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KOMODO

Gender Stereotypes on Bay Street in 2018

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A healthy child can safely begin to consume non-formulae or breastmilk at six months. Assuming everyone is healthy and fit and that safe/reliable childcare is available, for many families six months is a bare minimum.

Add any complications and that number increases. As well, a family who is having a second or third child may well have structures and resources in place that make a part time or full time return to work at three months possible.

I do not say desirable. I say “possible”. Depends on the family.

For the people I work with, twelve months is the most commonly cited number for leave as a balance between caring for the child to a degree the child needs and society expects (rightfully so) and not suffering serious long term consequences career-wise for one or both parents.

Again, generalizations are fraught. Each family is different. 

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Subtitle: “The devastating consequences of the United States's nonexistent maternity leave provisions.”

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My point was that it is wrong to suggest women are being held back because they choose to have a child whereas men are not being held back when they make the same choice, rather the choice one should be examining is the choice to take time off, which often isnt the same. Further, even when the choice to take time off is the same, as profreader noted the choice of what to do with their time while off is often not the same. 

 Pzabby suggested that I was incorrect as there is an amount of time that women need to take off, thus negating a choice element,  to which I agreed, but the time which women need to take off, to which a man does face a similar need is a small portion of the total time taken off (at least when parental leave is taken, id hardly consider 2 weeks counting as taking parental leave). 

I fully support parental leave, but to ignore the large degree of choice in the manner and suggest that women and men are making the same choices yet are being treated differently is misleading and obscures the issue.

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On 12/12/2018 at 1:02 PM, KOMODO said:

Reintegration isn't only about the work that an associate puts in when they return from leave. When Bob gets back from his year long banking secondment, partners flood his office to welcome him back and catch him up, and generally ask him to resume the work that he was doing beforehand. When Barb comes back from her leave, partners don't bother her with work or client updates because they want to "give her space" and "let her gradually sink back in". Nobody speaks to Barb about what's been going on in the group, new or different expectations for her now that she's back, or the types of files she might feel ready to take on - the onus is on her to go door to door to get her work back. Often she will find that the associates who were "covering" for her while she was on leave are still working on the files that were hers before she left, and it can be hard to get those files back without seeming like she's not a team player. 

I used to be a big law associate.  I went on a year-long secondment to a very important client, which was not entirely my choice.  It was so important to the firm that I come back from the secondment that the client entered into a no poaching agreement with the firm.  I came back, energized about resuming my position with the firm and building on my relationship with the client as external counsel.  Not only was I not welcomed back with any enthusiasm, I was largely ignored, to the point that I left just over a year later.

At the time I came back, another associate (same year, same working group), went on a leave of absence to travel.  He came back just as I was leaving.  By all accounts, that associate was back up to a full practice within weeks.

Guess which gender each of us is.  This isn't just about mat leave.

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I would not at all be surprised if, after spending a year at home with their child, women are just saying “fuck that” to the grind of Bay Street and then being away from that child potentially 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

I also wouldn’t be surprised if men feel like they can’t make that decision. They aren’t as supporterd in taking leaves and are, despite changes in contemporary views of gender roles, generally expected to be the financial provider. The majority of my female friends would not date a man who earned less than them (not sure if this is true of many women or not, but I also see it prevalently in my romantic relationships).  

And not to take away from the post that lccrowne just made but that has not been the case at my firm (one of my female colleagues had all of her files babysat on her year long mat leave and was welcomed back with a full file load.  Another was actively pursued after she went in-house and offered a 4 day per week arrangement just to get her back). 

That said, discrimination for sure exists. I just don’t think it’s as systemic as people think. And, honestly, I think it’s sometimes a convenient excuse. 

Alright, begin the pile-on. 

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1 hour ago, erinl2 said:

Seriously? Two weeks? I have never heard of anyone returning to work two weeks after delivery. What childcare arrangement would there be for a two week old? I also don't know any mother who is physically ready to return to work that quickly, or even in one month. My guess is that you have never experienced childbirth. Good lord.

I know a mom who returned to work after two weeks from giving birth to run a trial. I did not agree with that decision but it was not my place to express an opinion.

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I’m honestly a bit surprised that a month strikes people as unbelievable. Maybe it’s just a socioeconomic thing, but I know a few mothers who returned to work (out of necessity) that quickly. 

FWIW, nobody I know has taken a year off. They’ve either returned to work much, much more quickly than that, or they’ve decided the woman would be a stay at home mother for the foreseeable future. A year of leave is a luxury none of my friends have had. 

I’d say the average has been 3-6 months for the woman, <a month for the man. 

Edited by BlockedQuebecois

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4 hours ago, Coolname said:

Ive heard of women going back in as little as 2 weeks, that is very short though, so let's be generous and say one month.

