#08: Are more men taking paid parental leave?

Dec 20, 2023

E4 ErezAbout The Episode

This episode is all about the dads. More specifically, we're diving into whether men are finally taking more parental leave and why that may be the case. 

Over the last few years, we've seen an explosion in the number of companies providing extended paid parental leave to fathers and non-birthing parents.

Many companies are even introducing policies that apply to all employees, regardless of their birthing status, which is great.

But with this shift of companies making paid leave available to fathers, it introduces some big questions:
    • Is it culturally acceptable for fathers to take leave right when a new policy is introduced at a company?
    • What's the best way for these fathers to structure their longer leaves?
    • Who can they talk to to get advice about how to approach parental leave since they may be the first in their circle to actually have access to extended paid parental leave?

In this episode, we welcomed Google’s Erez Levin - aka the paternity leave “dadvocate” - to the podcast.

A parental leave coach at his company and dad-of-two himself, Erez has been with Google for almost 13 years and took advantage of the 18-weeks of paid leave available to fathers with each child.

We cover the best ways for fathers to structure their leave, whether men even need as much paid leave as women, and a bit about his personal experience with longer paid parental leave.

Important note: This episode is informed by Erez's personal experience in a cisgender heterosexual two-parent household, but we recognize not all parents are in a husband/white partnership when welcoming a child.


Links & Resources


Transcript

Disclaimer: This podcast transcript is autogenerated and may contain minor errors or discrepancies

Allison: Thank you so much for being here with me, Erez. I met you a year and a half ago, and we had such a fascinating conversation. I feel like we ran out of time, and I thought I've gotta figure out how to wrangle him into coming and talking more about this in more of a public forum, because I'm just fascinated with your work, what you do, and how passionate you are about this topic. 

So, wanted to start off by asking you to share: What is it that you do and how did you become the dadvocate? 

Erez: I've been at Google for a long time. And I mean, I think like my personality, I am a problem solver and I like to help people. And especially when I see problems that I'm able to solve that maybe others aren't or, you know, I can jump in, I get really excited. And so this was, you know, five plus years ago.

This is actually, I think even before I was married, not only before I had a kid that I met a friend who was going out on his leave and he talked about the 12 weeks that he took off as being the super feminist act. And I never made that connection before. 

And as I read about his experience, and then I started going down the rabbit hole of all of the research out there to show how paternity leave was this really amazing thing for, for children, for the dads, for, for their wives, for women in general, I was kind of like, Oh my God, this makes so much sense. And I said, I have to do it, like this is my responsibility. Like the very least I have to do is take my leave. 

And then I started realizing like, actually there's no, not many voices out there. Like I can not just take my leave, but also become more of an advocate. And it started snowballing because the more dads I talked to about leave, how I was taking my leave, how I did take my leave, the response I got more often than not was, oh, that's so smart. That makes a lot of sense. I never thought of that. Like I'll do that too.

And I realized it's just an awareness thing. And so I'm like, oh, I can create awareness. That's not hard, especially within Google. Like they give everyone a platform, right? To reach a lot of people internally and then, you know, externally as well that eventually morphed into mostly via LinkedIn. And so I just, I think just got really excited. The more people I spoke to, the more dads that I helped that not only I got them to take their leave, but later they came back and thanked me. and told me what an amazing experience they have, I said, I gotta keep doing this. 

Allison: And is that a formal program that you've instituted at Google, or is this something that you've just decided, hey, this is a passion project, I'm gonna make myself available, then people know at Google that this is what you do, and they come and find you. Like, how much of this was structured versus organic? 

Erez: Yeah, so funny, there's actually a coaching program at Google, and there's sort of career coaches, and there's new blur coaches for new employees, and they had this parent coaches program that wasn't actually very utilized. And so when I went to apply, they actually were like, eh, we're not getting a lot of utilization, so we're not really bringing on new people. 

And I said, no, no, no, trust me, bring me on, I will bring new dads in. There's a need for this, I talked to a lot of dads informally. And so they let me in, and I think now I'm sort of the number one dad coach and parent coach out there. And usually my sessions are all booked up because words gotten out, and there's a lot of dads that just want someone to balance ideas off of, not that they're coming in with like, I have no idea what to do, but they're like, I have a, some do. 

