Male CEOs Are Split on the Importance of Paternity Leave

miamiThe Miami Herald asked a panel of CEOs about paternity leave. Some male CEOs supported it, but others seem stuck in the Dark Ages.

Fact: Paternity leave benefits dads, kids, moms and families, and even improves the bottom line.

Fact: One becomes CEO after either founding a company and, through insanely hard work, making it thrive, OR by putting in intense hours at work for a few decades.

Fact: Most male CEOs today have at-home wives, and have not had to directly confront the same types of work-family challenges that most of their workforce faces.

Putting these facts together, many male CEOs are not as engaged with issues such as paternity leave as they could be. CEOs of big companies are starting to understand– they have HR and financial professionals, as well as employee surveys, to educate them about the need to support working parents and the costs of failing to recruit and retain the best talent. They are still a step removed from work-family juggles, but at least working parent issues are on their radar.

However, many male CEOs who built or lead small and medium-sized firms don’t see paternity leave or other parental supports as important. This is a shame because the next and perhaps most important frontier in promoting work-family balance for dads is the decision making of leaders in small- to medium-sized businesses.

According to a recent CEO Rountable convened by the Miami Herald, many of the male CEOs who were asked about paternity leave didn’t see the point, and don’t offer it. I’ll list a few snippets here and encourage you to read the entire discussion.

Giving birth is an extraordinary physical and emotional experience for a woman. Maternity leave is necessary to enable women to absorb this experience while bonding with their child. I don’t think such leave is necessary for men.

I personally do not think male employees need a paternity leave option. Therefore, it is not something we offer.

No — and we don’t offer it. However, we are sympathetic to fathers of newborns and are very flexible with their schedules wherever possible.

Only when mothers with medical reasons are not able to take care of their baby.

Yes, they should but only for one week to support the childbearing wife.

Pretty brutal. But there is also cause for hope, specifically from male CEOs who note that they are involved fathers with working wives:

We believe in policies that attract the best and the brightest. As a first-time parent to a 13-month-old, the difficulties that all parents face are very real to me. From a business perspective, we are always willing to work with people when they are a productive member of our community.

I believe that family, in whatever form, is very important and it’s critical parents have the opportunity to make a positive impact on his/her child. When parents are in a child’s life from the very beginning, great things happen for the family, the workplace(s) and the community: a. The child grows up feeling valued and loved; b. The workplace(s) builds a culture where family is valued; c. Not only do both parents share in the household responsibilities, but both parents take time from work, which can help with equality in the workplace.

Yes, male employees should have the option. Our company is pretty progressive when it comes to family leave. We offer paid maternity/paternity leave to our employees as needed. Many of our male employees, including myself, have young children and wives who work outside of the home, so we understand the importance of having such an option available to us.

And, finally, it must be said that the female CEOs uniformly supported paternity leave. Just one more reason we need women in leadership roles. I’ll write up responses from female CEOs in next week’s blog post.

What do you think about paternity leave and the responses of these CEOs? Any stories to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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PS- Thanks, Cynthia Calvert for drawing the Miami Herald article to my attention.

3 thoughts on “Male CEOs Are Split on the Importance of Paternity Leave

  1. What you say about CEOs in the US is really interesting. Last year I read a great book by the UK journalist and writer Gideon Burrows called ‘Men Can Do It: the real reason dads don’t do childcare and what men and women should do about it’. One of the points he made is that there’s a lot of data out there that suggest that (in the UK) middle class couples often occupy more stereotypical gender roles when it comes to parenting. He spends a lot of time discussing shared parental responsibilities in a really well researched book.

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