2015: A Year of Progress on Work and Family

2015 was a banner year for progress on work and family issues, and especially those of fathers.

Commenting on progress on work and family and Mark Zuckerberg on MSNBC was a highlight of my year
Commenting on progress on work and family and Mark Zuckerberg on MSNBC was a highlight of my year

I am gratified by the progress we’ve made in public policy, in the private sector, and as a culture. I am energized about the progress still to come. Here are some highlights of progress on work and family in 2015, followed by some personal milestones and my expression of gratitude for all of your support this year.

 

PUBLIC POLICY

We are still one of the vanishingly few countries in the world to not provide paid maternity leave, and have no national policy on such imperatives as paid sick leave and paternity leave. However, below the surface, the foundation is being laid for what I think will be rapid progress in the coming years. A few examples:

  • Federal contractors now must offer an increased minimum wage, the ability for employees to accrue paid sick leave, and several weeks’ paid parental leave.
  • Over 350 national organizations have declared their support for the FAMILY Act, and are pressing their cases before Congress. (I am part of a coalition of US Business Professors supporting the Act).
  • My book reading and discussion of the progress on work and family for fathers was a highlight of my year
    My book reading and discussion of the progress on work and family for fathers was a highlight of my year

    At the State and municipal level. there has been significant progress. Thanks to organizations such as A Better Balance, Family Values @ Work and the Center for American Progress, many cities and states have passed legislation to provide paid sick and family leave, to prevent workplace discrimination against those who are pregnant or primary family caregivers, and to increase minimum wages. Once the evidence of the effectiveness of these policies, and that the long-term benefits far outweigh short-term costs, accumulates, these experiments should provide momentum for future change.

  • Parental leave was discussed at both Democratic and Republican debates, and it is likely to be a campaign issue this coming year.

Add this up, and I agree with Vicki Shabo of the National Partnership for Women and Families that it is a matter of when- not if- the US will adopt paid parental leave.

PRIVATE SECTOR

2015 has witness tons of progress on work and family in the private sector. Some examples:

My work-life panel at Mom-mentum was another 2015 highlight
My work-life panel at Mom-mentum was another 2015 highlight
  • This year, a wide variety of prominent companies have either announced new or expanded parental leave policies. Virgin Atlantic, Goldman Sachs, and Netflix (among many others) all grabbed national attention thanks to their policies. These companies aren’t enacting these policies out of kindness- they see the clear, compelling win-win business case for extended parental leave. According to one estimate, about 21% of private employers offer paid paternity leave, up from 14% just a year ago.
  • Cultural change also needs prominent personal examples. Last year, prominent CEOs Max Schireson and Mohamed El-Arian made headlines as they stepped down their careers to devote time for family.
  • More compellingly, this year, two prominent younger CEOs didn’t step down. They unapologetically took paternity leave. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is currently on his 2-month paternity leave, and Toms Shoes founder and CEO Blake Mycoskie took an extended paternity leave earlier this year. Though words and actions, they both made a simple, powerful case for the importance of paternity leave, and how it is consistent with financial success.
  • Finally, several prominent companies (including EY, Barclays, and Dannon) joined together at the Clinton Global Initiative to both improve their own parental workplace supports and share their knowledge and experiences with others.

CULTURE AND SOCIETY

Our culture is finally recognizing the challenges of working parents. Some examples:

  • Three generations of Behson men at my book reading
    Three generations of Behson men at my book reading

    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan laid out a set of demands before he would take that position. First among them was that he would be able to maintain a work schedule that allowed enough time to be an involved dad. Although he has yet to advocate for other working dads, his personal story is indicative of how many dads are stepping up and asserting their family priorities.

  •  Thanks to an army of dadbloggers, Amazon joined the 21st century and finally changed the name of its program for buying baby items from “Amazon Mom” to “Amazon Family.” As this was a pet cause of Oren Miller’s, I’m sure he’s looking down with a smile today.
  • Three major books on work and family- two focused on men- were published this year. Yes, of course, you’ve heard about mine, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide (please buy a copy for yourself or for one of the dads in your life). Josh Levs’ All In takes a bigger-picture look at the issue and is excellent. Our books will fire you up about the progress we’ve made and still need to make, and provide great advice on how we can navigate the challenges in our own lives.
  • More recently, Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work and Family takes a look at the societal forces that hold back work-family balance and gender equality in the workplace. It’s an important book by a true leader in the field.
  • Ongoing studies and surveys by the Pew Research Center, Boston College’s Center for Work and Family, EY, and the Families and Work Institute continue to demonstrate how today’s family is challenged by work-family pressures, and that we are making progress.

GRATITUDE

  • Discussing progress on work and family on MSNBC
    Discussing progress on work and family on MSNBC

    2015 was an amazing year for me, and I have you to thank. The Working Dad’s Survival Guide was published by Motivational Press in June, just in time for Father’s Day. The book was an Amazon #1 New Release and the #1 best seller in its categories. It has received great reviews and praise from experts, authors, advocates and readers. It has long been a dream of mine to become a published author, and thanks to your support, my work is out in the world and helping dads find balance.

  • The book’s launch and early success opened many doors for me- mentions, excepts and articles in such outlets as Harvard Business Review, Quartz, Working Mother and the Washington Post; and appearances on MSNBC, NBC, Fox, Al-Jazeera, major podcasts, and radio stations all around the country (see here for links to many of these). I’m so grateful that the book has led to more attention paid to the important issues facing working fathers.
  • Thanks to the book, I’ve been able to provide keynote addresses and talk to companies and organizations around the country.
  • A few weeks ago, I had a book reading/signing at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, NYC. It was such an amazing experience that felt like the culmination of so much hard work. The room was packed, and it included so many people from so many different parts of my life- neighbors, coworkers, long-time friends, new friends, work-life advocates, and bloggers/writers I respect so much. And, of course, Amy, Nick and my dad!

Thank you so much for your support in 2015. I look forward to 2016 and beyond. More progress on work and family is still to come!

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