After that one month the woman does not need as a matter of necessity to take time off any more than a man "needs" to take the time. 

As others have said, this just isn't realistic.  You don't just shoot a baby out of your crotch and head back to work that afternoon.  I'm not even talking about people with such bad tearing that they basically go in with two holes and come out with one...even under the best of circumstances, two weeks is extreme.

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1 hour ago, ProfReader said:

As others have said, this just isn't realistic.  You don't just shoot a baby out of your crotch and head back to work that afternoon.  I'm not even talking about people with such bad tearing that they basically go in with two holes and come out with one...even under the best of circumstances, two weeks is extreme.

When Erin replied to me and said a similar thing I thought to myself “ya that does seem too short, I must be remembering wrong”, so I did a quick google and found the link above that shows that 1 in 4 mothers take 2 weeks or less off. So I doubt I am falsely remembering hearing stories of people taking just two weeks off.

 

Also note in acknowledging that 2 weeks is very short, I doubled to a prediction of a woman needing one month after birth until they would no longer need to stay home as a matter of necessity. Which isn’t to say they are necessarily fully healed, just healed enough that they can resume working. What do you think is a better estimate?

Edited by Coolname

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6 hours ago, Coolname said:

A man does not need anytime off, whereas  a woman does need to take some time off, that is true. But how much time off does a women "need" to take off though? Ive heard of women going back in as little as 2 weeks, that is very short though, so let's be generous and say one month.

After that one month the woman does not need as a matter of necessity to take time off any more than a man "needs" to take the time. 

I realize that your comment is in the context of a thread about big law where presumably most people can afford childcare, but speaking more generally, often some one does 'need' to stay at home for a length of time because paying for child care is expensive, and because of a whole host of other complications that other posters have recently mentioned too. 

I am wondering, in this context, to what extent you think either a man or a women has a free choice to stay at home? I would suggest that for both men and women, there is quite a bit of social pressure for the mom to stay at home for a while (lest she be judged as a 'bad mother') and for the man to stay working (lest he be seen 'slacking off'). I'm not suggesting this pressure is decisive, but i think probably does implicitly weigh into 'decisions' about who does what.  I wonder whether you agree with this, and if you do, whether you would agree with incentivizing men to take more leave (say with a use or lose it type leave)? The fact that women take more time off disadvantages them (rightly or wrongly) - if we know this is the case, and why this is (which, I posit, are generally socially desirable reasons - namely, caring for a child) and we could nudge behavior in a different direction, is that a bad thing?

Rather than suggesting everyone could/should return to work quicker, why not suggest that everyone returns to work slower...? 

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@Coolname  the link you posted referred to the U.S. , which is notorious for an appalling safety net, of any kind of benefit. That isn't the case in Canada, where if you meet the required parameters of weeks worked, you are entitled to have your job back after leave and receive the benefits. The benefits are specified through E.I. and many employers will top up the benefits, to varying amounts. Since the discussion here is about Canada, and legal employers, hence, my earlier comments.

As I said earlier, I've never heard of anyone in Canada taking two weeks off. Most people I know have taken a full year, and some have extended to 18 months because some childcare options are only available if the child is at least 18 months old. Some, including myself, have shared the leave period with their partner, something that can now be done with each having 9 months off. Some return on a reduced schedule for a period of time, some return to work on an extended part-time basis. 

@BlockedQuebecois  it's possible that the people you know who have taken a short leave are not in jobs where they have qualified for E.I. or even if they have, cannot live on the reduced amount they would receive. That's unfortunate. 

I only hope that those of you who think that a couple of weeks or a month is sufficient, have your views changed by the time you become a father, and I imagine that they will. As much as we all think we know everything about being a parent before we have children, trust me, that isn't the case.

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I am surprised that Coolname has yet to cite the proverbial woman working in the rice paddies who squats, has her baby and then continues working. 

Just because something can be done (2 week leave) does not mean that it should be done. Or that this should be the expectation if a woman wants to further her career. Nor does it mean that the optimum leave, whatever that may be, isn't encouraged and incentivized. 

 

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9 hours ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

I’m honestly a bit surprised that a month strikes people as unbelievable. Maybe it’s just a socioeconomic thing, but I know a few mothers who returned to work (out of necessity) that quickly. 

FWIW, nobody I know has taken a year off. They’ve either returned to work much, much more quickly than that, or they’ve decided the woman would be a stay at home mother for the foreseeable future. A year of leave is a luxury none of my friends have had. 

I’d say the average has been 3-6 months for the woman, <a month for the man. 

Also replying generally, but quoting you because then I'm not mansplaining?

