Netflix Adds Hourly Workers to Its Generous Parental Leave Plan
Netflix is expanding its impressive parental leave benefits to its hourly workers. The company’s generous plan had previously only applied to its salaried workforce. But the change comes with a caveat: hourly workers’ benefits still aren’t as good as the one being offered to Netflix’s corporate workers, and the specifics will vary depending on the company division—customer service, streaming, and DVD-by-mail. The change was first announced by Tawni Cranz, chief talent officer at Netflix, in an interview with trade publication Talent Management this week. Netflix confirmed to WIRED that hourly employees in its DVD-by-mail division will get up to 12 weeks of paid leave; customer service 14 weeks; and hourly streaming-division employees 16 weeks. “We always look for ways to improve as a company and that means regularly reviewing policies and benefits to ensure we are competitive and can attract and keep the best employees,” a Netflix spokeswoman told WIRED in an email. When Netflix dropped the news in August that it would let new moms and dads take unlimited paid leave for the first year after a child’s birth or adoption, the move was widely lauded. After all, in the US, where the law only requires that eligible new parents who have been at a company for a certain time be provided 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the policy sounded positively progressive—and a slew of companies soon followed Netflix’s lead. But the streaming giant came under fire when admirers of the plan learned that the new policy didn’t apply to Netflix’s hourly paid workers. Advocacy groups and Netflix’s own employees criticized the company for the exclusion. Now, it seems, Netflix is seeking to correct its oversight. “Clearly, they got the message from the time that they announced the initial policy that a two-tiered parental leave system was not going to work,” says Tim Newman, campaigns director of one advocacy group, Coworker.org. “I think it’s a credit to the customers and employees who spoke out about that they made this improvement—this is a step in the right direction.” Still, Newman points out, the system is still not equal for everyone. Responding to WIRED’s inquiry on why the paid parental leave system was not uniform for all hourly employees, Netflix said: “Fundamentally as a company, we want to offer coverage for all three—maternity, paternity and adoptions. Differences in benefits result from decisions made by the leadership of those parts of our business as well as the competitive landscape for each.”
Netflix is expanding its impressive parental leave benefits to its hourly workers. The company’s generous plan had previously only applied to its salaried workforce. But the change comes with a caveat: hourly workers’ benefits still aren’t as good as the one being offered to Netflix’s corporate workers, and the specifics will vary depending on the company division—customer service, streaming, and DVD-by-mail.
The change was first announced by Tawni Cranz, chief talent officer at Netflix, in an interview with trade publication Talent Management this week. Netflix confirmed to WIRED that hourly employees in its DVD-by-mail division will get up to 12 weeks of paid leave; customer service 14 weeks; and hourly streaming-division employees 16 weeks.
“We always look for ways to improve as a company and that means regularly reviewing policies and benefits to ensure we are competitive and can attract and keep the best employees,” a Netflix spokeswoman told WIRED in an email.
When Netflix dropped the news in August that it would let new moms and dads take unlimited paid leave for the first year after a child’s birth or adoption, the move was widely lauded. After all, in the US, where the law only requires that eligible new parents who have been at a company for a certain time be provided 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the policy sounded positively progressive—and a slew of companies soon followed Netflix’s lead. But the streaming giant came under fire when admirers of the plan learned that the new policy didn’t apply to Netflix’s hourly paid workers. Advocacy groups and Netflix’s own employees criticized the company for the exclusion.
Now, it seems, Netflix is seeking to correct its oversight. “Clearly, they got the message from the time that they announced the initial policy that a two-tiered parental leave system was not going to work,” says Tim Newman, campaigns director of one advocacy group, Coworker.org. “I think it’s a credit to the customers and employees who spoke out about that they made this improvement—this is a step in the right direction.”
Still, Newman points out, the system is still not equal for everyone. Responding to WIRED’s inquiry on why the paid parental leave system was not uniform for all hourly employees, Netflix said: “Fundamentally as a company, we want to offer coverage for all three—maternity, paternity and adoptions. Differences in benefits result from decisions made by the leadership of those parts of our business as well as the competitive landscape for each.”
