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The Rise of Paid Parental Leave

The year 2015 couldn’t have been a better year for parents in the tech world. In August, Netflix announced it was offering new parents up to twelve months of paid time off. Then Microsoft expanded its maternity leave to twenty weeks, and Adobe and PayPal announced a new sixteen-week paid leave for moms and dads. When eBay announced its twelve-week paid leave people joked it was just being stingy. It might seem to be a move toward enlightened corporate social responsibility that is, until you realize the tech world is simply responding to the reality that its workforce is on the tipping point of parenthood.

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According to the U.S. Labor Department, the average age of the American workforce is forty-two years old, but tech employees are much younger. The average age of employees at Facebook is twenty-eight; at LinkedIn it’s twenty-nine; at Google and Apple it’s thirty. At Microsoft, they’re graying in at thirty-four.221

Now, consider the fact that the average age of a college-educated new mother in the United States is thirty.222 If the average age of tech employees is around thirty, tech talent is on the precipice of new parenthood, and tech companies know this. They’ve been very public about their commitment to hiring and advancing women, but they need to figure out how to retain women once they have them In particular, to keep aligned with their stated commitment to gender equality amongst their workforces, they are going to have to figure out how to avoid losing women once they become mothers. Offering extended parental leaves isn’t generous; it’s a strategic move intended to keep and attract talent.

Meanwhile, as the tech industry goes, so goes the nation. The expanded parental leaves in tech can only be a harbinger of things to come in other industries. In fact, the banking industry is already following suit. After the tech giants changed their policies, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs announced they too were extending their leaves, as did the United States military. To stay competitive, others are likely to follow.

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