Some are really like struggling in different ways with how they balance that and their career and things like that. But some just say like, eh, you know what? I saw it available and I realized this might help me confirm what I was already thinking or planning or whatever else. 

Allison: And so when you have fathers come to you, I don't know if this is even a question that you are able to answer. Are there one or two themes that rise to the top consistently of why people feel that they want to come and talk to you or what is taking up most of your time? One or two concerns? 

Erez: Um, I will say that, you know, there's a bias, there's a selection bias of the dads that I meet with within Google because we do have it pretty much as a norm to take your full leave. And we have pretty much the support and dads get paid and sort of all these things. And so most of the dads that come to me are actually just trying to figure out when to take it and how to take it, not if they should take the full amount. 

And even if they're like planning to take it, they're like, yeah, I should take it all, right? You know, they're not necessarily all super passionate. Of course I'm gonna take it, I'm gonna make the most of it. They're like, yeah, I'm gonna take it all. They feel bad not taking it all, which might be the thing and they're just trying to figure it out. But I do have plenty of dads that come sort of trying to figure out.

I'd say the two most common is with a first kid, how to minimize work disruptions, how to sort of like, yeah, they're struggling, right? They do care about their career, maybe their wife doesn't work and they're the sole sort of income earner. And so there are challenges there that they have to deal with. And so trying to figure out how to make that work for them, reduce a little bit of that anxiety while still allowing them to take most, if not all, of their leave. 

And then the other one is actually just a logistics thing. So it's like a second kid or a third kid. And then it just gets really complicated. Not impossible to figure out, but there's a lot more variables. Is there childcare already? Does sort of, is it a nanny at home that can also take care of the baby? Does the wife work? Is she going back to work? Like all these other things. So it's actually just like literally putting a calendar out and trying to map out and say, oh, do you have parents or other support nearby and can they take over a little bit? And do you have anywhere that you'd wanna travel to or let lots of people with family outside the US that they wanna go back and see. 

And so that's definitely a common one that I get as well. Let's talk about splitting leave. Cause I know you have a very strong perspective on that. And we've seen a lot of fathers who've gone through a program who have debated extensively. How do they split leave and why are they looking to split leave?

Allison: I want to hear about splitting leave. Let's start with your perspective on what you think is the ideal. And obviously there are a lot of caveats here about personal situations, financial situations, etc. But you are a fan of splitting leavef from what I remember. 

Erez: The biggest fan maybe. 

Allison: Yeah. Yeah. So. I'm maybe going to debate a little bit with you on this. 

Erez: I love it. I love it. I think it also depends on how much time you have. So I'm, you know, generally speaking to Googlers, now we have 18 weeks. We used to have 12 weeks, which was still a lot. Now we have 18 weeks. So yeah, like what a privilege. Well, although we could argue that it should not be a privilege to be a right, but that aside, the net-net benefits to, to the dad, to the baby, to the mom and to women in general, and to the mom individually, but also to the mom and the dad's relationship with each other, I think are the best if the dad takes at least I say four weeks by himself, assuming the wife goes back to work within sort of the first year, if that's how much time the dad has for the dad to take at least four weeks to sort of gain the full empathy, really get like the full fire hose of taking care of a baby of his baby by himself, the amount of empathy gained for his wife, the amount of baby bonding that happens, that it's not like you can't bond with your baby. 

 

Obviously, like lots of dads that didn't take any leave can be super bonded. Many are very bonded. Sometimes it takes longer. Actually, usually I would say it takes longer. It's really hard if you don't split your leave to not let those gender roles persist. Even if you take your full leave and you take it at the same time, I see this myself, I see this, and we did take our separate leaves. You still divide and it doesn't have to be a traditional gender role, but it's one of those things like, oh, the baby is crying and I'm trying to console the baby. We all want the baby to stop crying. And my wife can say, you're not doing it right. Like I know, I know what to do. Give me the baby. Right. 