Hell hath no fury like the Internet’s response to a sexist brand tweet. The target of today’s backlash: IBM, which launched a well-intentioned, but completely tone-deaf, campaign on Twitter that urged women to get involved in STEM fields by hacking a hairdryer.
— IBM (@IBM) December 4, 2015
For obvious reasons—namely, the fact that IBM tried to combat gender stereotypes by perpetuating gender stereotypes—the tweet backfired. The company was flooded with a wave of sarcastic responses from female technologists and scientists, as well as the public at large:
How to make progress in equality: start treating women like modern human beings instead of the 1950s housewife trope. #HackAHairDryer
— Sage Franch (@theTrendyTechie) December 7, 2015
#HackAHairDryer into a flamethrower with which to set fire to gender clichés in the tech industry.
— Simon Parkin (@SimonParkin) December 7, 2015
I don’t even own a hairdryer! I’m doomed forever from entering the realms of STEM.
— Kris Jingle (@propertyofKJ) December 7, 2015
— Jessica V (@ThatAstroKitten) December 7, 2015
The good news is IBM knows it messed up, and has already decided to discontinue the misguided campaign. “The videos were part of a larger campaign to promote STEM careers,” the company told WIRED in a statement. “It missed the mark for some and we apologize.”
What makes this specific screw-up all the more unfortunate is that it belies IBM’s historically aggressive support of workplace diversity in the tech industry, from its female CEO Ginni Rometty to its innovative school model P-TECH, which aims to bring low-income high school students into the STEM field.
It’s hard to imagine how a company that’s been at this for so long could make such a rookie mistake. If nothing else, it proves just how far we still have to go before tech’s entrenched gender bias is a thing of the past.
Mark Zuckerberg said today that he will be taking two months off when his first daughter is born.
“Priscilla and I are starting to get ready for our daughter’s arrival,” the Facebook founder said, referring to his wife, Priscilla Chan, in a post on his Facebook page.
“We’ve also been thinking about how we’re going to take time off during the first months of her life. This is a very personal decision, and I’ve decided to take 2 months of paternity leave when our daughter arrives.”
This news is, of course, great for Zuckerberg and his family. We wish them the best. But this is a big deal for the rest of us, too. Zuckerberg is perhaps the most prominent chief executive of a major public tech company to take this much time off following the birth of his child. That’s important, because executives set the tone for a company (and, in some ways, the country) when it comes to balancing work and family.
Like some other major tech companies, Facebook already offers new parents a parental leave plan considered very generous by US standards. New parents at Facebook can take four paid months off. They receive benefits such as $4,000 for each child born or adopted. As we’ve written before, however, employees may feel reluctant to take advantage of such plans if their companies don’t have a culture that encourages taking time off. And company culture typically comes from the top.
“Every day things are getting a little more real for us, and we’re excited to start this next stage in our lives,” Zuckerberg wrote. Let’s hope more companies will offer new parents more leave, and that dads will be able to follow his lead.
A few weeks ago, actress Jennifer Lawrence took a stand against gender pay gaps in Hollywood—in a newsletter. To be clear, this is not just any newsletter. Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter has become a must-read, in part as a platform for high-profile feminists. The latest is one-time venture capitalist Ellen Pao, who spoke out in Lenny Letter today about sexism in Silicon Valley.
In her piece—”Silicon Valley sexism is getting better. Slowly”—Pao describes her career and the ways in which the industry’s biases began to themselves “crack by crack.” Still, she says, Silicon Valley has started to make meaningful progress.
“The biggest positive difference over the past 20 years is how women and minorities are sharing others’ bad behavior, data, and their own experiences publicly,” Pao writes.
Pao has been relatively quiet in the weeks since she said she would not pursue an appeal in her failed gender discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, marquee venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. In July, Pao stepped down as interim CEO of Reddit after facing intense backlash when a popular employee was abruptly fired and new anti-harassment policies introduced. That same month, she penned an op-ed in The Washington Post in which she said she had “endured one of the largest trolling attacks in history.” In Lenny Letter, Pao looks back at the longer arc of her career in the Valley:
- It was easier in her early work life, especially in her 20s. Then things started to get tougher.
