Good maternity leave programmes don’t always help women

One way to judge how women-friendly a workplace is to see their policies for pregnant women. A company that offers generous maternity leaves and flexible work environment is considered to be supportive of its female employees. A new research however, says otherwise.


According to a research conducted by a consulting firm Mercer, most companies that provide these facilities, have slower projections for women to reach the executive ranks. The research states that out of the surveyed 164 organizations, most companies that had liberal maternity programmes, managed to retain more female employees but also appeared to promote women to their executive ranks at a slower pace.


Pat Milligan, president of Mercer’s North America region, believes having these policies is not enough. It is not just about checking the boxes, these benefits need to be followed up with proactive management that helps women get back on track for promotion.


Milligan says, “We’re not saying they’re not good programs… If I’m not actively managing and really coaching these women, they can have very unintended consequences.” He adds that there is a stigma attached to flexible working or work-from-home facilities, where they are formally allowed but in formally frowned upon.


[Picture Courtesy: CBC News]


According to Milligan, “You can have a great employee handbook, and all these great programs that say you can do this, but if your manager makes it clear that your butt needs to be in the seat, then what’s the sense of having them? We’re just honestly saying it takes a lot more work to use this stuff for the good than simply to offer it.”


According to the The Guardian, the report also found that when these benefits are amongst the top five programs for developing women, it means that the company culture values them and in these cases, the negative effect goes away. And if they were offered to both men and women (maternity and paternity benefits being offered by the company), it could also be linked to improved projections for women joining the top ranks.