 

And it's just so much easier to pass off the baby in that case or just whatever tasks there are. And when you're the only one home, guess what? You just have to do it and you're going to have to learn how to do it. And you're going to have to get as good or close to as good as your wife and you get really comfortable with it and not be scared of it. I mean, I know a lot of dads who are scared to be alone with their babies for a long time. Wife has to go for work or a weekend or something else and the first call is to mom, to grandma and say, hey, come help me. And so forcing that is, I think, invaluable. So again, the net benefits and this is the default.

 

I think it should be the default position to split leave, but then there's a lot of different, you know, unique family circumstances that might dictate that it actually makes more sense to take it at the same time. 

 

Allison: Yeah. And now I said I was going to debate you. I didn't realize you meant four weeks. I think that makes sense. I think where we see the biggest issues is we have a lot of clients that will offer eight or 16 weeks. I'll take the 16 weeks as example as bonding leave. 

 

So fathers, mothers can take that. And what we see is that the fathers will get into this pattern of taking two weeks when the child is born, waiting six months and then two months again. And almost every single one of them comes back and says, huge mistake. Because when you take those two bigger periods away, but not big enough, they said that it's really difficult on the business and that people don't respect the leave. So they don't respect the second leave or they don't really know when you're in.

 

But I actually think that there's a lot of power in that nuance of where I see the most success is when fathers will take four weeks right when the child is born or placed with the family, and then they save the rest to the end of their partner's leave, and then they take it on their own. So it's like a mini leave in the beginning where honestly I think people are more respectful because you all know, oh, the baby's born or the baby's placed with you, and it's really exciting and everyone knows. Then you come back to work and then you take a much longer leave by yourself.

 

To me, that seems better because also it's pretty easy to be gone from work for a month. Like you don't need to build a whole extensive coverage plan. You do if you're going to take two months here, two months there, then you're building two coverage plans. It's super difficult. So I actually don't disagree with what you've said. I think it's just the, I don't know.

 

Erez: So that would be my recommendation is four weeks upfront and let's say 12 weeks later. So that, that is absolutely the way to do it in the ideal.

 

One of the things that prevents me from taking one when you have 18 weeks. So I'll tell you my experience with my wife, with our first daughter. I took two weeks of vacation days when our daughter was born, because I really wanted to use my full 12 weeks. When like afterwards by myself, it was sort of this thing I had in my head. I'm going to use that full leave and I'm going to do it solo. And it was this, this badge, but something I just wanted to accomplish. And I went back after two weeks and I looked at my wife and I'm like, Hey, Is this okay? And she knew how important it was to me. She knew how good it would be to our daughter, to her, to us, to women. Like she knew I was coming at it from a really good place. And she's like, go, I got this. 

 

Now she is a wonderful woman and she decided to shoulder more because I was going back to work. And so like the overnight feeds, she didn't wake me up because she was like, no, you have to be to work, you have to be alert. And she's like, I'll take it. 

 

The next couple of weeks were really, really hard for her. And I tried to help, but like definitely less than I would have if I was, you know, fully on leave. In hindsight, I would have probably taken four weeks up front and 10 weeks later. Like I didn't need the full 12 weeks. If I could have made life easier for my wife for that, like weeks, three to four, that would have been better spent than having those two extra weeks with my daughter later on. 

 

And so that's why it's like a little bit of a case by case, and I especially meet a lot of dads who have anxiety during those first couple of weeks and their wives have a lot of anxiety. Their wives are like, no, I'm going to need you more home for longer in those early weeks. And so there's plenty of benefits of taking a long chunk later, but there's a finite amount that I think is like...really important. 

 

And that's why I try to say four weeks is like the minimum. The longer, the better. You also get to delay childcare, which benefits you financially. It also benefits you as like, you're more comfortable giving your child to some sort of childcare when they're a little bit older. And so there's a lot of other benefits from splitting it more. But again, that's sort of unique family situation. So if you're asking me like at Google 18 weeks, and I just had to throw out a number, I'd say, four to six weeks up front and then the rest at the end. 

 

Allison: Yeah. And I think that's a good call out of supporting if there's someone who's giving birth, those first four to six weeks are so difficult, even when the delivery goes as great as it could be with zero quote unquote complications, it's still a traumatic experience. And I think it also shifts.

