I have to confess that I had mixed feelings when the Government of India passed the bill to increase paid leave for expectant mothers from three months to six and a half months. This was definitely a step in the right direction to help retain women in the workforce but were we really helping the cause for gender equality?
Would this not create a bias when it comes to hiring women? Between hiring a young married lady and a young married man, who would stand a better chance of getting a job? Given that both these candidates were equally competent for the job, it would only be natural that the man would get it. There’s no worrying about a 6 month break for this man.
Did we just lose the equality plot…
Then comes along Deutsche Bank India who recently announced 6 months of Paternity Leave to fathers if they chose to be the primary caregiver. What this means is that after a baby is born, a mother or father can chose to be the primary caregiver, leaving the other parent the opportunity to go back to a full time career. A master stroke in shattering stereotypes!! This policy focuses
on the caregiver's responsibility, rather than gender. Anne-Marie Slaughter in her book ‘Unfinished Business’ talks about how we should look at care (whether it be for children or elders) as an issue that needs to be dealt with irrespective of gender. She highlights that care giving has always been seen as a ‘woman’s responsibility’ thereby making it easy for workplaces to marginalize care giving, as it gets labelled as a ‘woman problem'.
By recognizing that men could be primary caregivers too, Deutsche Bank has just changed the narrative on gender bias. The workplace revolution has just begun!