Ya don't know what ya don't know.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I remember thinking "Twelve weeks at home with NO WORK? That is a LONG time!"
What I didn't realize, was that twelve weeks at home with a NEWBORN is more like a nanosecond.
Back then I was only covered by Short-Term-Disability, which was 60% of my pay. I was not financially comfortable enough to take a 40% pay cut for that long. (And who would/could be?) Women of child-bearing age are usually early on in their careers, many still paying off student loan debt and getting them set up financially. Taking (at best) a 40% pay cut can be damaging.
Becoming a new parent should be one of the most joyful times in someone's life, with all your time and energy focused on healing, learning to be a parent, and taking care of your baby.
Due to inadequate paid family leave policies in America, it often becomes a major stressor and financial burden, especially for women. The US remains the only industrialized country in the world without a federal paid parental leave law. And only 21% of private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employers.
This must change. Period.
Lack of paid maternity and paternity leave hits women the hardest, derailing careers and fueling gender inequality. Nearly 1 in 4 women go back to work just 10 days after giving birth.
Why? Because they simply can't afford it. And in a 2019 survey, 54% of women said it damaged their career to take parental leave.
It goes back to forcing women to choose between their family and health, or their job.
But you know all this. This isn't new or surprising data.
But this IS a call for CEO's and leaders who have the power to drive change and set higher standards for supporting employees as caregivers. Companies who have participated in these types of leave programs have realized the benefits by seeing increased retention and morale, and a more inclusive environment.
So what can they do?
Increase paid leave programs. Allow parents the option to lean in, and take care of their families. This needs to be inclusive of both parents - not just the birthing moms.
Create flexible return-to-work programs. Maybe the mother wants to come back to work but isn't ready for full-time capacity. Give her the option to choose what works best for her.
Train your people. If I had to tell you how many times I heard "How was your vacation?" I could scream! It wasn't a vacation! It was recovery from a 9-month toll on my body, coupled with keeping a very new and tiny human alive.
Offer daycare stipends. Stipends given to employees to offset their daycare costs can make it possible for women to return TO work. Unfortunately, many women have to choose between continuing their careers or staying home due to childcare costs. (You can also partner with daycares to offer discounts - this isn't the only option)
Offer Back-Up Childcare. I can't tell you how stressful it is when you know you have a "big day" at work and your kid wakes up with a fever, or the daycare closes for whatever reason. Providing your employees with backup options alleviates that anxiety.
The point is, the more support companies provide, the greater employee retention, engagement, and diversity they will see. But honestly - it is the right thing to do. Not just for business, but for humanity.
It is time we catch up with the rest of the world. Taking care of families shouldn't come at the expense of a career.