We've had three kids and with our third kid, my husband only got four weeks, so this was not like a long period that we were talking about, but he said, we've got a nanny, we've got your parents down the street, it's our third kid. Like he felt very comfortable being alone with the children and taking care of a baby. And he said, let's save some of that for later so that I can have that time. But it was like, I knew what I was getting into and hopefully, and it turned out the delivery was totally fine. And so there are certainly some nuances, but I think you're exactly right. Ideally it is four to six weeks right when the child is born. And it's primarily about supporting the person who gave birth in that moment in time, helping them recover. 

 

And then if you are fortunate to work for a company that gives you extended leave, save it for the end. 

 

Erez: I think that's really smart. I'll just add, just cause like probably a lot of dads are people listening that don't have 12 weeks, right? They have maybe six, let's just say like they have six. So in that case, it's like, is three and three the right approach? I would say probably. Again, plenty of reasons to say, no, we need more support upfront, but...don't use it all upfront, you know, save that time to do solo if you can. 

 

I know it can be more disruptive for work, but assuming people are supportive. And I'm lucky at Google, you mentioned, you know, when you split, sometimes they're like, that's more disruptive for work. I think if it's two relatively longer chunks, at least at Google, people understand and are supportive when you start to break it out into like many, like more than two, that's when it gets into really disruptive and kind of unnecessary and what ends up happening is the dad feels so guilty and they're kind of like half working from home, like towards the long path, especially if there's some childcare already in fall. So that's why the two chunks is usually the best. 

 

Allison: Would your advice change if a father comes to you and says, it's my third kid? 

 

Erez: Absolutely. Yeah. Because there's usually childcare. It's like more logistics at that point of how do we just survive this. Also, they've bonded with their first kid or two by that point. I think they know how much they want to bond with this third kid. And my advice is what I would give to dads that don't have generous leave policies is find other ways to get that bonding and get those benefits. 

 

And this is really, at the third kid, you already have the empathy, ideally with your wife you've already sort of like done a lot of the childcare. So it's really about bonding. And to me, the bonding, and this isn't just me as a small aside, but one of the things that I learned that has been really cool to see validated via research that I just wasn't aware of, but I saw it like firsthand. 

 

When I think it was my second week of leave with my daughter and I was solo and I missed one of her cues for being tired or hungry or something else and she had a fit. And I had pictured always throughout my life and, you know, before I had a kid, I thought baby bonding was like rolling around in a field. It's sunny out. It's like beautiful and we're like, oh, this is such a great bonding moment.

 

And what I realized in that moment as I was trying to console my daughter and get her to stop crying, get her to go to sleep, that's when we were bonding. That's when the bonding actually happens is actually through the challenging times. And that's what the research has most recently shown the way that it's summed up is we don't care because we love, we love because we care. 

 

And that caretaking that we do as our kids learn to sort of rely on us to console them and help them through challenging times as we become emotionally invested in getting them to be happy and healthy and thriving, or at least not sad. That's when that bonding happened that I felt it was visceral. 

 

Allison: That's amazing. Yeah. Let's talk for a second. We've kind of mentioned this already of how this is a feminist thing. This is supportive of women to actually have fathers taking their leave.

 

I personally experienced this in the sense that I traveled a lot and continued to travel a lot for my job. And so my husband's ability to bond very quickly with our children, figure out how to manage a household with these kids without me. 

 

And by the way, a lot of this has to do with feeding. I've breastfed all three of my children. And so I'm always the one that's feeding them. And so that was even a shock of like, how do you get the bottle and get the baby used to the bottle. And there's all sorts of things that seem really minor. And then all of a sudden, if I'm taking a work trip, it's a good thing that he had this alone time and had to figure it out before because that's when push comes to shove.

 

But there are many ways I think why this is actually very feminist. I'm curious to hear your perspective because it's not just about the microcosm of my relationship with my husband. It's also about when men take leave, what that does for their other female coworkers at the organization.



Forget their partner, it's for everyone, and what message that sends, but I'm curious to get your perspective on that. 

