Chatón Turner is a mother, lawyer, and blogger from the city of Pittsburgh. She and I have met at several events. We’ve talked about schooling options for our kids, being working mothers, and the joys and realities of new motherhood. I’ve heard her speak on the power of networking, and how to do it efficiently.
But she absolutely blew me out of the water when she discussed maternity leave at Northwood for Moms. She’s smart, articulate, and has a strong working knowledge of where we stand today versus how far we have to go. I was so impressed, I asked her if she’d be interested in sharing some of her knowledge here on Femme Frugality. Happily, she agreed! Check out the interview below as she talks not only about how leave policies affect America’s families, but also about how bolstering them can be a boon to business.
What sparked your passion around maternity leave policy?
My passion about maternity leave was sparked around two things, my personal experience as well as a documentary made by Heather Arnet of the Women and Girls Foundation. I was fortunate to be able to take paid leave from my job. We have a short term disability policy. Also, I powered through my pregnancy and took no days off. Each time, I worked the day before I delivered so that I could have that paid leave. Even though I was fortunate to have good pregnancies and blessed to get what I got, I knew that there was a more humane way for it to work. Heather’s documentary was about the rise of the first female president of Brazil. However, her researched revealed that every country that has had a female president provides mandatory paid maternity leave. Indeed, Brazil provides women with 120 paid days of maternity leave. That’s four months of paid maternity leave. In this country, women who work in large companies are entitled to only three months unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, and many women get nothing.
It is important to note that there is a business case supporting providing paid leave. When Google expanded its maternity leave to five months fully paid from three months partly paid, attrition decreased by 50 percent. It shows that offering paid leave isn’t “generous”. Rather, it is the right thing to do because it makes sound business sense. It is important to reframe the issue, and begin talking about how Corporate America can win by offering paid leave instead of why women need it.
What policies can companies put in place to make the current state of affairs better? Once they do, what’s in it for them?
Strong workplace policies that support women communicate a strong message that women and children matter. The reality is that it is hard to convince young girls that they can be president when we can’t convince them that they will receive equal pay for equal work. I am convinced that making maternity leave a right as opposed to a privilege, and achieving true gender equality in the workplace are the first steps to electing a female president.
Establishing policies that support mothers is in every company’s best interest because they promote loyalty, which increases retention and promotes morale. Marissa Mayer was able to return to Yahoo two weeks after delivering because she was literally able to bring her baby to work with her. Absent that, most new mothers need maternity leave to adjust to life with a new baby, bond with that baby (which has measurable health benefits to the mother and baby), as well as help the baby breastfeed.
Is maternity leave only about mothers? What’s your take on parental leave policies (either paternity leave or an extended term of leave for either the mother or father to take advantage of while raising young children?)
Fundamentally, the question is whether mothers and fathers need to be involved in the lives of their children and the management of the home. I believe the answer to those questions is yes. Accordingly, both mothers and fathers should be able to take advantage of leave policies. This is not just a woman’s issue. It’s a family and societal issue.
After maternity leave is over, should companies continue to provide supports to their employees with families? How is doing so beneficial to them?
Great question. Supporting mothers and families is about more than maternity leave. We have to engage in a corporate dialogue about what it takes to make families successful and what it takes to run a successful organization. When talented employees leave and have to be replaced companies incur avoidable expenses. That is a fact. We know that more highly educated mothers leave the workforce at higher rates than other women. One reason for that phenomenon is that more highly educated women have resources that other moms lack. Those options give them the ability to make different choices. That said, when they leave the workforce the loss to those organizations is extreme.
Women, and to a lesser degree men, who have children are often looked down upon by their childless coworkers. The general attitude is, “Why should I have to pick up their slack because they decided to have children?” What would you say if confronted with that question?
We are all in this journey called life together. So, I would begin by fostering a team environment that communicates that message. Most work environments fail to promote true teamwork. Instead, we promote a sense of individualism that makes people resent having to do more. Managers also tend to frame the request as, “Can you help Mary out? She has to leave to pick up her kids and can’t do the work.” The framing of the issue is wrong. Managers should evaluate the work that needs to be done and create a method for the work getting done that accommodates everyone’s needs. Creative management techniques can be used to even out the work allocation.
Thank you so much to Chatón! Head on over to Chatón’s World to check out more about her and her work.