There are multiple things, in no particular order and only a few:

1. It is in society's best interests that parents spend time with children;

2. It is in parents' best interests that they spend time with children;

3. As a matter of health, not just bonding etc. (which is still critical!), it is necessary for mothers to take some time off that fathers don't (childbirth and recovery, breastfeeding though may switch to expressing and storing, etc.);

4. For law firms specifically, it is in the best interests of the profession and law firms (even if they don't realize it) that all good lawyers be provided the chance to practice, advance, become leaders, etc., including those who become parents;

5. Presumption of parenthood is doubly unfair sexism since assumptions are directed primarily towards women, and because women who do become parents also face problems;

6. I can think of good to brilliant lawyers who left private practice which was a loss to their firms even if still in the profession because, whatever formal policies and programs there were, it just couldn't compete with the flexibility offered outside private practice, in government or otherwise (in fairness, leaving for government or in-house may be a lifestyle choice that, if available, many may choose to make, man or woman, parent or not);

7. While there are certainly problems in law (both with sexist assumptions and with how leave is dealt with), there are many women in Canada who could only dream of the benefits of law firm maternity leave (top-up or partial top-up, and of a pretty high salary to begin with compared to someone working e.g. two part-time jobs to make ends meet who just gets the EI benefits if have minimum hours). Or with @Hegdis referencing the US, sure, I disagree with the US not having this, but a woman working at a large law firm in the US whatever sexism she surely faces, can afford childcare, health insurance, taking time off, suing if treated unfairly, etc. in a way that many mothers can't.

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1 hour ago, erinl2 said:

@BlockedQuebecois  it's possible that the people you know who have taken a short leave are not in jobs where they have qualified for E.I. or even if they have, cannot live on the reduced amount they would receive. That's unfortunate

Yes, I don’t think any of them would have chosen such a short turn around. They all seemed to make that decision under financial pressure / for financial reasons. 

I didn’t mean to suggest they’re voluntarily choosing that, but rather that it’s interesting how much privilege goes into thoughts like “a year off is normal” or “less than three months is essentially impossible”. For a lot of the young women I know who got pregnant and either gave up their jobs to raise their kid or had to leave the kid with family while quickly returning to work, three months off would be amazing and a year off would have been unfathomable.

[Note: privilege isn’t meant in a derisive way here. I just think some perspective may be helpful here, including for me with my complaints about likely taking less time than I would like.]

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
It’s too early for big words.
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6 hours ago, groovymoose said:

I realize that your comment is in the context of a thread about big law where presumably most people can afford childcare, but speaking more generally, often some one does 'need' to stay at home for a length of time because paying for child care is expensive, and because of a whole host of other complications that other posters have recently mentioned too. 

I am wondering, in this context, to what extent you think either a man or a women has a free choice to stay at home? I would suggest that for both men and women, there is quite a bit of social pressure for the mom to stay at home for a while (lest she be judged as a 'bad mother') and for the man to stay working (lest he be seen 'slacking off'). I'm not suggesting this pressure is decisive, but i think probably does implicitly weigh into 'decisions' about who does what.  I wonder whether you agree with this, and if you do, whether you would agree with incentivizing men to take more leave (say with a use or lose it type leave)? The fact that women take more time off disadvantages them (rightly or wrongly) - if we know this is the case, and why this is (which, I posit, are generally socially desirable reasons - namely, caring for a child) and we could nudge behavior in a different direction, is that a bad thing?

Rather than suggesting everyone could/should return to work quicker, why not suggest that everyone returns to work slower...? 

My guess is that the people who can’t afford childcare are often going to be the ones who have to return to work quickly, not take an extended leave because of you can’t afford child care, rent isn’t going to be easy to make while not working either. 

But, yes often someone needs to stay home. That someone does not need “as a matter of necessity” to be the mother (as the post I originally disagreed said), it could be either the mother or father.

Thus supporting my point that the factor that is causing deleterious effects is the different choice to stay home, not the same choice to have a kid. 

1 hour ago, OWH said:

I am surprised that Coolname has yet to cite the proverbial woman working in the rice paddies who squats, has her baby and then continues working. 

Just because something can be done (2 week leave) does not mean that it should be done. Or that this should be the expectation if a woman wants to further her career. Nor does it mean that the optimum leave, whatever that may be, isn't encouraged and incentivized. 

 

“Women in rice paddies!!!” Wow, calm down, never said this was ideal, should be done or should be expected. In fact if a heard of someone planing to return to work 2 weeks after having a kid I would be questioning why they are having a kid at all (at least if going back for non-necessary reasons like needing money to buy food).

