Our social media manager, Jacquelyn, is on parental leave. For people who work at larger companies, this is likely unremarkable. But for us at Health and Fitness Activations, this is monumental. This is something we’ve been working toward for a long, long time. I remember talking about parental leave 10 years ago and putting it in our HFA plan at least 4 years ago… when there was only four of us on the team. I feel this benefit is one of the most important any company, large or small, can offer.
It’s true that only a small percentage of our employees will benefit from parental leave, compared with benefits like our IRA match and fully covered healthcare. But this one is part of a larger conversation – a conversation on gender equality.
We have witnessed a great “she-cession” during the pandemic. But in the world of experiential marketing, and I’d suspect most other industries, women leaving the workplace after having a child is pretty normal. And it’s not just women who prefer to stay at home. The ones I’ve seen are women who really wanted to stay in the workplace but couldn’t bear to have zero time with their babies after giving birth or couldn’t figure out how the finances would play out, given that childcare for a single child is more than a mortgage in many US cities. Countless women have told me they felt they had to choose between their baby and their career.
So, their companies lost intelligent, passionate, hard-working women because we, as a culture, haven’t really created a way to value their humanness. At HFA, we want to do better. We want to celebrate parenthood. We want to create spaces where mothers don’t have to choose between nursing their newborns and creating sales decks. Our current parental leave policy is 13 weeks paid time off, plus 13 weeks on a work 20 hours/paid for 40 structure. Our goal is a 6-month paid leave policy.
I was fortunate enough to have this benefit when I got my foster son. It was such a gift. The challenges with foster children are different than biological, but one similarity is that those first few months are critical for bonding. My parental leave was a season of healing for our foster son that would never have been possible without the generosity of my employer. And my heart is still bursting with gratitude.
One of our core values is “Ethics.” We do what’s right, not what’s easy. Achieving the goal of offering parental leave has not been easy. The financial cost of it comes from other areas, and as most small businesses will attest, we don’t have a lot of wiggle room to start with. But we believe it’s the right thing to do, and we celebrate that Jacquelyn gets to bond with her newborn – with the snuggles, diaper changing, naptimes, and everything else that comes with this beautiful, messy, and sleep-deprived season.
Question for all the parents out there – did you get to take a parental leave when you had your little ones? If so, tell us what it meant to you!