Yahoo! Policy Can Turn Working Mothers Into CEOs

housework won't tie me downDue to work life imbalance last week, I am just catching up on the news that Yahoo has doubled its paid maternity leave for employees, added eight weeks of paid paternity leave to the company’s benefits package and will reimburse employees for up to $500 worth of “daily habits,” including laundry, house-cleaning and child care. Pardon the pun but, “Yahoo!”

This is exciting news because most women who have had a baby will tell you it’s incredibly challenging to return to a work after a mere eight weeks. The one exception, of course, is the policy’s author, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, who infamously returned to work two weeks after giving birth. But most women aren’t like Marissa Mayer, with the flexibility and perks of the corner office (including building an on-premise nursery near her office). In fact, only 42 women are like Mayer. That’s how many women are leading Fortune 1000 companies today. And if we have any hope of getting more women in or near that type of position, we need to do a much better job of making work life more manageable.

Extending maternity leave is an excellent move, but only part of what’s great about the company’s announcement. I talk to working mothers all the time about how they manage work and life and themes start to emerge. With its new policies, Yahoo! has tapped into two of them: housework and men’s parenting roles.

We frequently hear about the challenges and barriers women face at work – issues like lack of sponsorship, non-inclusive networks, inflexible work schedules – but we rarely talk about housework as a gender-based work issue. Yet it is. Women do, on average, 50 percent more housework and childcare than men. That work that takes time and energy – time and energy that isn’t balanced equally among men and women. So when Yahoo! offers a reimbursement for things like laundry, house-cleaning and child care, its modeling a new and positive trend in how companies can support parents, and particularly mothers, in the workplace.

Just as some women tell me managing household duties is a challenge for them career wise, other women have told me that paternity leave has been a boost. A common occurrence among women who tell me household and childcare responsibilities are well balanced in their marriages, is that their husbands took paternity leave. Interestingly, the most satisfied among them tell me their husbands’ leaves did not overlap with their maternity leaves. It makes sense. When two parents work together to extend the amount of time a child is home, and when each parent is responsible for primary care on their own, each parent gains the skills and the appreciation for caring for that child. That appreciation extends when the parents go back to work and helps to even the workload at home.

So yahoo, Yahoo! Mayer rattled a lot of people with her no telecommuting edict but this new policy is a good move. It’s the kind of policy that supports the careers of future female CEOs.

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