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Examining “Glass Lions and Glass Ceilings”: Why Parental Leave is Good for Families and Companies

At the Holmes Report’s Global Public Relations Summit this past October, I had the opportunity to attend a panel entitled “Glass Lions and Glass Ceilings: Leaning in to Shatter Stereotypes and Portray Possibilities” in which Beth Balsam from Hill + Knowlton Strategies and Kelly Parasi from LeanIn led a conversation about “how to create a more equal world where women are running half of our companies and countries, and men are running half of our homes.”

The panel discussed the steps that need to be taken in order to create that equal world. One of those steps is paid parental leave. Right now the U.S. joins Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea as the only countries in the world without paid maternity leave. Paternity leave is almost non-existent with less than half the countries in the world offering paid paternity leave – the U.S. not being one of them.

The issue of parental leave has percolated as a major topic of discussion in the news. New research continues to demonstrate the benefits of paid parental leave and recently, several major companies have taken very public positions on the issue. Earlier this year, Netflix announced its one-year paid leave policy after a child’s birth or adoption. Another tech giant, Facebook, confirmed the expansion of its four-month “paid baby leave” to employees around the world, regardless of gender. In support of the policy, Facebook co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, recently announced his plans to take two months off for the birth of his child. Zuckerberg has been applauded for setting a new precedent for working dads.

Companies have an opportunity to provide leadership on creating a more equal workplace and on the specific issue of paid parental leave. Global Strategy Group’s third-annual Business and Politics study (release date January 2016) found there is broad support for creating a more equal workplace.

  • 83% of Americans believe it is appropriate for a company to take a stance on pay equality for women.
  • Four out of five Americans (83%) would become more favorable towards a company if they learned that the company paid men and women equal wages.

Not only do Americans approve of a more equal workplace, they are also more supportive of a company with inclusive policies. Specifically, after hearing about Netflix’s one-year paid parental leave policy after a child’s birth or adoption, nine out of ten Americans (90%) said they would be proud to work for Netflix. Favorability towards Netflix also increased – from 82% at the start of the survey to 88% after being informed of Netflix’s position.

Companies can win with supportive workplace policies. Not only can companies receive a reputational boost by offering paid parental leave, they will create an environment that attracts and retains talent. Parental leave is good for families and companies – the next step is for more companies to adopt more supportive policies.

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