- “The motherhood penalty” continues to hold women back at work, a March 7 report determined. PwC’s Women in Work Index 2023 analyzed women’s equality ratings from 2011 to 2021 for the 37 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
- “Despite overall improvement in the Index, women are still in a considerably weaker position in the labour market compared to men,” researchers concluded, noting that in 2021, women across the OECD on average earn about 86% of men’s earnings. Part of this is due to gendered treatment of parents, the report found, including a failure to support men with paternity leave.
- At this rate, PwC said, it will take more than 50 years to close the gap.
PwC researchers centered gender-equal, paid parental leave as a solution. Some prime examples, scientists said, are Germany, Iceland and Sweden. “These policies have led to increased uptake rates of leave for fathers, and participation rates in the workforce for women,” they said. For context, Iceland offers 24 weeks of paid leave, irrespective of gender; Sweden offers 28 weeks paid at 80% of income and six additional weeks paid at a lower rate per day, with some opportunities for transferable leave.
Germany offers both parents up to three years of parental leave — with 24 of those months available until the child turns 8. One year is paid up to 65% of earnings up to €1,800/month.
The U.S. has long lagged behind other developed countries in the area of parental leave, with the Family and Medical Leave Act providing 12 weeks of job-protected but unpaid time off for the birth or adoption of a child. This also only can be taken within one year of a child’s birth. Due to the imperative of employers to fill the gaps, labor experts have continually emphasized to HR Dive the importance of companies supporting employees with comprehensive, gender-neutral parental benefits.
“Providing fathers with the opportunity and incentive to take parental leave will help women return to the workforce after having a child, progress toward promotion and benefit society at large,” researchers said in a press release, adding that employers can cut hiring and training costs by retaining mothers in the workplace.