Could Establishing Maternity Leave Policies Help Startups Close the Gender Gap?

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Startups could be missing out on top tech talent because their benefits aren’t… well very beneficial.

By Betsy Mikel (Editor, Women 2.0)

Working for a startup certainly has its perks — catered lunches, “no policy” vacation policies and subsidized gym memberships and transportation just to name a few. Extending these flashy benefits helps startups attract top talent, even when they can’t afford to pay as much the big guys.

Yet oftentimes, the first time a startup even considers a maternity leave policy is when of their employees finds out she’s expecting. And results from a new study by PaperG, a San Francisco-based advertising technology startup, suggests that by failing to offer maternity leave policies early on, many startups could be losing out on top tech female talent.

When PaperG’s new VP of Sales and Business Development discovered she was pregnant, they knew they needed a maternity leave policy stat. So the company surveyed 97 other startups to learn more about their paid maternity and paternity leave policies. Companies surveyed included Facbeook, Optimize.ly and PayPal.

They found that many early-stage startups didn’t offer maternity leave policies. PaperG separately surveyed 101 women who worked in tech, and 61 percent of them wouldn’t consider working for a startup that didn’t have a policy.

“This could be contributing to the large gender gap in the executive suite we see at tech companies today,” said Victor Wong, CEO of PaperG in a release about the survey’s results.

While startups tend to adapt maternity and paternity policies as they grow (maternity leave became unanimous Series D stage of funding and post-IPO) and as more of their staff become parents, not a single seed-stage startup PaperG surveyed offered paid maternity leave. All of the seed-stage startups — as well as the several Series A, B and C that don’t have policies — are potentially missing out on a huge portion of female tech talent because their benefits package doesn’t include parental leave policies.

Here’s a more detailed snapshot of the PaperG survey results:

  • 0 percent of seed-funded companies have a maternity or paternity policy

  • 50 percent of funded startups begin implementing such policies at Series A

  • 100 percent of startups have put it in place both paternity and maternity policies by the Series D stage and post-IPO

  • The greater the representation of females at a tech company the more likely it is to have a paid maternity and paternity leave policy

  • 71 percent of companies that offer a paid maternity leave also offer a paid paternity leave policy

  • 50 percent of tech companies with paid maternity policies offer 3 or more months of paid leave

What could be the rationale behind why so few early-stage startups offer these policies? Perhaps since they tend to attract younger employees, these young startups don’t consider maternity and paternity policies as important of a benefit as the free food and in-office yoga. Even so, the lack of parental leave policy could be hurting these startup’s chances at attracting C-suite women.

Would you take a job at a startup if they didn’t have a maternity leave policy?


About the author: Betsy Mikel is the managing editor of Women 2.0 and runs the content consultancy Aveck. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a lifelong obsession with French language and culture. When she's not biking all over every city she visits to find its best taqueria, you can find Betsy on Twitter at @betsym.