Who says extended parental leave is just for tech companies like Netflix or Microsoft? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced a new parental leave policy of 52 paid weeks for mothers or fathers during the first year after the birth or adoption of a child, plus unlimited time off for all employees.
(Photo Credit: Kjetil Ree/Wikipedia)
Before we discount the news, or shrug it off as a showy perk aimed at generating good publicity, let’s take a hard look at what this means for the employees, but also for all of us. After all, the foundation’s mission focuses on improving education and world health, aiming toward a higher quality of life for us all. What better way to put the mission statement into action?
It’s about healthier babies.
In his announcement post on LinkedIn, Chief Human Resource Officer Steven Rice puts it succinctly: “Ultimately, our parental leave program is focused on healthier babies, parents who are able to thrive professionally, and strong and resilient families.”
Women are more likely to work in the nonprofit sector than men, with particular emphasis on fields of health and education – which are, of course, focal points for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Beyond altruistic aims, nonprofits appear to provide women with more opportunities for leadership, power, and influence, according to studies of the sector.
Combined with the fact that 64 percent of women with children under 6 are working, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it just makes perfect sense for nonprofits to offer flexibility in parental leave and scheduling, particularly when we go back to studies that demonstrate a correlation between those women who work full-time while pregnant and the greater likelihood of them returning to work.
It’s also a healthier future.
Grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation fund efforts to improve cancer and HIV treatment, provide vaccinations and nutrition, as well as support art, theater, and music education. With that in mind, maybe the question isn’t, “Why extend parental leave and offer unlimited time off?” but rather, “Why not?”
In a recent article on Medium, Gates explains why investing in women and children is so important:
“…[W]hen we invest in women and children, we are investing in a healthier, more prosperous future for everyone. If the world lives up to the promises articulated in these global goals – especially its promises to women and children – I’m optimistic that over the next fifteen years, we will see the end of extreme poverty once and for all.”
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