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  • Writer's pictureAnushruti

Fixing the ‘Broken Rung’ through Paternity Leave

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

Fixing the ‘broken rung’ in the ladder of success, is the key to women achieving parity at the workplace. While multiple innovative initiatives are being conjured up by companies dedicated to equity, I believe paternity leaves can go a long way in bridging the gap.

The concept of ‘broken rung’ suggests that the reason there are fewer women seated in the C-suite is inability of companies to hire and promote more women to first-level managers. McKinsey 2020 report suggests that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women were promoted. The ideal time for promotion to managerial role employees is usually post 3-5 years of work experience. Hence, it is safe to assume it would be at the age of 27- 33 years. Statistically and biologically, this is the time when most women plan their first child. And, while choosing for promotion between a female employee proceeding on a maternity leave, and a male employee, the preconceived bias tends to favor the latter.

I’m sure even you would have read articles stating that women’s biological clock and career clock conflict each other for the said reason. Seeing this as one of the major reasons contributing to ‘broken rung’, the solution must be specific. I believe paternity leave policy can work wonders here.

Having only a maternity leave policy and overlooking paternity leave suggests that the mother is seen as a primary caretaker and fathers as secondary caretakers. This automatically places the burden of childcare on mothers as the father is not eligible for said leaves. By introducing paternity leaves as an equal option (or a childcare leave applicable to both genders), signifies that we are not assuming the gender of the primary caretaker when designing leave policies. Both parents can bond with and care for their newly born or adopted child. This approach eliminates the gender-based “primary” and “secondary” designations and promotes equality.

Studies show that when men take paternity leaves, women can go back to work sooner due to shared responsibility. Multiple women have chosen to take a break during pregnancy as childcare just after a few months of birth is essential. They then struggle to step back into corporate, taking a blow at their salary due to discontinued work experience. Thus, when paternity leaves are taken to share the responsibility of women post the child birth, it gives women a chance to go back to work and eliminates the need to discontinue the job, thus protecting their salary and increasing their chances to be promoted. Thus, in a way also addressing the issue of gender wage gap.

And besides all the help that the policy might bring in fixing the ‘broken rung’ and creating an equitable workplace, it also makes you the employer of choice and helps to attract and retain diverse employees. Increased awareness of caregiver needs also improves the overall relationships and attitude in the workplace, improving empathy, flexibility, and collaboration. While maternity leave is a mandate in India (as per Maternity Benefit Act 2017), Paternity leave is still at the discretion of the employer. Isn’t it time for more employers in the Indian landscape to come forward and champion the cause?

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