Equality & Diversity
I like stories like this:
If I posted the Netflix story, I can't find it, but essentially they are providing flexible parental leave in a move that has been widely lauded. However, it's not all coming up roses:
Netflix's parental leave policy is NOT a good thing for diversity and inclusion. First of all, as Larry Willmore recently pointed out, it doesn't apply at all to the lower-wage workers in the distribution centers, who are likely more in need of it than their privileged counterparts. Secondly, even in the upper echelon, allowing variable amounts of leave at parents' discretion only creates another layer of invisible pressure. Evidence has already indicated that employees with unlimited vacation end up taking less vacation than those with a definitive amount, and there is often more competition and pressure around who takes it and who doesn't. That type of environment usually goes hardest on minorities, and creates yet another set of expectations of behavior they have to navigate. Governmental parental leave systems like that in Sweden work because 1) everyone gets an equal amount and 2) it's mandatory. It's also worth mentioning that Netflix in particular has an intense engineering culture and that it's extremely doubtful diversity had anything to do with this policy at all. Which is fine in itself (Netflix can do whatever works for them for whatever reason), but also why it shouldn't be lauded all over the place as this great step forward for diversity.
And further critique here:
At the same time, unlimited paid family leave could come with its own gender problems. Glynn pointed out that Netflix’s policy is progressive in offering the same paid leave options to both men and women as well as birth and adoptive parents. “It could potentially be great in terms of gender roles if you actually did see men taking leave at the same level as women, taking leave every time they have a baby and the same amount of time,” she said. “That would be tremendously revolutionary.”
But that’s not likely to be how people actually use the leave. “Realistically, I doubt that’s what we’re actually going to see,” she said. “My fear would be that because it’s so open-ended, people are going to err on the side of taking less leave.” And men already take less leave than women, even under structured policies.
Women may also face a particularly fraught decision when trying to figure out how much time to take away from work. “How would you even begin to know how to navigate that?” Glynn wondered. “There’s enormous pressure to not seem like you’re gaming the system.” Women face penalties at work when they become mothers. Even if unlimited leave is available, “you are still painted as someone who isn’t really dedicated to their job… Even in companies that don’t have such generous policies, there are all sorts of negative repercussions when [women] become parents,” she noted.
Etsy ramps up its parental leave policy:
Strong Families, Strong Business: A Step Forward in Parental Leave at Etsy
Etsy employees will be eligible for 26 weeks of fully paid leave when they become a parent through birth or adoption, regardless of their gender, country of residence or family circumstance.
And the research behind their thinking:
John Oliver on parental leave
New York's new paid family leave is "revolutionary", apparently, though it's really only a baby step. In important one, but not one to get too carried away over:
Shared parental leave (SPL) has been available in the UK for a year now but it's uptake has not been good.
"Research among 200 employers by the firm My Family Care found that more than four out of 10 had not seen a single male employee take up the right. At 11%, only between 0.5% and 1% of male workers had taken shared parental leave and fewer than 10% reported more than 1% takeup. A further quarter of firms were not able to give a figure".
A couple of reasons were given,
The research found that concerns over career progression were a factor for many, with half of men saying they thought taking leave was perceived negatively at work and 55% of mothers questioned said they did not want to share their leave.
I find the figure about women particularly sad.
This is a more personal story from a woman who was initially sceptical of SPL but who has found it extremely helpful. The bit that really stuck out for me was this,
"At present the accommodations made for pregnant employees and new mothers are seen as acts of generosity, ways of making space for the messy, inconvenient female body in the world of “normal” male-bodied people. It shouldn’t have to be this way."
We've seen the problems with this default of normal=males in other places and until we end this, I don't know how much real progress we're going to make.
Ugh. So depressing. Sometimes I think we just need to legislate for compulsory parental leave - ie men have to take the leave - until we reach the point where it's seen as jus normal. The irony of the fact that men worry about career progression for themselves, whilst denying that having children affects women's career progression, as they do in so many places, just my head a splode.
Also agree with the male == normal, female == freakazoid abnormal weirdo problem.
I think legislation may be the way to go. I think there's legislation in Scandinavia which seems to have worked and the have much more equality in their society. However, I don't know what came first - did the legislation come because they were equal or did the equality come because they legislated for shared parental leave?
In other news, Twitter is now offering 20 weeks parental leave to all employees.
It's time for more men to try shared parental leave
Of the fathers who chose not to take SPL, 68 per cent did so for financial reasons and 40 per cent felt that their employer wouldn’t support their request for time off. And many of those who took SPL still feared some negative associations: 51 per cent said that they risked being viewed as “less of a man”.
That last one is the most pernicious problems and needs solving. Looking after your kid isn't 'manly'?! This is toxic masculinity at its finest.