‘Paid family leave is exacerbating the gender pay gap’: Nearly 500 companies pledge transparency around paid parental leave as talent war looms

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As what’s being called the “Great Resignation” looms, companies are betting on transparency around their paid parental leave policy to not only attract talent, but to keep it. So far, nearly 500 companies, from startups to Fortune 500s, have signed up to publicly share their paid parental leave policies in a newly launched, public-facing database hosted by digital media company theSkimm. 

It’s a move that theSkimm hopes will further push conversations around not only paid parental leave, but gender equality in the workplace. theSkimm itself offers employees 18 weeks of paid leave, with adoption, fostering and surrogacy included, bereavement leave for pregnancy loss, flexibility around returning to work and unlimited PTO, according to the company’s website. 

“The Great Recession and Shecession has driven so many out of work,” said Jodi Patkin, svp of brand marketing and communications at theSkimm. “Having that balance and being able to make an informed decision is more important than ever.”

The database features details around which companies offer paid parental leave, how much, fertility leave and adoption options, as well as any transition back to work plans. So far, major brands like Adobe and Bank of America, as well as advertising holding companies, like GroupM, have signed up. There is also information and resources to help users launch efforts at their own companies. 

The database officially went live March 23 and is available to the public for free, not only as a resource to job seekers looking to compare benefits across companies, but to encourage companies that don’t have paid family leave policies to create their own, Patkin said.

It’s part of theSkimm’s #ShowUsYourLeave campaign, sparked by debates last year on Capitol Hill as to whether President Biden’s Build Back Better plan would include paid family leave. According to Patkin, it also stems from conversations around the pandemic-induced, so-called “Shecession,” in which working moms and caregivers were bled from the workplace due to lack of childcare and lackluster company flexible work policies.

“Paid family leave is exacerbating the gender pay gap,” Patkin said. “It is having women fall behind in their careers. Through #ShowUsYourLeave, people have spoken up and told us what they want in terms of how we hold companies accountable.” 

Unlike other industrialized countries, the United States does not currently have national standards on paid family. That’s still up for debate as Biden’s Build Back Better plan heads to the Senate floor. However, theSkimm is not alone in rallying public support for paid family leave measures. 

Within the marketing and advertising industry, a coalition of creative firms established Pledge Parental Leave, a pledge pushing other firms to offer three months’ fully paid leave for new parents. Meanwhile, communications agencies like Jennifer Bett Communications and Inkhouse, have created in-house efforts to give employees time off for pregnancy loss. 

At this stage of the pandemic, within the advertising industry and beyond, there seems to be a new interest in providing employees with as much leave as possible, said Simon Fenwick, executive vice president of talent, equity and inclusion at the 4A’s.

“The Great Resignation has been eye-opening for a lot of organizations,” he said. “They sort of expected people to stay in their jobs, only leave if they had another job, and be grateful for their positions.”

That hasn’t been the case. Across the world, millions of people have quit their jobs in part of what’s being called the “Great Resignation.” In marketing, more than half of the marketers who identify as women have left or considered leaving the industry due to the complexities of the pandemic, according to LinkedIn research published in MarketingWeek.

Per Fenwick, the changes show that people have started to reevaluate what’s important in life, prioritizing things like paid parental leave, mental health and flexible work environments. If companies don’t keep up with the demand, they risk losing the talent wars, he said. 

Since the onset of the pandemic and the 2020s social justice movement, the advertising industry and corporate America at large, have signed initiatives similar to #ShowUsYourLeave, including Black Lives Matter and pledging to invest more dollars in minority-owned companies. Conversations around those efforts have since quieted, but Fenwick hopes employee pressure will keep the momentum going. 

At theSkimm, Patkin says there are plans to update the public database once per week, allowing companies and individuals to contribute through surveys and forms. 

“We haven’t even scratched the surface. We want to continue growing this to provide more information,” she said.

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