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I took some time off from DEI and editorial work to have my second child, who was born in early August. I am utterly smitten with my son and appreciate the time that I have been able to take to focus on him and on this new stage in life, as now a mom of two. The last few months have been full of family transition, physical healing, sleep deprivation, and reflection on how blessed I am to work for an employer with such generous parental leave benefits.

In the United States, pregnancy is covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for employees and ensures continued healthcare insurance coverage so employees can resume their original or similar position at work. Unfortunately, there is no wage replacement guaranteed at the federal level which could pose a huge challenge for expanding families without other sources of income.  It goes without saying that kids are expensive. Furthermore, the physical and mental impacts of childbirth require support for individuals and families get to a point where they can return to the workplace again. As maternal mortality rates trend upward, and reveal the disproportionate impacts on Black women, access to maternity benefits remains an issue of diversity and equity.  Although the United States is far from adequately addressing these issues at a federal level, some states have instituted their own maternity leave provisions.

Luckily, I live in California, one of a handful of states to mandate additional parental leave benefits. California provides protections and support with its California Family Rights Act, California’s version of FMLA and Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL).  With these provisions, California offers job security, and wage replacement for new parents. Companies can decide if they want to extend their parental leave benefits and I consider myself incredibly blessed to work for a company that goes above and beyond. Combined, I have about 6 months of parental leave and my employer ensures that for the duration, my salary never dips below 100% of what I earned when working full time.  

Making it Work for Your Company

Companies with additional parental leave benefits set themselves up as an attractive place to work for underrepresented groups and signal to the market that they care about their employees. Creating gender neutral policies, pushing the limits on income replacement, and incorporating a personal touch are ways that employers can stand out with their parental leave policies.

  • Reimagine gender in your parental policies and practices.  Offer gender neutral benefits by offering leave for both parents, regardless of their gender. This allows all parents, men, women, nonbinary parents to take time off. Encourage parents to take the time offered.  Reduce the stigma around men or LGBTQIA parents using this benefit.
  • Push the limits on income replacement. California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) provides 60-70% of an employees past salary, so with this, my income would dip, perhaps incentivizing me to forego my PFL and return to work sooner. The peace of mind from knowing that my company is looking out for me financially by paying the difference to get me to 100% of my pay provides the security that allows me to take the full allotted leave and as a result, fully commit to the success of my company when I return.
  • Don’t forget the personal touch. My pregnancy announcement was met with an incredible amount of support from my boss and my colleagues, and a few weeks later, I received company swag for my baby.  What I felt was deeper than support, it was a reassurance that my company was behind me and my family and saw me as more than an employee, but a whole person, with a family. Shortly before my son’s delivery, my editorial team at ccrcorp also sent me a lovely gift box with gear and toys for the baby.  In those moments I felt so lucky to be part of such thoughtful and supportive companies that care about my life outside of work. 

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile