who moonlight as moms don't have it easy.

They often work for demanding institutions that have little sensitivity for the tug of parenthood.

But a handful of financial institutions are working hard to win over working mothers.

Such parent-friendly banks have taken a variety of initiatives, from establishing on-site child care centers to allowing for flexible working hours. Some even boast a relatively high percentage of women-with and without children-that make it to the senior ranks.

High on the list are NationsBank Corp., Barnett Banks Inc., and MBNA Corp., the fast-growing nonbank credit card issuer.

Last fall these three institutions earned the notice of WorkingMother magazine, which listed them among the 10 best companies for working mothers in America.

"The banks have really been solid achievers, and they keep making improvements," said Deborah Wilburn, an editor at WorkingMother. "It's encouraging because more companies are taking this seriously."

The magazine, which compiles its list annually, also included a number of other banks in its top-100 ranking, including First Union Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., Citicorp, and Bankers Trust Corp.

"These banks are finding it's good business" to develop programs for working mothers and fathers, said Milton Moskowitz, who has researched the annual magazine ratings for the last decade. "They're really looking to keep people in jobs."

Take NationsBank, for example. Like other banks cited by the magazine, the $230 billion-asset company provides a range of flexible work programs and generous family leave benefits.

But the Charlotte, N.C., bank gets special credit for a program called LifeWorks, which contracts with a third-party provider to line up child care for bank employees or to find assistance for an out-of-state elderly relative.

The bank started the program in 1994 as a way of limiting the time workers spent dealing with family issues during the workday.

Last year, more than half of the company's 67,000 employees used the service. A survey by the bank found that 97% of employees who used the program said it increased their loyalty to the bank and saved them each 18 hours of work time per project.

NationsBank also boasts a growing number of women in top executive positions. Among them are Alex Sink, president of NationsBank Florida; Eileen Friars, president of NationsBank card services; and Janey Place, NationsBank's strategic technology executive.

Kim J. Hains is a senior vice president at NationsBank and director of the company's work and family program. As a 32-year-old mother who took six months off to have her first child, Ms. Hains says that these benefits are crucial to creating a competitive institution.

"All of this exists to create an environment where people can be successful," she said.

Jacksonville, Fla.-based Barnett takes the child-care concept a step beyond even the more parent-friendly banks. The bank pays a local school board to operate a school for kindergarten through third grade on the corporate campus.

Last year the $42 billion-asset bank opened a $1.2 million "family center" in Jacksonville that provides child care as well as child-rearing educational programs. In September, Florida ranked Barnett as its No. 1 "women-friendly" employer.

Barnett officials said 47% of its senior managers and vice presidents are women.

In addition, women are increasingly taking seats alongside male executive managers at the next level up. Judy Beaubouef is Barnett's chief legal executive, and Lyn Miles holds the titles of president and chief executive of Barnett Card Services.

Other banks came to WorkingMother's attention because of their efforts to promote women.

Over all, women at Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union made up 45% of its vice presidents at the end of 1996, up from 33% in 1995. Seventeen percent of the bank's senior and executive vice presidents were women, up from 15% a year earlier.

Banking is "still dominated by men, but we are moving up," said First Union's Alice L. Lehman, one of 47 members-and one of four women-on the company's key managers' committee.

Last year, Ms. Lehman was named managing director of corporate communications at the $140 billion-asset company.

Her seat on the elite managers committee puts her alongside Beth McCague, who was named chairman of First Union National Bank of Tennessee last May. Ms. McCague is the only woman at First Union to hold the title of chairman.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.