Are we there yet? Swift CEO on paid, 16-week maternity leave

Every week, we ask industry insiders across all job levels and titles to share personal stories about equality, diversity and inclusion in adland. We know we're not there yet, but we want to document the highs and lows as the industry slowly transforms for the better.

Liz Valentine
CEO and co-founder

Tell us about one thing that’s happened recently that leads you to believe there’s still a problem.

The gender pay gap and leadership void (especially in the C-Suite) is not going to be solved unless employers and lawmakers address paid parental leave. Yet the number of agencies offering adequate paid leave is staggeringly low. The 2017 Where We Stand report by the 3% Movement showed that paid maternity leave policies vary widely: Some are two weeks long, and only one of the polled agencies offered more than 12 weeks.

Swift’s policy is 16 weeks of paid primary caregiver leave, a three-month reduced schedule at full salary for returning caregivers, and eight hours built in annually for attending teacher conferences and kids’ appointments. It’s a big investment but family-friendly policies help moms stay at work and advance their careers. Much needed when you consider that just 39 percent of women in advertising are mothers, and only 62 percent of moms with children under age three are part of the U.S. workforce. (Stats from 3% and the Bureau of Labor.)  

How about something that proves we’re making progress?

People are talking more openly about the real differences for working moms and dads. Danielle Trivisonno Hawley, CCO Americas for Possible, recently published a column about the challenges she faced before and after pregnancies, touching on everything from syncing business travel with her ovulation cycle to working around the clock on a pitch while six months pregnant. Her point being that companies need policies that support and encourage women to stay in the workforce. Not only did this get air time with the public, many male senior leaders within our network applauded her bravery and honesty.

What else needs to be done to get there?

We need men to push for these policies alongside women. For everyone to realize that programs like caregiver leave, returnships and flex time benefit everyone, not just women. The time that primary caregivers devote to their children and households is absolutely crucial to the well-being and economic health of families — and really, society.

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