Following the backlash from its recent telecommuting ban, Yahoo has doubled its paid maternity leave for new mothers from eight to 16 weeks. But new fathers didn’t fare as well — they’ll continue to have only eight weeks’ leave under the new policy.
Yahoo’s approach is just the latest example of fatherhood getting the short-shrift in family leave, which is echoed across a number of companies and industries. But in the technology industry, which is largely male, this discrepancy is magnified.
Here’s how things stack up across industries for companies with more than 50 employees, according to the Families and Work Institute’s 2012 National Study of Employers:
As you can see, 30 percent of the companies offer maternity leave of more than 12 weeks, compared with just 15 percent providing a similar arrangement to new fathers.
“The assumption is that women do the lion’s share of the [child-rearing] in the early years and men, it’s assumed, are going to be working,” says Ken Matos, senior director of employment research and practice for the institute.
While Yahoo’s paid paternity leave is generous, Matos finds it interesting that it’s only half of what’s provided to mothers. “It feeds into the expectation that men need less time [with their babies],” he says. Part of that expectation may stem from the relatively rarity of cases where men quit their jobs because they weren’t provided enough paternity leave.
Baby, It’s Better in Tech
Although IT dads may not do as well as moms in terms of family leave, the tech industry overall tends to grant more time to new parents.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a higher percentage of workers in the information sector, as well as the professional and technical services area, nab more paid and unpaid family leave time than U.S. workers overall.
- Information Workers: 28 percent paid leave / 96 percent unpaid leave
- Professional and Technical Service Workers: 16 percent paid leave / 87 percent unpaid leave
- All U.S. Workers: 11 percent paid leave / 85 percent unpaid leave
The Working Mother Research Institute noted a similar situation in its 2012 list of the 100 Best Companies to work for. Of the eight that identified themselves as technology businesses, the average paid maternity leave ran 11 weeks. The average for the complete list was seven weeks.
In addition to Yahoo’s new policy exceeding that 11-week average, it puts the company more on par with other Silicon Valley names like Google and Facebook.
“Sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave is great,” says Krista Carothers, senior research editor with the Working Mother Research Institute. “All moms and dads should have time to ease into life with their new babies without having to worry about how they’ll pay their rent or mortgage.”
Better Times for Babies?
White-collar industries that tend to pay well — like tech — generally provide paid maternity and paternity perks, observes Vicki Shabo, director of work and family programs for the National Partnership for Women & Families. While it’s difficult for her to say whether Yahoo will drive more Fortune 500 companies to do the same, she notes that, “Once you have major players enact policies, it sets an example for other companies to follow suit.”
Here’s the full list of what Yahoo’s put in place for new parents and Yahoo babies, according to a company spokeswoman:
- Longer New Child Leave: Moms and dads can now take up to eight weeks of paid New Child Leave, with benefits, whenever they welcome a new child to the family. This includes birth, adoption, foster child placement and surrogacy. New mothers can take an additional eight weeks paid leave after pregnancy.
- Daily Habits Reimbursement: Yahoo will pick up a total of $500 for daily habits like laundry, house cleaning, groceries, take-out food and childcare when employees bring home their new child.
- Child of a Yahoo Gift Package: Yahoo-branded baby gifts.
One thing that tech workers have going in their favor for a wider offering of generous maternity and paternity leaves, as well as baby buck perks, is the industry’s shrinking unemployment rate. It’s another card for employers to play as they strive to retain employees amidst a shrinking labor pool.