The men Andy Katz-Mayfield knows don’t talk about what it’s like to be a working dad, and no one has ever asked Jeffrey Raider, “You’re a dad — how do you juggle it all?”
The Harry’s cofounders and co-CEOs say this is endemic of a bigger issue for fathers — “the world still doesn’t expect us to be equal co-parents,” Katz-Mayfield recently wrote on LinkedIn. “Which is a bummer, because I could use more support.”
So the new fathers and shaving company co-CEOs recently set about tackling the issue within their own company.
Last week, they announced a gender-neutral policy of 16 weeks paid leave, an idea that has become more popular of late with other companies including Etsy, Netflix, and Spotify. Previously, Harry’s, valued at $750 million in 2015, offered 12 weeks of paid leave for birthing parents and four for non-birthing parents.
Experts say that not offering equal benefits to parents leads to discrimination against women, and the best policies for helping working families are the ones that are gender-neutral.
In fact, as The New York Times previously reported, studies have shown that when a company’s policy mandates that women take longer leaves than men, the same companies are more inclined to hire men over women and are less likely to promote women to high-powered positions.
But the Harry’s cofounders are hopeful that their new policy will do more for working fathers, too.
Katz-Mayfield wrote on LinkedIn that he wishes he’d taken more time off after his now seven-month-old daughter Chloe was born to readjust to the pace of his job and “the competing demands of fatherhood.” And Raider, a father of three kids, worries about the idea of becoming an “absentee dad.” He wrote on LinkedIn that he and his wife “want to make sure the time we spend with our kids is quality time for them, and for us.”
Katz-Mayfield mostly blames himself for rushing back to work — he wrote he had internalized social pressures over the course of his career to put work before parenting.
“Most of my male peers and role models only took a week or two off after the birth of a child, and so that’s what I believed people expected of me,” he wrote.
But the social pressure for fathers to return to work prematurely is not isolated — it’s a well-established phenomenon.
Stewart Friedman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, previously told Business Insider that when he studied unlimited-vacation policies, the main issue he saw was employees’ fear of using vacation days and looking less committed than their colleagues. That fear could extend to parental leave policies, as well.
A study by Boston College’s Center for Work & Family found 86% of men surveyed said they wouldn’t use paternity leave or parental leave unless they were paid at least 70% of their normal salaries.
“Tackling the problem at a macro level is hard,” Katz-Mayfield wrote. “But I do have the power to make real change within my microcosm … Harry’s.”
For Raider, the key to seeing bigger change is to start small.
“People want to work for companies that view them holistically — we want that ourselves,” he wrote. “Hopefully by putting these policies in place at Harry’s, we can open up a larger dialogue about true, transparent equality in parenting. We know this is a constant learning process, and we’ll never be ‘finished.'”
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