At TrueWealth, women truly can have it all

In her widely circulated piece in The Atlantic, Anne-Marie Slaughter famously made the argument that women still can’t have it all. She wrote that “the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed.”

Amy Merrill is none of those things. She’s the mother of three boys (ages seven, nine, and ten) and the principal at TrueWealth, an independent wealth management firm based in Atlanta. She also sits on the board of her sons’ school, is the team mom for one of their soccer teams, and has become a member of the school’s yearbook committee.

When asked how she manages to do it all she explains it’s because of her employer. “I work for the best company,” she says.

Merrill is one of 26 employees at TrueWealth, the company that ranks at the top of Fortune’s inaugural list of 100 Best Workplaces for Women, which was determined by workplace consultant Great Place to Work after surveying thousands of employees at more than 600 companies. The firm’s debut at No.1 is a result of strongly positive survey responses from TrueWealth’s female employees, who say that the company is fair with compensation and promotions. Merrill finds the gender-specificity of the honor surprising: “it’s unusual to be reviewed as a best place to work for women…it hadn’t crossed my mind because it’s just a great place to work for everyone.”

Formally, full-time employees at TrueWealth have four weeks of paid time off after one year (this includes sick days and vacation days), in addition to nine company holidays. The company also offers a “wellness day” during which employees are encouraged to engage in healthy activity of their choice. The focus on health doesn’t end there; TrueWealth recently purchased FitBits for those employees that were interested, has an onsite fitness center, and has desks that double as standing desks for all employees.

When it comes to benefits for women specifically, new mothers get twelve weeks of paid maternity leave and have access to a wellness room in the office, where they can pump breast milk. There is no formal paternal leave policy, but fathers are encouraged to take time off on a case-by-case basis.

These policies are generous, but nothing exceptional when you consider the unlimited leave policies and breast milk shipping perks of bigger companies like Netflix or IBM. What truly sets TrueWealth apart as a workplace, according to its employees, isn’t something you see in a press release: it’s the firm’s culture.

“They provide you with everything you need to be successful and they don’t make you feel guilty about having a life outside of work,” says Laura Nasca, assistant to TrueWealth’s CEO and mother of two. “I have a lot of friends that have enough leave, but they always feel guilty about taking it, wondering if they were going to get dinged for taking it or viewed negatively.”

For Nasca, however, it was never an issue. “I was able to completely detach while being away [on maternity leave], because I knew my colleagues were supporting me,” she recalls. Nasca works from home two days a week to be able to spend time with her four-year-old and two-month-old. “It’s not easy being a working mom—this makes it a whole lot easier,” she says.

This focus on balance starts at the top—or, more specifically, with TrueWealth’s President and CEO, Jim Heard. Managing a majority-female firm isn’t something he actively thinks about, but isn’t exactly foreign to him; when TrueWealth first spun off from Windham Brannon Financial Group, it was “Jim and a bunch of girls,” says Merrill. Heard doesn’t mind. He also doesn’t mind that the highest-paid advisor at TrueWealth is a woman. “She adds greater value,” he says simply.

While TrueWealth has no formal diversity policies in place, Heard has made it a point over the past 16 years as a leader of the firm to create a positive work environment. “We’re not trying to create a great workplace for women. We’re just trying to create a great workplace,” he says. He stresses work-life balance for all of his employees, and sets an example by being actively involved in his church band, and going to football games with his college-aged kids.

“I love my job, but I don’t love it to the exclusion of other interests,” he says. “I play music, I play golf, I don’t want to be a slave to my job the same way that other people may be…it’s easy to get burned out in this business.”

Heard’s approach to the work and family—both for men and women— is that people really can have it all. “I don’t think should be an either or,” he says. “Why not? Why not have an environment where people can be crazy successful [and still] have time for family?”

Author of Dial it Down–Live it Up and work-life balance expert and Jeff Davidson asks the same question. His view is that respecting employees’ out-of-office commitments is crucial to keeping them motivated. “Just by knowing what motivates you, [a manager] is able to create an environment where you’re going to be more enthusiastic, more energetic, happier to come to work.”

While comparing a 26-person company like TrueWealth to a large public company might seem unfair, Davidson argues that size shouldn’t matter. Since employee satisfaction stems more from their manager rather than from an organization as a whole, there is absolutely no reason employees shouldn’t have work-life balance at larger organizations. Unless there’s some sort of blanket rule or clocking in and out system, the only thing that really matters is the work environment that an individual manager creates for his or her team.

Although companies of all sizes can, in theory, promote employees’ work-life balance, a 2014 study by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute found that “small employers are more likely to allow employees to change starting and quitting times within some range of hours, work some regular paid hours at home occasionally, have control over when to take breaks, return to work gradually after childbirth or adoption, and take time off during the workday to attend to important family or personal needs without loss of pay.”

Lisa Maatz, the VP of Government Relations at the American Association of University Women, agrees that in smaller companies, “where everyone knows you personally and knows about every major event life you have,” the work environment tends to be a lot more flexible. This is indeed the case at TrueWealth, where co-workers are often at each other’s homes, know each others’ kids, and often see each other on the weekends.

Workplace policies and telecommunicating are great. But the real reason why women at TrueWealth have it all? “The people here care about each other,” says Merrill. “We’re a family.”

To see the full list of the 100 Best Workplaces for Women, visit

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Prinzo and Associates LLC is a tax firm located in Pittsburgh's South Hills. Since 1991 we have been helping clients with tax problems. We also help clients with retirement and other financial needs. If your business is in need of payroll, quickbooks or other financial assistance, we are here to help!

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