I've always kind of dreamed about what it might be like to work at Etsy — how gorgeous and artsy everyone's cubicles must be, and how much individual expression working in such a creative environment likely entails. So the fact that Etsy's new parental leave policy (yep, that means moms and/or dads) grants six months of paid leave to its employees only adds to my suspicion that the company might just be one of the coolest places in the country to clock your workday hours.
The site, which serves to foster online sales of independent designers, made the announcement via a blog post titled "Strong Families, Strong Business: A Step Froward in Parental Leave at Etsy." Explained Juliet Gorman, the company's director of culture and engagement, "Beginning in April, we will take a significant step forward in our parental leave policy. Etsy employees will be eligible for 26 weeks of fully paid leave when they become a parent through birth or adoption, regardless of their gender, country of residence, or family circumstances."
The inclusivity of Etsy's policy is definitely worth pointing out. Historically, it's been hard enough for white, cisgender, biological mothers to get any sort of paid parental leave — making the mere thought of such leave for adoptive parents or parents in the LGBTQIA+ community seem like an impossibility. But in widening the scope of their parental leave parameters, Etsy and other companies offering similar policies (such as Netflix and Spotify) are making a strong statement about the importance of making paid parental leave a priority for all employees.
For the record, this isn't the first time Etsy has acted unilaterally to benefit a specific subset of employees. For example, faced with the fact that 87 percent of their engineers were male, the company partnered with 37Signals and Yammer to fund a three-month intensive free coding training program in New York aimed at encouraging up-and-coming female engineers and developing their talent. The move made a huge difference, too — the company's female engineer count jumped from three to 20, amounting to a 500 hundred percent increase.
But the parental leave announcement is particularly impactful, given that the United States is the only industrialized nation without paid parental leave. Although by law employees' jobs must be protected for up to 12 weeks of parental leave, that leave is not guarateed to be paid. Not only does this put undue pressure on parents not to take the time needed to care for and bond with their new baby, but it also puts undue pressure on those parents not to take leave at all. How many people do you know who could take a 12 week hit in the paycheck department, while sustaining a brand new human, no less?
In this situation, many parents choose to leave their jobs altogether — I am one of them. When I had my first child, I was an executive level employee at my then-place of employment and had been with the company for five years. I was offered no paid parental leave, and subsequently cashed in my two weeks of vacation time and took out a loan to cover the eight weeks total I took to give birth to and care for my daughter. Upon returning, I made the decision to leave and enter the full-time freelance workforce.
Many economists have touted the economic advantages of paid parental leave, underscoring the fact that such policies could increase the percentage of women in the work force. In President Obama's State of the Union address, he urged businesses to consider parental leave a "national economic priority." And it's about time America makes it imperative, right? The way we stack up to other countries in regards to parental leave is a bit of a joke. Did you know that fathers in Japan can spend 52 weeks at home after the birth of a child while maintaining 58.4 percent of their salary? Or how about the fact that in Germany, mothers and fathers can take up to 14 months of parental leave without facing any penalty from their employers, all while enjoying two-thirds of their income?
Our nation is woefully regressive when it comes to parental leave, although tech companies are paving the way for a new standard. As Gorman puts it, "We believe parental leave policies like ours are just one step towards a more fulfilling, lasting world ... our hope is that policy makers and future business leaders find a way to provide a stable and flexible safety net for all people."