Paid Maternity Leave: The Hidden Downside for Women

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            Women continue to have a growing presence in the business world, but there is still a struggle to balance work and family obligations.  This second shift of child and home care must be completed, and with the current policies in the workplace, this burden often falls primarily on the women in the house.

            According to research conducted by Dr. Heymann, Dean of the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, the Unites States “is the only high-income country that does not offer a paid leave program.”  As the current policy stands nation-wide, the only option readily available for the parents of a newly born child is to take an unpaid leave from their jobs.  This leave hurts the employees’ job performance and sometimes results in the employee losing their job altogether.  Although individual states have begun to enact policies of their own, there is a clear discrepancy between the treatment of men and women under these policies.  When a paid leave is offered, this leave lasts longer for new mothers as compared to the father of the newborn.  When women are paid to stay at home after childbirth, they are out of the workforce for longer periods of time, and are placed at a disadvantage in their efforts to advance their careers. 

It seems these maternity leave policies are encouraging traditional gender roles as socioeconomically it makes the most sense for men to work if  women are given the option of receiving pay for longer periods of time while on leave for the purpose of childcare.  According to “Working Mother”, “…the average time off in 2012 was seven weeks of fully paid maternity leave, while new fathers received an average of only three paid weeks”.  Although a father may have a more flexible work schedule, the mother is more often the one who takes a family leave as she is more likely to be paid for the longer period of time.  This allows the male to continue to further his career without interruption while, due to family leave economics, women exit the work force in order to care for a child.

As women push to be a more integral part of the business world, policies like this one continue to impede their progress.  Women strive to have equality in the workplace as they break down traditional gender roles.  The fact that the mother is considered primarily responsible for a newborn child is a gender stereotype that must be eradicated in order to give women equal opportunity in the business world.  The current nation-wide policy seems to be outdated and any change regarding this topic has moved far too slowly.  It is clear that there must be some attention paid to equalizing the policy of paid family leave for either parent as current policy is negatively affecting womens’ performance and presence in business.

 

MaryEllen Caruso

Tufts University

Link to Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/your-money/us-trails-much-of-the-world-in-providing-paid-family-leave.html?pagewanted=all

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