YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is grateful for the four and a half months of maternity leave Google provides its employees, but says it’s a problem that most other American mothers don’t enjoy the same luxury.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Google’s 16th employee (and first to go on maternity leave) makes the case that the US should follow the lead of every other country in the developed world and offer new mothers paid maternity leave benefits, funded by social security programs, as a matter of law.
“Support for motherhood shouldn’t be a matter of luck; it should be a matter of course,” she writes. “Paid maternity leave is good for mothers, families and business. America should have the good sense to join nearly every other country in providing it.”
Wojcicki’s essay argues that Google’s maternity leave program, enviable even among Silicon Valley’s employee-friendly upper echelon, has helped the company keep female employees, noting that turnover among new mums decreased by 50% when the company increased its leave time from 12 weeks to 18 in 2007.
Plus, she maintains, women who return to the workforce after a lengthy maternity leave are better able to contribute than they were before their departure.
“Best of all, mothers come back to the workforce with new insights,” Wojcicki writes. “I know from experience that being a mother gave me a broader sense of purpose, more compassion and a better ability to prioritise and get things done efficiently.”
Meanwhile, Wojcicki says that women who do not work at big, generous tech companies, and particularly those in low-wage jobs, cannot afford to take the unpaid time off they are entitled to under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. As a result, mothers can be forced into returning to work too early, a decision that can hurt their own health as well as that of their newborn children.
“A quarter of all women in the U.S. return to work fewer than 10 days after giving birth, leaving them less time to bond with their children, making breast-feeding more difficult and increasing their risk of postpartum depression,” Wojcicki writes in the WSJ.
The topic of motherhood and the workplace has been a hot one in Silicon Valley this year, as the tech world continues its conversation about how to improve the relative lack of diversity — gender and otherwise — in its offices and executive suites.
In October, Apple and Facebook announced they would help employees cover the cost of freezing their eggs, that way they could focus on their careers and still have children later in life.
In her op-ed Wojcicki seems to be saying that with appropriate policies from private employers and the federal government, women won’t have to choose between putting their careers on hold and taking care of their children during the children’s time of greatest need.
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.