Fatherhood Equality: Yahoo Policy Raises Questions

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.

YahooYahoo’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.

7 Responses to “Fatherhood Equality: Yahoo Policy Raises Questions”

  1. >”New mothers can take an additional eight weeks paid leave after pregnancy.”
    I wonder if the ACLU will get involved in this blatant discrimination since one gender is offered something that the other cannot ever get…

  2. Woman should be fighting for the men, after all they want everything equal. If they do not, they may get equal days off, and be back to 8 weeks. Seems equal is not what it used to be.

  3. Please, no! Stop! There are differences between genders, and policies should reflect that! Really, how many men would WANT to stay home for up to sixteen weeks after a new baby?

    • >There are differences between genders, and policies should reflect that!

      Reflecting the differences is great! that’s why there are different restrooms for the different genders.
      However, giving preferential treatment is discrimination. How long have women complained that they don’t get the same pay as men because they are a higher risk because they might get pregnant. If you want to talk about the differences, you have to think that it’s okay to pay women less because of that risk. If that’s not okay, then you have to treat everyone equally, which means that men have to be given the same accommodations, which could be as simple as stay home to help their women deal with the baby (grocery shopping, cooking…even if it’s just “BBQing 🙂 etc.)

  4. While the discrepancy is large, one obvious difference is that the mothers are the ones that actually gave birth, hence need more time after the baby is born.

  5. Perhaps people who think it’s unfair for women to have more paid leave after having a baby than men, should consider the recovery time after the physical act of having a baby. It would appear that common sense is not as common as it used to be.

    • Another thought that comes to mind is fire-persons.
      Once upon a time, only men were “real” firemen because of their physical strength compared to women (on average.) Women complained and were given the opportunity to compete and some did great. Those who didn’t complained and got accommodations which allowed them to be on the force but not do the same work. Should they get paid the same to do different work? I guess it depends on the job, but who do you think deserves more pay: the one who saves your life by getting you (with a broken leg or trapped under rubble) out of a fire, or the one who held the ladder? They’re both important, but ultimately you can save someone even if nobody holds the ladder, but that person dies if nobody carries you out.

      There are jobs where some genders are “better” than others but we’ve chosen to try to not discriminate. Now it looks like this policy is doing an about-face and saying that discrimination is okay. (I, for one, stayed home with the kids when they were young and enjoyed the time with them even though the diaper thing was not a favorite activity…should I be denied that quality bonding time because I’m male?)