Parental Leave Policies That Favor Women Reinforce Inequality in the Workforce

Family Holding Hands

As millions of mothers and fathers juggle working from home or commuting to work while their children are remote schooling, a recent study by Gayle Kaufman finds paid parental leave policies may contribute to gender inequality in the workplace by favoring women over men.

Kaufman, who is chair and Erwin Maddrey Professor of Sociology, and Ball State sociology professor Richard Petts found that a majority of Fortune 500 companies now offer some form of paid parental leave, but those policies are much more likely to provide paid leave to mothers than fathers.

According to Kaufman and Petts, these unbalanced policies reinforce gender inequality.

“When companies have gender unequal paid parental leave policies, they are signaling that mothers are the ones who should take time off while fathers are simply helpers or secondary parents, not to mention the dismissal of gay and lesbian couples,” Kaufman told HR Dive, an influential human resources trade publication.

A recent USA Today article featuring the study emphasized that Kaufman and Petts’s findings are particularly relevant, with COVID-19 bringing “a sharper focus to gender equality in the workplace.”

Kaufman and Petts’s study was published in the journal Community, Work and Family.


  • September 4, 2020