Fresh out of Harvard Law School, Pao says she felt she was doing well—and other women, including women of color, seemed to be succeeding, too. Schools, law firms, and successful senior partners all told them they were on track to have fantastic careers. But later, “our ranks thinned and progress got harder,” Pao writes.
- There were inconsistencies in what people said and what they actually did.
“I saw many firms talking meritocracy but ignoring great opportunities that women brought in or giving men credit for them,” she says.
- “Unconscious” biases and bringing up “the pipeline problem” are excuses we shouldn’t fall for.
Pao argues that when tech and VC leaders throw out these justifications, they’re merely saying, “We haven’t done anything wrong, and we don’t care to fix it.”
- But things are changing. People can now call out others’ bad behavior publicly. They’re sharing their experiences, and they’re doing valuable research.
Pao points to the decision by Silicon Valley tech giants to voluntarily release their diversity statistics as a sign of progress. Researchers are looking at hard data around how the system treats people in tech, from graduation to hiring to the upper ranks of VC firms and tech companies. People are also sharing their stories on social media. Erica Baker, an ex-Googler, made waves when she described inconsistencies in salaries by gender and race. A Fortune reporter uncovered gender bias in performance reviews. Questions are being asked and a spotlight cast on the issues.
- Pao’s advice for other women and members of minority groups? Be resilient. Speak up—don’t be silent.
For women facing struggles in a male-dominated work culture, Pao says there’s one important thing to remember: “You are not alone.”
In keeping with the recent tech industry trend, Gawker Media has released its diversity figures, and the results mirror the typical ratios of tech and media companies. The company, which oversees a network of websites, including the eponymous Gawker, is mostly white and mostly male.
The numbers are also comparable to Buzzfeed, another new media company that recently released data about the composition of its workforce.
“After the announcement that I was being named permanent executive editor of Gawker Media, and after Buzzfeed’s publication of its diversity statistics last month, we received renewed calls internally from editorial staff members for an accounting of the racial and gender diversity of our teams,” Gawker executive editor John Cook writes.
Gawker is 43 percent female, compared to 47 percent in the overall US workforce.That’s better than most tech companies: According to data compiled by The Verge, the biggest tech companies are 29 percent female on average. The gender ratio slips when just counting edit side: Cook says women make up 38 percent of Gawker Media’s editorial staffers.
When it comes to race, Gawker fares worse than most major tech companies. Overall, Gawker Media is 79 percent white. By comparison, Google said this year that 60 percent of its overall staff is white. Facebook’s overall staff is 55 percent white; Apple’s workforce is 54 percent white. Gawker’s editorial staff is 78 percent white, Cook said.
Gawker’s numbers aren’t unusual for tech or media, which can be even worse than tech when it comes to diversity. As my colleague Julia Greenberg noted in a recent piece, a survey from the American Society of News Editors found that the “percentage of minority journalists in daily-newspaper newsrooms” was under 13 percent. At The New York Times, public editor Margaret Sullivan noted that of the 20 critics on its culture desk, none are black.
Amazon has updated its parental leave plan. The retail giant has expanded paid maternity leave to up to 20 weeks for birth moms and added six weeks of paid leave for new parents regardless of gender. As reported by The Seattle Times, this means that for the first time new dads at the company will be able to take time off following the birth (or adoption) of a child.
The news comes just months after other tech giants, most notably Microsoft, Adobe, and Netflix, announced improved parental leave plans for their employees. Amazon, meanwhile, has faced public scrutiny over how it treats its employees following a scathing New York Times investigation that called its work culture into question. (Amazon and the Times later engaged in a very public back-and-forth over the fairness and accuracy of the story.)
Following the Times investigation, former Amazon employee Julia Cheiffetz publicly called for the company to reevaluate its parental leave policies, claming she was effectively forced out following her maternity leave and cancer diagnosis.
