Parental Leave and Gender Equality in the United States: An Analysis of Paid Leave at Fortune 500 Companies Open Access

Nutt, Miranda (Spring 2021)

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The United States greatly lags behind other wealthy nations in the provision of parental leave. Because gender gaps expand at the onset of parenthood, it is vital to understand how parental leave policies can affect gender inequality. With no national paid parental leave policy and only ten states providing one of their own, most American workers rely on their employers for paid parental leave. To better understand the reality of paid parental leave in the United States, my research examines these policies at Fortune 500 companies. Using internet searches in addition to the information available on the Fortune 500 list, I collected data to explore how different company characteristics were related to parental leave. I then compared this information to a previous study to examine changes in parental leave policy over time. I find that 96% of companies provide paid leave. The most common leave type is gender modified, which provides all parents equal parental leave with additional time off reserved for birthing mothers to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. On average, longer leaves are associated with technology and financial industries, male CEOs, headquarters in a state that provides paid leave, and high revenues not exceeding $100,000 million. Since 2018, 25% of the sample expanded their parental leave policies. Company changes revealed a trend away from gender unequal policies and towards gender equal and gender modified policies. These results shed light on the reality of paid parental leave access for most U.S. workers and how they may perpetuate gender inequalities in the labor market. Such insights provide evidence for how companies, legislators, and policy implementers can promote gender equality in the long term.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

I. Introduction 1

II. Literature Review 2

The Motherhood Penalty 2 The Impact of Parental Leave Policies 4 Parental Leave in the United States: Uniquely Scarce 6 Existing United States Family Leave Policy 7 PDA and FMLA 7 Legislation at the State Level 8 The Legality of Gender Unequal Leave Policies 9

III. Methods 10

Data Collection and Classification 10 Measuring Gendered Outcomes 11 DataCoding 13 Analysis 14

IV. Results 14

V. Discussion 20

VI. Conclusion 26

VII. Works Cited 29

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