Based in Berkeley, CA, Imperfectly Coherent is a blog by Krista Schnell. Her posts span her interests, with a focus on sociology--her main interest, which spans everything.

Parental Leave

Do companies with more generous paternity leave policies have more women represented in leadership?

Prior to becoming a grad student, I worked as a technology consultant for five years at Accenture. As a woman in tech, I was very aware of gender, and the consequence of taking parental leave on one’s career. While a paid maternity leave policy of several weeks seemed common, if there was a paid paternity leave policy, it was typically much shorter in comparison. Of course, many people make the argument that women go through childbirth and therefore require more time in order to recover physically--and this leads to the difference in policies by gender. At the same time, however, companies strive to have greater equality in the workplace. When women are able to spend more paid time away from work on maternity leave (than men do on paternity leave), it seems it would be easier for them to fall behind at work (not to mention to take on a greater parenting role at home). Realizing this, some companies have been increasing their weeks of paid paternity leave.

One of the ways in which gender equality in the workplace is typically measured is through the representation of women at the top--in leadership roles or on company boards. I wonder if there is an association between greater paid paternity leave policies and representation of women at the top, which would indicate greater gender equality at a company. It is possible that by having greater paternity leave policies, more women are able to make it to the top, or that when more women are at the top, they create greater paternity leave policies. I hypothesize that neither one causes the other, but rather, this association may have to do with progressive male leadership, or some other quality that I am not measuring at this time. Therefore, I will attempt to merely show an association through quantitative analysis, since currently, I do not think companies understand the importance of paternity leave policies in the workplace. If there is an association, then determining a cause would warrant further investigation.

Currently, I am doing research on this topic in my statistical methods class (Sociology 271B). I am looking at the US Fortune 100 companies, using company data from I am using female leadership and board data from, and I am using crowdsourced parental leave data from (which unfortunately has many gaps).


Big Data and Gender