As Amazon heads into the holiday season—and kicks off Black Friday deals, well, now—it may be anxious to motivate its employees, who will undoubtedly be hard at work as the company enters the busiest shopping season of the year. Notably, Amazon’s policy appears not to apply just to high-end tech workers and executives, but more than 100,000 fulfillment center and customer service workers.
Amazon may also be hoping to contain any damage that the Times story did to its public image. It will need to keep shoppers (and future prospective hires) happy, and it certainly doesn’t hurt if they feel good about how the company seems to treat new parents.
No matter the motive, improved parental leave policies are good for new parents and their children. But as we’ve written before, experts say that it’s not enough for a company to have such policies in place. It also needs to have the supportive environment where employees are comfortable to take the time off that they need, knowing that they’ll be able to come back and pick up where they’ve left off.
Intel is quadrupling its fertility benefit coverage, providing employees looking to start a family with some of the most generous perks in all of Silicon Valley.
On Tuesday, with a blog post, the company said it would increase its fertility benefit coverage from $10,000 to $40,000 for medical services and from $5,000 to $20,000 for prescription services by 2016. It also removed the medical diagnosis requirement for employees to get fertility benefits, which apparently left out same-sex couples. All employees will soon be able to get conception services.
The move adds Intel to the roster of high-profile companies who are offering egg-freezing perks, including Facebook and Apple—no small perk considering a round of treatment can be as high as $12,000, plus storage and drug fees that can cost another four grand annually. Doctors also recommend at least two rounds of treatment—but the good news is this is still within the new coverage limits Intel plans to implement.
Additionally, the chip-making company is tripling its adoption benefit coverage to $15,000 per adoption. And beginning next year, there will be no limit to the number of children for which an employee can seek adoption assistance.
“While Intel is lucky to add such great new talent, we know that our existing employees have different experiences when trying to expand theirs,” Ogden Reid, VP of human resources, said in a statement. “To help with that process, we are committed to being a leader in offering a broad range of benefits for employees and their families.”
Intel already has one of the most radically transparent plans for improving corporate diversity, and this only adds to it. Offering generous pregnancy, egg-freezing, and adoption benefits could make the company more appealing to women and the LGBT community. Such perks help companies attract top talent, as we’ve written—to the end, of course, of having tech workers be as productive as possible for their employers.
While the gender split amongst BuzzFeed’s employees overall remains relatively even, the company’s staff remains predominantly white. In a diversity report released today, the company revealed that 69 percent of its employees are white.
BuzzFeed isn’t just a news and entertainment company after all—it’s also a tech company. And like many Silicon Valley tech giants, it touts its diversity by periodically releasing its latest diversity numbers in reports like the one it released today.
For the second year in a row, Buzzfeed emphasized to its employees and the world at large that improving diversity is an “ongoing priority.” Founder and chief executive Jonah Peretti says the company is sharing its numbers “in an effort to track our progress and hold ourselves accountable to each other and the public.”
But while BuzzFeed has been able to seemingly close the gender divide unlike some tech companies, it has room to improve when it comes to diversity. Google, for example, said this year that 60 percent of its overall staff is white. At Facebook, only 55 percent of the overall staff is white. Microsoft says 59.5 percent of its overall staff is white.
However, in newsrooms across the US, it’s a somewhat different story. A recent survey from the American Society of News Editors found that the “percentage of minority journalists in daily-newspaper newsrooms” was around 12.76 percent. Earlier this year The New York Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan noted that “there certainly are areas of The Times that could use more diversity, including its culture critics, where on a staff of 20, there are no black critics.”
“We care about diversity for moral reasons,” explains Peretti in a public note, “but we also know a diverse staff is a competitive advantage that allows us to recruit from the broadest possible pool of talent and have team members with a wide range of experiences and perspectives.”
To show its commitment to diversity, the company shared several graphs today that highlight its effort to continue building a more diverse staff. In addition to having more women than men at the company, one notable revelation is that BuzzFeed has more women global managers than male ones. When it comes to gender, its tech division, however, remains the starkest uneven split.
Unlike last year, the company did not share today any specific targets for continuing to improve diversity in the next year nor did it offer any plans for how it will continue to improve diversity amongst its employees.
