Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube explains why paid maternity leave is good for business in her most recently published article in the Wall Street Journal. She propels this issue to the forefront of our minds as we head into 2015, taking an influential stance on the importance to continue this conversation.
I was Google’s first employee to go on maternity leave. In 1999, I joined the startup that founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had recently started in my garage. I was four months pregnant. At the time the company had no revenue and only 15 employees, almost all of whom were male. Joining a startup pregnant with my first child was risky, but Larry and Sergey assured me I’d have their support.
This month, I’ll go on maternity leave once again—my fifth time—joining the nearly 5,000 women who have done so since I joined Google. And though I’m now CEO of YouTube (which is owned by Google), I’ll be entitled to the same benefits as every single woman at the company who has a baby: 18 weeks of paid maternity leave.
Having experienced how valuable paid maternity leave is to me, my family and my career, I never thought of it as a privilege. But the sad truth is that paid maternity leave is rare in America, and the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in providing for the needs of pregnant women and new mothers.
Susan not only highlights the recent reports released by the Department of Labor regarding statistics on the U.S. being the ONLY developed country in world that doesn’t offer government-mandated paid maternity leave, but also points to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 as a step in the right direction, but being unpaid —does not offer enough substance for women and families to adequately support their families while on leave.
The statement that has drawn the most media attention, that paid maternity leave is GOOD for business is backed by data that paid leave not only offers more productivity upon return, it enhances overall company morale.
Paid maternity leave is also good for business. After California instituted paid medical leave, a survey in 2011 by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that 91% of employers said the policy either boosted profits or had no effect. They also noted improved productivity, higher morale and reduced turnover.
That last point is one we’ve seen at Google. When we increased paid maternity leave to 18 from 12 weeks in 2007, the rate at which new moms left Google fell by 50%. (We also increased paternity leave to 12 weeks from seven, as we know that also has a positive effect on families and our business.) Mothers were able to take the time they needed to bond with their babies and return to their jobs feeling confident and ready. And it’s much better for Google’s bottom line—to avoid costly turnover, and to retain the valued expertise, skills and perspective of our employees who are mothers.
Best of all, mothers come back to the workforce with new insights. I know from experience that being a mother gave me a broader sense of purpose, more compassion and a better ability to prioritize and get things done efficiently. It also helped me understand the specific needs and concerns of mothers, who make most household spending decisions and control more than $2 trillion of purchasing power in the U.S.
It is refreshing to see women in executive level positions, who are career focused and also mothers –support and enhance the growth of this movement and continue this very important conversation. Thank you Susan and all Blissfulmamas who have lead the effort for change to embrace paid leave in 2015. The time is now.