Report by Lisa Sweeney, CEO of Business in Heels International
Being a “parent” used to be a dirty word in many organisations. For many, it meant divided loyalties, priorities other than the business and the likelihood that if a child was sick the primary caregiver would take time out. In most cases, this is the female employee and for many, they would hesitate to mention they were a mother.
In the tech industry, the war for talent is real with many multinationals having aggressive targets to achieve 50% women at all levels. Unfortunately, the gender pay gap remains high at 24%. The problem for the tech industry is two-fold, working hard to both attract women to the industry as there is only 25% of the workforce that is female and to retain those they have. One of the key issues for the industry is the loss of talented women after the birth of their children. Can paid parental leave make a difference?
Our Government offers 18 weeks of paid leave – usually taken by mums – and the Dad and Partner Pay, which is two weeks at the minimum wage. Leading Technology-based companies are now generously offering between 26 and 38 weeks paid parental leave to be spread over both carers. How is this translating into the tech industry?
The team at DocuSign believe it has been pivotal to their success. According to Ed Knott, Area Vice-President, ANZ, said: “With the rapid transition to working from home (WFH) and distance learning, parents around the world were put in a nearly impossible position of balancing work and family – even more so for new families. At DocuSign, we offer our employees the freedom to work remotely, combined with 26 weeks paid parental leave for primary carers and eight weeks’ paid leave for non-primary carers.”
The benefit is not just to maintaining women in the industry, it is about reframing the view that employees can be parents. “As a dad, looking back at when I had my two boys, the standard was a week of parental leave for secondary caregivers. It’s such an important time for new parents – you’re settling into a new routine, creating a bond with your child and working as a team with your partner. I’m grateful that DocuSign recognises that both parents have to make the most of that special time and offer all secondary caregivers 8 weeks.”
According to WGEA, nationally, only 12% of men are taking parental leave. Is this the answer to reducing bias, improving understanding of what is involved to be a parental carer and endorsing that it is okay to be both an employee and a parent?
Leading tech company, HPE has noticed a change. “Since the introduction of our inclusive, gender-neutral, and enhanced family leave the percentage of men taking parental leave has increased tremendously. Our gender-neutral family leave is one of the many ways we’re challenging gender stereotypes as it enables parents to choose or change who the primary caregiver will be”, says Rob James – HPE South Pacific HR Lead.
To take this further HPE has a Parental Transition Support scheme that offers new parents the opportunity to work part-time for up to 36 months after the birth or adoption of a child. This has allowed our team members to gradually return to the office and resume their careers in a way that is sympathetic to their lifestyle,” adds HPE South Pacific HR director Rob James.
And the good news is that these companies offering these great incentives are all growing. The message is clear, being a parent is easier in technology than ever before, making it a more attractive industry than many others. Certainly, if you are in the industry or considering new jobs, check the various parental leave and return to work policies on offer prior to making your decision.
These actions are all pivotal in moving the dial on gender equity. If you feel your company is innovative in gender equity activities, please nominate them Recalibrate: Gender Equity Awards. The purpose is to establish the best practices being implemented across the market.