One of the barriers facing many women seeking to advance in the tech industry is the lack of a good network. Not the digital kind, the “foot in the door” kind. Companies all too often hire from pools of job candidates who already have connections, and in an industry that’s predominantly male, that means more men have easier entrée. For everyone else, especially women, they’re left depending on luck.
Now Google is backing a way to change this. The nonprofit Anita Borg Institute today is unveiling its ABI.Local program in conjunction with the first day of its annual Grace Hopper Celebration—the world’s largest event for women in computing. The idea is to help women technologists in cities around the world connect with each other locally to build the networks that will help build their ranks in the tech industry.
“Establishing and growing a strong community of women who share our interests and career goals is imperative to keeping women in the field and broadening the appeal of a technical career to young women,” says Telle Whitney, the Anita Borg Institute’s CEO.
In the run-up to its official launch today, ABI.Local has quietly reached nearly 1,300 people around the world in New York and Delhi. Today, the nonprofit says, ABI.Local launches in eight more metro areas, including Boston, Washington D.C., and Silicon Valley, thanks in part to donations from Google and an anonymous donor. In the coming year, the plan is to expand to the Middle East, Africa, Singapore, and elsewhere. The group has also launched a beta version of its ABI.Local website, which it hopes can serve as an online networking hub for women in tech.
Aside from the female-centric focus, the ABI.Local groups will mostly deal in standard tech-networking fare, organizing technical talks, networking receptions, panels, hackathons, and workshops featuring local women technologists. Groups are gathering this week to watch the livestream of the Grace Hopper Celebration taking place in Houston. (Among other things, they may be watching for a repeat of a gaffe like the one from last year’s conference, where Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella slipped and said he believed women should “have faith” that they would get the “right raises as you go along.” Nadella quickly apologized after the incident.)
In spite of slow progress revealed by the dismal workforce statistics at tech companies, the groundswell of public discussion around the very important issues of diversity in tech is gaining traction—and pushing the industry to change. In the end, it does take networks—networks in local groups, and networks at large conventions—to make that much more of a difference, and move the conversation forward.
One of the most tumultuous cases of gender discrimination in tech has officially come to a close.
One-time partner Ellen Pao has decided not to appeal the loss of her gender discrimination suit against her former employer, storied Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
“I have decided to end my lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins,” Pao said in a statement sent to tech news site Re/code on Thursday. “I feel gratified that my actions have encouraged others to speak up about discrimination in venture capital and technology more broadly.”
In late March, a jury denied Pao’s claims that Kleiner Perkins discriminated against her because of her gender, and retaliated against her for reporting gender bias at the firm. The six-week sex bias trial had captivated Silicon Valley and the larger tech industry, where women are still in the minority in spite of efforts to increase diversity. In the venture capital industry, the gender gap is even more prominent: in 2014, only 6 percent of partners at venture capital firms were women, according to a Babson College study. And though Pao ultimately lost the case, supporters lauded her efforts to draw attention to the ongoing battle to create a level playing field for women in tech.
After KPCB successfully defended itself at trial, the venture capital firm demanded that Pao reimburse the $1 million or so it spent on legal costs—which Pao argued she shouldn’t have to pay. Instead, to resolve the suit completely, Pao told Re/code, she agreed to pay Kleiner the legal costs ordered by the judge in the case: a total of $275,966.
Pao also emphasized, in her statement, that she and Kleiner did not reach an agreement to settle the matter with a payment to Pao, which she claims would have required her silence. “Settlement might have provided me with financial benefits, but only at the great cost of silence,” she said. “I refuse to be silent on these important issues.”
The past year has been a rocky one for the former venture capitalist, who recently stepped down as interim CEO of online community Reddit after facing an all-out revolt over how to handle harassment and controversial content on the site.
But Pao has made it clear that she is ready to turn over a new leaf. “I have been reengaging with friends and colleagues,” she told Re/code. “It’s over.”
Following in the footsteps of so many others, Silicon Valley darling Slack, which makes a much-loved chat app for businesses, released its first diversity report today. Also following in the footsteps of so many others in tech, the results aren’t good: A vast majority of Slack’s employees—70 percent—are white. And 61 percent of the company is male.
