Bloomberg News, The Washington Post and Forbes have all published articles lately that point out the many reasons for the pay equity gap. Often the problem is rooted in the fact that women put their careers on hold in order to raise children. This kicks them off the corporate ladder and the recovery time is usually longer and harder than childbirth.
So the discussion in corporate American and Washington has been about paid maternity leave, and it is a very important discussion to have. The U.S. is the ONLY industrialized country that doesn’t have paid family leave.
A friend of mine who works in admissions for a large University in the U.S. told me a story last night of her recruiting trips to Canada when she was pregnant. People often remarked “oh, how nice you are about to take your year off to raise your child, it’s such a sweet time.” They were shocked when she said she only was eligible for 6 weeks of paid maternity leave (and she is lucky that her public University offered even that).
The consensus among many is that paid maternity leave is vital in the U.S. to keep women on the career track and raise healthy, well-adjusted children in stable family environments.
But are we leaving out part of the conversation when we focus only maternity leave? What about the stigma that surrounds the women who take it, that they are somehow not committed to their job or loyal to the company?
And that is where the discussion should turn to emphasizing paternity leave as well.
If men are able to take off a significant amount of time to care for their new families that would be the single biggest equalizer to pay equity and gender balance on the upper rings of the corporate ladder.
No longer would the time off be a “women’s problem” but it would be a positive step to a cultural change that supports working families and creates wealth.
Yes, creates wealth.
Why? Because studies have shown that when women receive paid maternity leave and are able to return to their jobs, they work more hours and incomes slightly increase. But by adding Paternity leave, women earn more because they are able to return to the workforce earlier as fathers share in some of the childrearing duties. (Read more: B334-Paid Parental Leave in the United States)
From the report linked to above:
“Research shows that paid leave increases the likelihood that workers will return to work after childbirth, improves employee morale, has no or positive effects on workplace productivity, reduces costs to employers through improved employee retention, and improves family incomes. Research further suggests that expanding paid leave is likely to have economy-wide benefits such as reduced government spending on public assistance and increased labor force participation, which would bring concomitant economic gains, generating a larger tax base and increased consumer spending. At least one study, cited by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (2007) finds that paid leave for fathers helps to foster gender equity, both in the workplace and in the home, since it shortens leaves for mothers, increasing their job tenure and potentially their wage growth.” (emphasis added)
And by keeping women in the workforce by offering family leave and allowing them to return to their positions, they maintain their place on the corporate ladder and rise up to managerial and corporate board positions. Studies have shown that having more women in managerial positions and in leadership such as on corporate boards creates higher sustained earnings for a company. When the men take advantage of paternity leave options in that same company then women can rise faster because they no longer carry the stigma of being less committed to their work than their male counterparts.
Happier employees, healthier families, increased economic output and a decrease on public assistance programs. Seems like paid Family leave – both maternity and paternity is an important step to pay equity and gender balance in the workplace.
Two more great articles on this subject –
New York Times – The Economic Benefits of Paid Parental Leave