A few months ago, I had dinner with my wife to celebrate her birthday. Shortly after, as we rode along the Hudson River toward our apartment, we sighed in relief with the certainty that our son wouldn’t be born that night — because, let’s be honest, nobody wants to share a birthday with their mother. We went to bed only to wake up just past midnight to rush to the hospital. Esteban was born the next day.
As it happens, my employer recently implemented a new parental leave policy that offers 16 weeks of full paid leave to any employee in care of a newborn or adoptive child. Generous and equalitarian parental leave policies like this have a well-documented impact on curbing gender discrimination at the workplace. But, this is only the case if men take advantage of them. So, as one of the first employees to have this benefit available to me, I am going to use it fully and I plan to be very vocal about it. I have to. I owe it myself and to those who come after me.
There are three key ways that policies like this can work against gender disparities in the workplace. First, their gender-blindness is inclusive of gender non-conforming parents. No company benefit should depend upon the employee’s gender identity, though, sadly, it is still the norm. Second, an extended period of full paid leave allows families to fully recover from the financial, physical and, often, medical impact of having or adopting a child. Finally, by doing away with the concept of a primary caregiver, which typically defaults to the mother, it removes the unfair career opportunities advantage men get when [More]