Edited by Coolname

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2 hours ago, erinl2 said:

@Coolname  the link you posted referred to the U.S. , which is notorious for an appalling safety net, of any kind of benefit. That isn't the case in Canada, where if you meet the required parameters of weeks worked, you are entitled to have your job back after leave and receive the benefits. The benefits are specified through E.I. and many employers will top up the benefits, to varying amounts. Since the discussion here is about Canada, and legal employers, hence, my earlier comments.

As I said earlier, I've never heard of anyone in Canada taking two weeks off. Most people I know have taken a full year, and some have extended to 18 months because some childcare options are only available if the child is at least 18 months old. Some, including myself, have shared the leave period with their partner, something that can now be done with each having 9 months off. Some return on a reduced schedule for a period of time, some return to work on an extended part-time basis. 

@BlockedQuebecois  it's possible that the people you know who have taken a short leave are not in jobs where they have qualified for E.I. or even if they have, cannot live on the reduced amount they would receive. That's unfortunate. 

I only hope that those of you who think that a couple of weeks or a month is sufficient, have your views changed by the time you become a father, and I imagine that they will. As much as we all think we know everything about being a parent before we have children, trust me, that isn't the case.

Since my comment was about the amount of time woman needs as a matter of necessity to take off, ie the absolute minimum, the context being in Canada and the legal sector does not change anything. Canadian woman in law do not take longer to heal than the woman in America.

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This whole conversation is dumb, because it really should boil down to this: parents should return to work at the pace they would like to, and they should do so without negative career consequences so long as they return within a reasonable amount of time. There’s a valid argument to be had about how we accomplish that in a way that doesn’t harm either gender and what a reasonable time is, but that’s where the actual argument is. And that’s a policy argument that requires data and analysis that just straight up isn’t happening in this thread.

 The people arguing that everyone just needs to return to work earlier are wrong. The people arguing that everyone just needs to return to work later are wrong. We shouldn’t be forcing parents to make decisions they don’t want to. We should be empowering them to make the decisions they want to. 

Sorry if my use of the word empowering constitutes mansplaining [Note: I am not actually sorry].

 

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
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16 hours ago, Coolname said:

They made the same decision to have a child, but that would not be the relevant decision, the relevant decision is deciding to take a year off, which they wouldn’t have made the same decision about. 

I think I messed up my notification settings, so I'm just seeing these updates now. I know that others have addressed your comment generally but I thought I should also take a minute to respond and add my perspective, since you were responding to my post.

In addition to the totally valid points that others have raised regarding physical healing, breastfeeding, and practical considerations like childcare, we should think seriously about your implication that women and men are making different "decisions" about taking time off. One of the key ideas in this thread a recognition of the fact that women and men do not have the same options regarding parental leave in private practice. If I (as a female associate) had a child tomorrow, my firm would compensate me for 17 weeks of fully paid leave and would have no issue with my taking 52 weeks of total leave. If my husband worked at the same firm (or any other major Toronto firm like it, to the best of my knowledge), he would be compensated for 4 weeks of fully paid leave and would generally be expected to return to work following that 4 week leave. Perhaps if he pushed, he would be able to take further unpaid leave, but it wouldn't be the norm for a male associate to take additional unpaid time off in my workplace. On the other hand, a full year of leave (17 weeks paid and the balance only receiving EI) would be the default/assumed trajectory for a female associate.

So when you say that they made different decisions (the implication being that they could have made the same decision, in which case they would have had the same result) - I don't really think that's a fair reading of the situation. In my opinion the relevant decision was to have a child, and the way that they progress through the system following that decision is different because of a host of factors that are not really within control of the parents (those factors being biological, societal, workplace-related, compensation-related, etc.). Conversely, as Erinl2 mentioned, there are some workplaces now offering benefits for the male parent to also take substantial leave, and I think those workplaces will see greater numbers of women advancing as a result (and happier families and employees generally, because as leafs_law has mentioned, this isn't just a "women's issue" - men want and deserve to have an opportunity to participate in parental leave programs too). 

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15 hours ago, lcrowne said:

I used to be a big law associate.  I went on a year-long secondment to a very important client, which was not entirely my choice.  It was so important to the firm that I come back from the secondment that the client entered into a no poaching agreement with the firm.  I came back, energized about resuming my position with the firm and building on my relationship with the client as external counsel.  Not only was I not welcomed back with any enthusiasm, I was largely ignored, to the point that I left just over a year later.

At the time I came back, another associate (same year, same working group), went on a leave of absence to travel.  He came back just as I was leaving.  By all accounts, that associate was back up to a full practice within weeks.

Guess which gender each of us is.  This isn't just about mat leave.

I'm sorry that this happened. That type of situation is really frustrating because there often isn't one specific "sexist" event that you can point to and make noise about - it's more of a gradual accumulation of actions (or inaction) over time. I do believe that these kinds of experiences are connected to a non-trivial number of departure decisions on the part of female associates.

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