 

Erez: So I think there's sort of two lenses, and it's very much circular, but in the workplace, it's sort of like when a dad takes his leave, it neutralizes some of what's really the most damaging gender biases that we see impacting women in their careers. So if both male and female employees are candidates, whether it's for hiring or promotion, if they're equally likely to take their leave and to, assuming after they take their leave, shoulder more of that responsibility for their family, that levels the playing field.

 

And we know that that sort of either in hiring or in promotion or sort of what happens that, what do they call it? The maternity tax. That's when their careers stop progressing at the same rate as men. And so that should start to even out a little bit. And then at home, when men take their leave, it reduces some of those gender roles, it improves the dynamics between the husband and wife. And as those responsibilities are equally shared, that also means women can spend more of their time, commit more of their time to their careers. Their relationships are improved, divorce rates are lowered. 

 

This is what the research shows. So this is very much a good thing for women, both from a professional, but then also just so, like, if you start to divide that a little bit more because you didn't set that expectation early on, it's like, mom's the one that's home, so she's the one that does X, Y, and Z things. 

 

Allison: Google, it seems, from all my friends who worked there and from what you've said and what you've shared, it seems like culturally this is such an accepted thing. It's expected that everyone is going to take their parental leave. 

 

There are a lot of companies where that's not the case. And it always fascinates me because I get asked a lot from HR leaders, how do we encourage this culture, especially because over the past five years, a lot of companies went from offering zero or two weeks of leave for fathers to now saying gender neutral leave or all of a sudden offering a lot of bonding time. And they really struggle to get people to actually take it.

 

I'm curious if you have any thoughts on that around like, what can we tell HR leaders that they should be doing? And I know it doesn't just come down to the HR leaders, but how do companies encourage this and show that it's acceptable and expect it? 

 

Erez: I think there's a lot of tactical things and no one solution will solve it. So there's a lot of different approaches. If I was sort of giving really tactical ideas to HR because they have to figure out what makes sense for them. And almost none of them can be done just sort of in a vacuum. It's really the totality to show commitment, to show how important it is, just to make it a norm, right? 

 

The stigma can't be removed until it becomes a norm. And it can't become a norm until people start seeing more people around them doing it. And when I was taking my leave at Google, it was not the norm. It was not the norm to take your full leave, not to take it in one long chunk. Like people were still surprised. Most people I would say were supportive, but it's not just because Google created that culture, but it still wasn't the norm. And so you'd still sometimes get an offhand comment, which might not be a malicious one, but it could still be one that a lot of dads just are scared to even get it all because they don't know if they're gonna get that comment, it's malicious.

 

So until other people, and this is one of the first things I ask when dads come to me and wanna take their leave, but aren't comfortable doing so, and maybe they're newer at Google. I tell them, go find out what dads and leaders in your org have taken their leave because if they have, then you know you have a little bit of air cover. 

 

So what can HR leaders do? I mean, where it does happen, encourage it, celebrate it, especially if it's leaders that are doing it or at least leaders coming out and encouraging and celebrating. And I don't mean the HR leaders, the business leaders, right? Managers and leadership above can come out and sort of celebrate that, but also show that there's support systems in place. 

 

And so, this is manager training too. There's plenty of training on what to do when your female report tells you that they're pregnant. There's rarely support to what happens when your male report tells you. And that should be the same thing in terms of like, the default is…wonderful congratulations, however they want to say it. I hope you're going to take your full, you better take your full leave. 

 

Like my manager told me, like there was no question about it. He said, you're going to take your full leave. 

 

Allison: Yeah, we have this actually in our manager training where we say, if someone tells you they're not going to take their full leave, ask them why, and just be silent and see what they say. Because that is really wild when you think about a company offering 16 weeks of paid leave, why would you not take that?

 

Well, I mean, there are legitimate concerns. So if they have these legitimate concerns, is there a way to make it a safe space to talk about it and to solve those problems? Because it's just, usually people are not taking it either because of real or perceived issues with work. 

 

Erez: Yeah, exactly, real or perceived. So the manager can squash that by sort of saying like, no, I actually expect and want you to take your full leave. So don't not take it because you're worried about me or you're worried, I'll cover for the leadership too. Like don't worry, I've got your back. And so that's really valuable. 

