From the Editor
Taking a stand for parental leave can pay off for the whole company.
“I presented 10 reasons to upgrade our parental leave policy to our male CEO.”
Almost every job comes with some degree of hypocrisy. When I worked at a wedding magazine, we’d recommend $5,000 designer gowns to readers while engaged staffers shopped for off-the-rack dresses for a fraction of that cost. The editor of a conservative women’s magazine wrote soft-core pornographic novels for gay women like herself on the side. And here at Working Mother, our maternity-leave policy was so stingy, we didn’t meet the requirements to apply for our own 100
Best Companies list. This deception felt different than the others. How could we demand that companies do better when we were shortchanging our employees? So I took a big risk. At nine months pregnant, I presented 10 reasons to upgrade our parental-leave policy to our male CEO. Every point was backed by data, from studies that showed companies’ bottom-line benefits when new mothers and fathers can take paid time off, to the more-generous offerings of our competitors. Still, I was terrified. I’d already gotten knocked up just a few months into this gig. Now I was asking the CEO to pay me (and
every new parent after me) more money to stay home. He stared at my document and then back at my grateful, but frightened, face and vowed to look into my suggestions.
I was home with my 3-week-old when the email came. “Benefit Changes,” read the subject line. Sure enough, birth moms were now entitled to eight to 12 weeks of fully paid leave, up from six at 60 percent of one’s salary. I would’ve loved to have seen this same policy applied to dads and adoptive parents (who got a boost from one to four weeks of full pay), as well as foster parents and those welcoming children through surrogacy, but progress is progress. Plus, it’s proof that caregivers matter to employers—and if your company isn’t caring for you, it’s absolutely worth calling them out on it (politely and with evidence that your proposal is worth enacting).
Our cover star Natalie Morales also made a big request at work two years ago. After years of chasing hard-news headlines as Today’s reporter in NYC, she asked to move to LA to co-host Access. Behind the scenes, Natalie’s mother-in-law, Kay Rhodes, was near the West Coast struggling with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Now, the journalist is opening up about caring for Kay at the end of her life and learning how precious time with family is. In our interview with Natalie (page 18), she reveals why we might want to start reframing career shifts. The takeaway: Life as a working mom isn’t linear, and asking for what you need is the only way to get it.
At brunch during my leave with Zachary and Jeremy.