Twitter’s new CEO Parag Agrawal is getting ready to take “a few weeks” of parental leave when he and his wife have a new baby.
There have been mixed reactions to that announcement. Some are positive, saying his the leave will set a good example for other new fathers. Others are less positive, with people asking ‘Why only a few weeks?’ when Twitter offers 20 weeks of parental leave. And there are those asking why he’s taking parental leave at all. The responses offer insight into the ongoing shift in thinking when it comes to parental leave policies.
Before Ryan Cooney told his boss that he and his wife were expecting a baby, he didn’t think he’d have the option to take much time away from work. “I figured I’d get a few weeks off, and that would be it,” Cooney said.
Cooney, a high school teacher in Helena, Montana, learned he could take up to three months off, instead of a few weeks. “I was elated, I had no hesitation at all. But I faced some negativity from other men, specifically older men, guys who kind of rolled their eyes and said, ‘What guys take paternity leave? That’s a thing?'” he said.
It’s still pretty rare for men to take parental leave.
“The vast majority of men don’t have the option of taking paid time when a child is born,”said Vicki Shabo, a senior fellow at the New America think tank. The majority of parents don’t get paid time off when they have or adopt a child. Less than a quarter of parents even have the option and that number is lower for men, according to Shabo.
“Paid paternity leave is only available to 13% of all employees in companies in the U.S. Thirteen percent,” Shabo said.
It’s gradually becoming more common for companies to offer paid leave to all parents, regardless of gender, and for men to take it — especially in higher-paid fields like tech.
“Men are starting to realize that being a much more engaged parent is important for them,” said Brad Harrington with Boston College’s Center for Work and Family.
“It doesn’t take that many people to take this leave to send a strong signal that you can do it and there is no stigma attached to it,” Harrington said.
In Montana, Ryan Cooney doesn’t know many other men who have taken paternity leave. But he’s become an evangelist for it. “I just feel so much more positive and more confident, and more prepared to be able to be the dad I need to be,” Cooney said. He wishes all parents had that same chance.
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