Sadly, when we talk about maternity leave in this country, we ususally talk about it in the context of a tug of war: Our families need and want one thing, wheras our employers need and want something completely at odds.
But in a pretty groundbreaking and exciting recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, the top executive at one major company is speaking out in support of paid maternity leave—saying that it's not just good for families, but it's good for business, too.
Susan Wojcicki was Google's first employee to go on maternity leave, after she joined what was then startup in 1999—when she was four months pregnant. And now that's she's the CEO of Google-owned YouTube, she's getting ready to go out for her fifth time—and she'll be entitled to the same 18 weeks of paid leave as every other women in the company.
She points out the sad fact we know so well: The United States is the only developed country that doesn't require paid leave as mandated by the government. (Let that sink in.) The only ways to get it are to work for a generous employer who offers it, or to live in one of the very few states that mandate some benefits. And as pathetic as that may be for moms, babies, and families, it's also bad for business, she says.
Wojcicki writes, "After California [one of only a few states mandating benefits] instituted paid medical leave, a survey in 2011 by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that 91 percent of employers said the policy either boosted profits or had no effect. They also noted improved productivity, higher morale, and reduced turnover."
And she adds, "That last point is one we've seen at Google. When we increased paid maternity leave to 18 from 12 weeks in 2007, the rate at which new moms left Google fell by 50 percent... And it's much better for Google's bottom line—to avoid costly turnover, and to retain the valued expertise, skills, and perspective of our employees who are mothers."
So we know that mandating paid maternity leave can be good for every last person and entity it touches, including corporations. Here's hoping legislation and prevailing corporate policy catch up to that reality before decades' more harm is done in this country to families—and bottom lines—alike.
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Alesandra Dubin took eight weeks of maternity leave when she delivered twins in July. She's a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
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