Still, you have to give Slack some credit. The company at least appears to be trying, and trying from the start instead of waiting years or decades into its existence to recognize that diversity is a serious issue. “It’s relatively easy for us to move the lever a small bit right now to make a significant change in our trajectory,” said Anne Toth, vice-president of people and policy, and Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s CEO, in a blog post describing the company’s diversity efforts. “If us doing this sooner rather than later yields a better result that alone will be a good thing for us to have done at Slack and, hopefully, for the industry at large.”
Slack says it made the issue of diversity a priority while the company was still in its infancy, hiring an outside diversity consultant back when it employed only 75 people. It also says it’s begun examining its compensation data to make sure pay gaps don’t exist among its male and female workers. And it is making a concerted effort to be vigilant in its data collection and analysis to make real-time adjustments when recruiting new employees or updating its workplace policies.
Doing Better by Starting Sooner
Today, less than two years after introducing its app to the world, Slack employs about 250 people. And, digging into the numbers, it does appear to be doing better than many other tech companies. Seven percent of its technical workforce is African-American—which is actually saying something in a world where the combined black workforces of Google, Facebook and Twitter can fit on a single jumbo jet. But its overall workforce is still just 4 percent Black. Less than 1 percent of Slack employees, meanwhile, identified as Hispanic or Latino.
And while only 39 percent of workers overall at Slack are women at a time when women outnumber men in the US population, 45 percent of Slack managers are female. The company says that 41 percent of all people working at Slack report to a female manager. That’s way ahead of the industry average of 18 percent, according to data compiled by The Verge. (An interesting tidbit: Erica Baker, the ex-Google employee who tweeted about pay inequality at Google, now works at Slack as an engineer.)
Slack, of course, has much work ahead of it before it achieves true workforce equality. It could stand to make its goals more transparent and hold itself accountable to the public the way Pinterest, Intel, and Twitter have done. Its employees are still overwhelmingly white, and it could stand to hire more women engineers—18 percent of its engineers are female, better than Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft, according to data gathered by The Wall Street Journal, but not as good as Intel (20 percent) and Apple (22 percent).
Still, starting early has its advantages: It means Slack can stay light-footed before it becomes too big to change. Now, it just has to double down and really make those changes.
Intel has decided not to renew its contract as sponsor of the Science Talent Search, a high school math and science competition that the company has backed since 1998. The decision is an odd one for the company, which has recently made a highly publicized push to diversify the STEM field, pledging $300 million to the cause. The Science Talent Search, which has seen a massive increase in the number of female finalists over the years, according to one study, would appear to be an effective way to foster that diversity.
But Intel spokesperson Gail Dundas says the company views those initiatives as distinct. “We’re doing a lot of work in the diversity space, which is wide ranging, but it’s separate from this,” she says.
Intel’s contract with the Talent Search is set to expire in 2017, and that, Dundas says, is the reason the sponsorship won’t continue. Asked why Intel isn’t renewing that contract, Dundas declined to elaborate. “It’s a long term sponsorship,” she said. “It’s 20 years. That’s really all I have to say on that.” Which doesn’t really clear up anything about this weird move.
All of this raises more questions than it answers, chief among them being whether this was an ill-conceived cost-cutting measure that’s now turned into a public relations failure. But since the sponsorship cost Intel only about $6 million a year, even that explanation makes little sense, considering the company brought in $55.6 billion last year, according to the New York Times.
On the bright side, there’s now room for a younger, dare we say more relevant, tech player to take on the job. Any takers?
Twitter announced new goals today to reinforce its commitment to becoming a more diverse company. But if you look at the numbers, their goals aren’t all that, well, progressive.
“We want the makeup of our company to reflect the vast range of people who use Twitter,” Janet Van Huysse, Twitter’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, explains in a blog post. “Doing so will help us build a product to better serve people around the world.”
