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Marissa Mayer Instates Generous New Maternity and Paternity Leave Policy

May 7, 2013

Working women have, at times, held a dim view of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, some of whose policies and personal decisions have been perceived as harmful to working moms. As Mayer rolls out a new family-friendly policy, however, those perceptions may change.

According to NBC Bay Area, Yahoo will now grant new moms 16 weeks of paid maternity leave with benefits following the birth of a child, and fathers will receive 8 weeks. The company will also give new parents $500 to spend on such things as cleaning services or meal delivery, plus free Yahoo-branded baby gear. The new policy puts Yahoo more in line with other Silicon Valley titans including Facebook and Google, which could, in turn, help the struggling company attract and retain talent.

"It's a smart move," Rachel Sklar, founder of The Li.st, an organization geared toward elevating the status of women in technology and new media, told NBC Bay Area. "It suggests a long-term strategy. This is a great precedent."

Mayer's decision could also help repair her image among working parents, NBC notes. Some advocates worried that Mayer's decision to work through a two-week maternity leave set an unrealistic precedent for new working moms. Then, two months ago, the CEO made headlines again when she banned telecommuting, a perk perceived to benefit parents.

While Yahoo's new family leave policy may send a messge to working moms about its value of work-life balance, The Atlantic calls the shift positively revolutionary for fathers who are rarely granted paid leave following the birth of a child. Beyond that, the report notes, by allowing fathers more time at home with their newborns, Yahoo could help the country inch toward a parity between the sexes in the parenting arena. When Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg advised women to "lean in" to their careers, many scholars countered that such a shift requires men to "lean in" as well -- to increased family responsibilities, especialy where child care is concerned.

Today reports that while some men are excited about Yahoo's new paternity leave policy, others worry that it is unrealistic. Many men feel pressured to return to the office, while others simply feel driven to get back to work within a week or two. Jane Waldfogel, a family leave expert at the Compton Foundation and Centennial Professor of Social Work at Columbia University, said the typical leave for a new American father is a week or two. "That's obviously quite short, considering that all evidence shows that if a father takes leave in the early weeks and months of a baby's life, he's more likely to become a partner in the child's care," she said.

According to NBC Bay Area, the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act requires large employers to provide just 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees to care for a newborn baby or ill family member, resulting in the U.S. being consistently ranked among the worst of all developed countries. Countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Russia, by comparison, give new moms at least a year of paid leave, and Canadian mothers get 50 weeks.


Compiled by Aimee Hosler

Sources:

"After Work-from-Home Ban, Yahoo Expands Maternity, Paternity Leave," nbcbayarea.com, May 1, 2013, Lisa Fernandez and Jon Schuppe

"Marissa Mayer's Potentially Revolutionary Paternity Leave Policy," theatlantic.com, May 1, 2013, Nanette Fondas

"Yahoo's long paternity leave unrealistic, some dads say," today.com, May 1, 2013, Kavita Varma-White

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