 

The one thing you asked about what HR leaders can do, and it's not just on HR, one of the values that I thought that I brought into this world is, you know, I became really passionate. I put together sort of a POV doc and went to HR about things that they could do, things that I could do, things that we could do together and they recognized this right away.

 

But there's limited things that they can do by fiat, right? It's not just HR speak and things like that, that has an effect, but the grassroots has an effect too. And so the fact that there was sort of an employee driven advocacy, I created this paternity leave pledge also within Google. And I shared it out far and wide and it was really directed at, it said like this was for men, when you become a new dad, take as much leave as you can for everyone, for all employees, support all of the men on your team when they are having kids and to take their belief. 

 

And for leaders, right? Create that environment that encourages and supports. And there are a thousand signatures and multiple VPs and lots of other leaders that signed that pledge and that created this sort of like, anyone who saw it, whether they signed it or not, just knew like, oh, wow, this is that culture. And I really do feel strongly that that helped accelerate this sort of normalization within Google. And it is that tandem. It's like, at the HR level, but then also in this grassroots that we're creating that culture. 

 

Allison: That's actually a really good thing for companies to think about also when they switch over their policies, because I think you're right, seeing is believing. And so people aren't taking, if men aren't taking their leave, you're never going to convince future men to take their leave. 

 

They look at what's happening and they see that. And I see that in the finance industry all the time, where a lot of these finance companies are introducing longer leaves, men aren't taking them. So that's not going to change until they start to see that. 

 

But oftentimes a lot of these companies introduce a new policy and everyone's looking around like there's no track record here. So we don't know what's acceptable or not. And so I love that idea of the pledge and having not only leaders, but just employees across the organization saying, this is what we believe in. We're all going to take this. Like, I love that perspective. 

 

I've also been thinking a lot about how, at least what I've seen is at, for example, law firms. And maybe it's just the law firms that I've spoken to and my friends and their law firms. I don't know if this is true about all law firms, but I've seen a lot of them increase leave and the fathers are actually taking their full time. 

 

And one of my curiosities is, is that also because law is in general, it's one of those things that it's easy to sort of flip a switch off and to say, it's easy to stop my project, just not get assigned and billables and whatnot. And so it makes it easier for them to step away as opposed to a lot of other companies where, okay, that sounds great in theory that I'm a marketing manager and step away for four months, but the actual implication of what that means I have to do and train people, and that's very unclear versus in, for example, the medical field, if you're a nurse. That's pretty easy. You just don't get assigned to work and you don't go. And so it's a little bit more complicated than just rolling out a policy.

 

Erez: Yeah, a hundred percent. I think that's why the big consultancies are very famous for, like dads take all of their leave and they get really generous leave and it's just easy. It's like, you say, oh, I'm an advocate. Just don't staff me on a project after this one. And they say fine and great. And I mean, it also benefits the firms because they engender a lot of the loyalty and the dads get the break that they need and they're coming back refreshed and really loyal to the firms that gave them that really valuable time. 

 

Allison: Yeah, okay, I want to hit a couple of things really quickly. This is a little bit of a controversial question, but I want to ask you how much is enough paid leave for fathers?

Erez: It's controversial because I have a somewhat controversial answer, maybe. And it's not a clear one, but I can speak to my experience. Like my 12 weeks solo with my daughter was enough. Like I got everything that I needed. It was diminishing returns after that for me.

I wasn't going to bond any significantly more deeply. I got all the goals that I set out to do. And at that point I felt, you know, she was eight and a half months old. I can give her to a caretaker who's probably going to add more value than me in many ways. At the same time, I know dads that took a year with multiple, each kid, they took a year and say they would have taken three years if they, if they were given it. And so that's a case by case.

But I'm still, I guess, a bit of a capitalist at heart and I think that's hard to scale. And I do think that baby bonding leave, like this parental leave, should be about getting that kid to this really good place, where they're thriving, they're healthy, they're ready to be put into a little bit more of the system, and for the parents to feel the bonded and to get their rest and everything else, and then come back into the workforce.

