I always feared it would be revealed at some unfortunate point in time. I just didn’t think I’d be “outed” by a billionaire.
On January 17, venture capitalist and Sequoia Capital Partner Michael Moritz compiled a list of lamentations in an op-ed for the Financial Times. Marveling at the pace and 24/7 work ethic of the Chinese, he singled out paternity leave and work-life balance in the United States as particular concerns, summing it up this way: “These seem like the concerns of a society that has come unhinged.”
As the founder of a number of social enterprises and proud employer who offers paid parental leave, I find Moritz to be horribly out of step with the times – and the facts. His take on human capital reminds me of the old-school approach: People are an asset to be mined and wrung out, their professional value to be extracted as quickly as possible.
Mortiz is free to count me as one of the unhinged who believes the U.S. can and should do better. Here are five reasons he’s dead wrong about paid parental leave.
Parental leave draws top talent. Fast Company reported in 2016 that companies offering some form of family leave experience better retention and improve recruiting. There’s a reason Netflix, Etsy, American Express, and Facebook are among the major companies offering generous leave packages for new dads.
The rest of the world does it. I’m no lemming, but if the overwhelming majority of developed countries does something, and we don’t, I’m skeptical. Of the 193 member countries of the United Nations, the U.S. joins just New Guinea, Suriname, and a few South Pacific islands in not having a national paid parental leave law. Even China offers a more progressive law than America!
It’s good for men (and women).Business Insider has reported on the benefits of paid paternity leave too, including better father-child relationships, a tightening of the gender pay gap, and even improvements to men’s brains. Take it from my senior art director, Mike Stevens, who has taken two paternity leaves during his four years’ tenure at my company: “People often forget that the father also needs time to create an early bond with the baby,” he said. “The value of my time away was beyond measure. It gave me time to recover from sleepless nights and arrive at work ready to be productive.”
Work-life balance supports hard work. Paternity leave and work-life balance isn’t about not working hard. Both are more about maximizing the long-term professional value of a human being. People respond to a workplace that values them. In my 27 years working in social enterprise, I’ve seen firsthand that people are more productive when they’re valued at work. Employee retention increases, which reduces the cost of hiring and the disruption caused by losing a contributor.
5.Parental leave pays, regardless of business size. A 2016 study by the Center for American Progress shows that paid leave benefits even small businesses by boosting recruitment, retention, productivity, and overall productivity. My company, Oliver Russell, has offered paid maternity leave since 2011 and added paternity leave in 2014. With just 11 people, having anyone out of the office for an extended period is challenging and means extra work for everyone else and adds measurable short-term costs. But I can tell you that having maternity and paternity leave is one of the things I’m most proud of. It is partly why Oliver Russell won the “Best for the World” award from B Lab, the nonprofit that runs B Corporation certification.
So, with apologies to the classic Western folk song, I find Mortiz’s viewpoint to be “Home, home on de-ranged.” But more than that, I believe that offering paternity leave is a competitive differentiator that serves all businesses well, regardless of size.
I will never be a billionaire. But I’ll always be proud to count myself as one of the unhinged if its evolving definition in our culture means that I value people and their long-term value. It’s just smart business.
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Russ started Oliver Russell in 1991. He’s committed his career (nearly 30 years) to social responsibility, first inside the corporate world and then as an entrepreneur who’s started four companies and five nonprofit causes. Russ is the author of "Rise Up - How to Build a Socially Conscious Business," and his creative work has been honored with local, regional, and national creative awards. These days, Russ focuses on brand strategy for clients, spreading the Certified B Corp love, and connecting kindred spirits to multiply social impact.