If We Want to Help Working Mothers, We Could Start With Paid Paternity Leave

Photo: robleto/Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: robleto/Flickr Creative Commons

A utopia in which working parents can balance careers and kids can’t be achieved here on Earth, or at least not without some tradeoffs. That’s the conclusion some reached after the New York Times rounded up studies showing that policies such as longer paid maternity leaves and affordable child care can help working mothers but also hold them back in the workplace. Among all developed countries, the Times found, better maternity leaves and flexible work protections have led to more women entering the workforce but fewer women in leadership roles. Here in the U.S., even our paltry guarantee of unpaid maternity leave has made women less likely to get promotions.

But these studies, aren’t indictments of workplace policies such as paid leave and subsidized child care. They are indictments of crafting these policies under the false assumption that women are the only ones who need them.

For example, a law in Chile requiring employers to provide child care for children under the age of 2 only applies to those companies with a certain share of female employees. In Spain, there’s a law giving workers with young children the right to ask for fewer hours, but it’s almost entirely women who ask. American women are a third more likely to take unpaid leave than men. Many families can’t afford to have both parents out on unpaid leave or working fewer hours to be home with children at one time, and it’s the mother who is still nearly always the one who scales back.

Well-crafted policy can change all of that. One policy in particular could do an inordinate amount to shift culture and how we see working fathers: paid paternity leave, with a use-it-or-lose-it clause.

Full Story: Slate.com »

Published by waworkfam

The Washington Work and Family Coalition includes representatives of seniors, women, labor, health professionals, children’s advocates, faith communities, low income workers, employers, non-profits and other organizations. We’re working together to make it easier for parents to raise healthy children and care for aging parents; for workers to care for themselves or their partners in the event of a serious illness; and for businesses to offer modern workplace standards that improve productivity and worker health.

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