There are plenty of exceptions and I want to have policies, you know, for extended care and things like that. So I think those are really valuable to have and really necessary because there are cases like that.

But I generally think that moms should have more leave than dads. I don't know what the number is. Like I had 12, 12 was enough, but again, I would have loved to have had four or six upfront to spend more time with my wife in those early weeks and then still have the 12 later. So I don't know that there's a magic number and that probably varies by a whole lot of different considerations. 

That works well at Google, that could work well in consulting, but there's other fields where potentially it's sort of a trade-off because there is diminishing return at some point and the costs to the business and as well to a career increase. I don't want to punish parents. At some point you do this so much, the same biases that we see in hiring right now that are more against women, it'll actually be against people who are about to have kids. It's actually going to favor much younger people or older people with kids established. 

And so I think there is sort of a balance that we have to play. 

Allison: I could not agree with you more. It's funny to use the word capitalist because I think oftentimes there are a lot of people that are talking about how everyone should be getting more, more, more, more, more, more. And I kind of pushed back on that saying, look, there is a cost as well of stepping out of the workforce. 

I mean, that's why I started Parentaly, because we need to be conscious of the trade-offs. And I do think that there is that sweet spot of 16, 22 weeks that is great for everyone, and businesses can figure out how to handle that. But I do think that there is, especially because we don't have any government support here, this could be different, and I've seen it look differently in Europe and Canada, where it's so different there where they have a year that they can step away and there's government pay involved and you know, it's a different system of like you leave and you return to actually a totally different job that is still important, but it's not, it's just a totally different thing. 

Erez: And I think we have to be really careful about that in the United States of saying, Oh, everyone can take, you know, nine months of leave. Well, what does that do to the business and to their careers and to the biases and the hiring, I completely agree with you. And even if we had that government support, there would be second order consequences, which maybe are net-net better, but not everyone wants that trade-off. 

Allison: It's interesting that you said, I get asked all the time about, do we need to push for gender neutral leave in order to truly be feminist? I don't think so, because I said, well, the way that leave is structured is there's a medical leave, so if you give birth, there is a medical recovery time and then everyone else gets bonding. And I think that's fair. I think that people who give birth should have extra. 

I mean, it is a reality that it's not the exact same experience for the person who gives birth and the person who doesn't. And so again, coming back to this like capitalist idea of companies are running the numbers and saying we can afford X number of weeks. So what I think would happen at a macro scale is if we're gonna give gender neutral, you're taking away from the birthing parent to give to the non birthing to make it equal. And I don't think that feels fair either. 

My answer is always, I think every company should surpass a certain bar. So everyone should get over a certain amount, whether that's eight weeks or 10 weeks, I don't know. I usually say eight weeks of bonding leave is sort of like what I aspire to for most companies. And then I do think that the birthing parents should get an extra medical leave. And it sounds like you agree with that. 

Erez: Yeah, yeah. And it's also, I wanna not scare any companies that have very little leave right now to say 12 or 16 or 18, they're like, whoa, how are we ever going to afford that? And the thing is that even if they can do eight weeks, that has such a huge impact. Right? It's such a huge difference from zero or two weeks.

And so like, I'll take it even though, and I think the free market will force a lot of these companies that are offering these 12 or 16 weeks, it's because their competition is offering it. And so you're still going to see a lot of places offering this, these more generous leaves, which is, which is great. 

Allison: Yep. I love that. And I would say also, we specifically tell people, do not reference Google when you are asking your company for more leave, because it's the easiest way to say, oh, well that's Google. They're of course the most generous. And so we say, actually do not bring up Google because you will get pushed aside. 

Bring up your industry competitors or smaller companies that, you know, because Google is sort of like the shining light of, oh, they are so generous and they're so progressive. And so I agree with you. I think start small, whatever you can do.

Well, this is great. We talked a lot longer than I expected. Thank you for your time. I think this is such an important topic and I think you have such a powerful perspective and voice. And honestly, you're very eloquent about this topic in a way that my hope is that people hear this, they hear you, they feel more empowered to take leave. HR leaders think about how to offer more leave and actually put in systems to ensure that fathers are feeling comfortable to actually take their leave.