The jacket left on your office chair, the 4.00pm meeting appointment that finishes early, the quick exit to blur your departure – that was until ‘leaving loudly’ emerged.
This term, first championed by PepsiCo, was aimed at reducing ‘presenteeism’ and encouraging employees to leave when they needed – without shame. Parents of young children are all too familiar with that feeling as they leave work ‘early’ to collect kids, rush home and get them to bed before they turn into wild animals.
As I return from my third lot of parental leave, I want to talk about a new type of ‘leaving loudly’ recognising parents (particularly women) downplay their parental leave reinforcing the very real motherhood penalty that women experience as a result of taking time off to have children.
The length of leave, and whether parents are paid and for how long is varied with higher paid roles and industries likely to offer more generous parental leave entitlements, especially compared to lower paid and insecure work. Research shows this time that mostly women take out of the workforce is one of the key reasons behind the leadership gap – McKinsey recently found this is even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic with women leaving the workforce or downsizing the intensity of their professional life.
But for those of us lucky enough to get it, what if we started owning our parental leave? Talking about it proudly before we go, adding it to Linked In profiles/CVs/interview spiels, leveraging our newly found skills when we return. Maybe a big part of breaking the stigma attached to taking parental leave, a major issue also preventing men from taking it, is the failure to recognise its value in the first place.
Parental leave can be the most transformative and educative experience of your life – teaching you new skills, testing your resilience, being outside your comfort zone (regularly!!) and learning more about yourself. This leads to value not just to the employer as it retains talent and reduces the cost of retraining, but value in a more highly skilled, empathetic and experienced employee returning to their organisation.
There’s no doubt some leading companies are starting to get better at valuing parental leave – abandoning ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ caring status to support shared parental responsibilities and provide generous leave provisions in a race to attract the best people.
However, it’s also up to us as the employee to own it. Be proud of the time you’ve taken out of the workforce to raise another human being, add your parental leave to your CV, share your learnings unashamedly, spruik your parental leave as you would an international study tour! We’ll call it parental leaving loudly. I’m going to give it a go.