The parental journey challenge - Mike's story

More senior women in tech leads to more women in tech (this shouldn’t need explaining).

Only one in four people working in tech in NZ are women. The gender pay gap in NZ is 10%. Parental journey is a critically overlooked contributor to this problem.

I keep seeing technology businesses struggling to fix their gender diversity. But fighting over a limited pool of female tech folk to correct optics is achieving little. We in tech, well we need to dig deeper.

The gender pay gap is sometimes described as “unexplained”. The reason being, that under the law men and women get paid the same for the same work. So there should be no pay gap.

What then makes the pay gap persist? The best hypothesis is the difference between the career journeys of men and women. And that difference is most often about parenthood. Whether it's discontinuity, or some other kind of signalling, the result is consistent. Less women getting into senior roles. So it's not just a resultant pay gap, it's a seniority gap.

Listening to stories, common stories, like this story from Ruby Kolesky, can only leave you with one conclusion. If you want your business to be part of the solution to this, start with the parental journey. Seriously. It's the most obvious place to make an impact. Support new parents back into the workforce at the right time. Ensure they don’t miss out on pay rises or career opportunities.

This is not a hunch. The Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation is a Swedish Researcher (they're always Swedish!) In 2010 they published a seminal working paper on "The effect of own and spousal parental leave on earnings." It details how parental leave impacts the pay gap. It’s stirring stuff. If you like research.

For instance, get this… the biggest impact on the future earnings of a woman who has a baby, was not her parental leave, but her partner's. Why? Because parental leave for the partner allows them to be more involved. They become accustomed to parenting, and help more with child raising. They're absent less, and this creates more choices for both parents. This hit me between the eyes. When I had kids, well, I just went back to work, because, um, mortgage. My contribution was reduced from day one, and a lot of things that affected our careers became set in stone.

If your business is to be part of fixing this at the societal level, offer the same parental journey support to both parents. Recognise the many flavours of parenthood – biological, adoptive, mixed sex, same sex, non binary, solo, extended whanau and more.

Then get this… More senior women in tech leads to more women in tech (this shouldn’t need explaining). Parental journey is the best place to start.

If you think you can't afford to do this because you are an early stage business: you can. We did. Joyous is also a smaller (rapidly growing! but smaller) business. We didn't use to give the parental journey much thought either; it just seemed too early in our growth to formalize any policies around it. And Government support is available in New Zealand, so the basics were covered. But we were wrong. If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. Ruby, our Head of Product (I mentioned her earlier), led the project. She's a mother working in a senior position in tech. She gets it.

We've published our open source Parental Journey benefit so you can use it, or adapt it to suit your needs. It's all really simple, and it's affordable for even small businesses.

We took up the challenge.

Will you?

March 2, 2021