Paternity Leave Is One of the Keys to Closing the Gender Pay Gap

Much of the conversation about pay equity focuses on how treatment for women needs to change in the world of work — and rightly so. Societal expectations, corporate structures and the life circumstances of women can set them back relative to men.

But do we want to treat women exactly how we treat men? There’s mounting evidence that expectations for both men and women need to change to benefit all workers — and often their children.

JPMorgan Chase has agreed to settle a class-action suit by male employees who were denied parental leave because of their sex, The New York Times reports. While the Fortune 500 company offers 16 weeks of paid parental leave, it had a habit of denying leave for new fathers on the spurious claim that as men they would not be the primary caregiver. As a settlement of the suit, the company has set aside $5 million to compensate around 5,000 fathers who did not receive that precious time with their newborn babies.

It is easy to put a dollar figure on the value of paid leave. It’s simply your weekly pay times the number of paid weeks off. But that bonding time with a new child in their first weeks of life is, if you’ll forgive the cliché, priceless.

It’s a real societal boon when companies — or indeed governments in most wealthy countries outside the United States — guarantee that incredibly valuable time with one’s family. The sociological importance of things, such as compassionate leave, grievance leave and parental leave, are hard to overstate. But they are also hard to come by in this country.

You might think a person working at a Fortune 500 company is winning at life — at least to some extent. But American working culture for professionals is shifting to a standard of endless overwork.

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin told The New York Times how the U.S. is moving in a trend toward rewarding long hours — where for the rest of the world the law of diminishing returns rules the day. This is increasing the pay gap between men and women.

Because women are more likely to have to take some time off work if they have children, they are likely to fall behind their male peers (or even their own identically educated husbands). But this is a different, albeit related, effect.

Women are more likely to be the primary caregiver for their children, starting with maternity leave. And an equal sharing of work and pay actually makes less sense when one person can work long hours and get overwork premium while the other works fewer hours to be flexible in caregiving.

JPMorgan Chase is trying to enforce that status quo. The idea almost seems to be that companies recognize some of their top talent will be women, and women may require certain accommodations for family. But companies can get away with demanding that men work 80 hours a week and never take time off.

This is what the lawsuit is about. It may not directly attack the culture of overwork. However, it does take a swing at the broader idea that working mothers need to be shared between their employers and their children, but fathers can be expected to put work first.

Many men aren’t happy about feeling pressured to work 60 to 80 hours a week with no option to opt out other than quitting — just as women aren’t happy about being sidelined and overlooked for pay raises or promotions. Unequal treatment of men and women in the workplace is toxic for members of either sex, not to mention any children they may have.

If a gender-equal working world means not only that women make more but also that men work less, that’s a net win for families and for society.

Photo credit: wundervisuals/Getty Images

46 comments

Hannah A
Hannah A7 hours ago

thank you

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Leanne K
Leanne K2 days ago

Sorry I disagree. This does nothing for women's equality. It is merely patriarchy's levelling up what men see as something women get whilst boo hoo men don't.

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Anna R
Anna R3 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Lesa D
Lesa D4 days ago

thank you Joel...

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Nicole Heindryckx

@ Steve F: What is the advantage of Past Member for the green stars. I can in no way agree with you. I have friends with whom I discuss some issues and chose these friends on the basis of the green stars they sent me. Do not understand me wrong: it's not because someone sent me 10 stars every day that I asked for being friends. Not at all. But I asked those who sent me a green star based on a comment I had written. This meant these people were of the same opinion as I did. A small intro completed your ideas and sometimes, these little steps lead to further exchange of messages and eventually friendship. Now, I don't know WHO is sending me green stars for my comments I formulated. So HOW can I know if there are other people around the world who would appreciate a friendship relation?? I know there was an abuse of the green stars, as some knew how to send 10 or even 12 in a row. These are stupid people, and certainly not my friends.
In fact, sending a green star for a posted comment is just formulating your appreciation for that man/woman and nothing more or less.

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Nicole Heindryckx

It must be around 20/25 years ago that several countries in West Europe decided that men could get parental leave as well, to be taken after birth, or at least before the newborn was 2 years old. The majority was happy with this law. This also applied when parents adopted a child. We want men to be more involved with the care and education of our children, but then they must have the same benefits as women.
Working weeks of 60 or even 80 hours a week are ABSURD and totally WRONG ! Many people are unemployed, or just a part-time job, even with a high diploma or having done university. Finally, they accept a job in a Hamburger resto or tank stations, to pay a small flat or share one. This means that some people are paid 2 salaries a month when their overtime is paid, and on the other hand, many of the unemployed are also receiving a minimum amount from the Government or the State. This makes labour charges too high and 90 % of the under- or unemployed people would gladly take the overtime hours, enabling them to live a decent life and start a normal family life. Is that so hard to understand?? Apparently it is, as this is going on for so many decades and a certain percentage of men have no family life because they work twice the normal working hours and other can't even start a family because of lacking a decent job...

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Leo C
Leo Custer7 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Emily J
Emily J8 days ago

There should be parental leave for both parents to spend time with their child, not allowing paternity leave for men is sexist and outdated.

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Margaret G

I agree with Jenn C. that workweeks should be only 40 hours. The Obama administration tied to encourage this by setting the income level above which there is no overtime pay at about $50,000 per year. The present level is about $23,000 per year, ridiculously low. If it were up to me, I'd set the level at $250,000 per year.

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson8 days ago

ty

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