For Gender Equality, Dad and Mom Need Parental Leave

When it comes to starting a family or having additional children, the United States joins Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea as the only countries that don't give parents paid leave.

When it comes to starting a family or having additional children, the United States joins Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea as the only countries that don't give parents paid leave.


It's time for that to change, says Avivah Wittenberg-Cox at the Harvard Business Review, and simply granting mothers paid time off is too little too late. Both parents need downtime from work to effectively share the duties of caring for an infant.

While some companies, like Vodafone, are offering relatively generous maternity leave to American mothers, policies that focus on a specific gender may ultimately make it more difficult to have an equal standing in the workplace:

"The challenge for women is that this reinforces stereotypical gender roles: women are mothers, and men are workers. The growing challenge is that younger generations — including men — seem to be far more family-centric than their elders. They actually want to spend time with their children."

Leaving the creation of parental leave policies up to individual companies, given the gender inequality that dominates levels of upper management, just isn't going to get the job done. Silicon Valley companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit — all run by relatively young executives — offer fathers up to 17 weeks paid leave.

Though perhaps one reason Silicon Valley is so generous with fathers' parental leave is the large gender inequality that exists in the startup industry to begin with. Vivek Wadhwa, fellow at Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, points out the lack of women in the technology sector and discusses the negative public backlash to his coverage of the issue:

"I started looking around at the composition of Silicon Valley companies, hardly any women. I started looking at the boards of companies, started looking at the websites, no women. And it was a surreal experience. I mean what is going on here? Why aren't there women in Silicon Valley?"

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