Twitter says it wants to increase the number of women in the company overall to 35 percent, with women in tech roles reaching 16 percent and those in leadership roles reaching 25 percent. Similarly, the company wants to increase the number of underrepresented minorities on its staff in the US to 11 percent overall, with underrepresented minorities reaching at least 9 percent in tech roles and 6 percent for leadership roles.
While the company’s efforts will hopefully lead to more transparency when it comes to the number of women and underrepresented minorities it hires and promotes, the goals themselves are pretty incremental. As it stands now, the company already has 34 percent women on its staff, with 13 percent in tech roles and 22 percent in leadership roles—not too far off from its goals. With 4,100 employees worldwide currently, the difference would be adding at least 41 women to reach its overall gender goal (though it would depend on the company’s growth).
And yet it does seem that, when it comes to diversity at tech companies, change happens slowly. Despite their efforts, both Google and Facebook only saw incremental improvements in the diversity of their staff in the past year. Google, for example, only increased the number of women in technical roles by 1 percent. Facebook saw the number of women at the company increase by 1 percent overall, but it saw no change in the percentage of black employees. Twitter may be playing it safe, by setting goals it actually hopes it can keep.
The national women’s advocacy group UltraViolet is demanding Netflix expand its paid parental leave program to include all of its employees. The group’s latest effort? A House of Cards spoof comparing Netflix’s discriminatory policies to, well, the ruthless manipulation and politics of series protagonist Frank Underwood.
Earlier this month, Netflix announced that it would offer new moms and dads a full-year of paid parental leave. The decision was met with cheers from parents and the press, but it soon became clear that the new policy does not apply to all employees. Only the company’s more highly paid “salaried streaming employees” could take the time off.
For UltraViolet, this is discriminatory. “People are taking notice that Netflix is expecting praise for extending parental leave to its higher-paid employees, yet it doesn’t extend those benefits to the hourly employees who need it most,” Nita Chaudhary, cofounder of UltraViolet, said in a statement. “It’s important that Netflix set an example for the rest of employers and companies nationwide… by giving all employees equal benefits.”
Netflix, on the other hand, defends its policies. “Across Netflix, we compare salary and benefits to those of employees at businesses performing similar work,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “Those comparisons show we provide all of our employees with comparable or better pay and benefits than at other companies.”
After Netflix announced its new policy, other tech companies, like Microsoft and Adobe, chimed in with their own expanded parental leave offerings. These polices can serve as a way to attract more diverse talent. But sometimes, at least publicly, they can backfire.
A day after Netflix said it was offering new parents up to one year of paid leave, Microsoft announced a major upgrade to its own maternity and paternity leave policies.
The company said today it will now provide new parents with 12 weeks of paid leave. Birth mothers will also keep the eight weeks of paid maternity disability leave they already have, for a total of 20 weeks, Microsoft executive vice president of human resources Kathleen Hogan said in a blog post.
Microsoft will also allow birth mothers to take two weeks off prior to their due dates. The company says all new parents can choose whether to take their leave in one continuous chunk or split the time into two separate periods. New parents will also be able to phase back into work on a half-time basis.
“As we ask our employees to bring their ‘A’ game to work every day to achieve our mission, we believe it’s our responsibility to create an environment where people can do their best work. A key component of this is supporting our employees with benefits that matter most to them,” Hogan writes.
Microsoft also said it was adding paid holidays for all employees as well as increasing 401(k) deferred matches.
The extended parental leave announcement comes one day after Netflix said it will offer new moms and dads “unlimited leave” for one year after the birth of a new child or adoption. Both plans show an apparent commitment to offering more fair and equitable benefits to their employees as top tech companies vie to attract top talent.
Netflix wants new moms and dads to take time off. In fact, it now says they can take as much time as they want.
The video streaming giant announced a new policy today that offers unlimited maternity and paternity leave to employees for the first year after a child’s birth or adoption.
“We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances,” Netflix’s chief talent officer Tawni Cranz explains in a statement. “Parents can return part-time, full-time, or return and then go back out as needed. We’ll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay.”
The new policy is consistent with Netflix’s larger mandate that employees should be free to figure out their own work-life balance as responsible and accountable adults. The company already offers unlimited time off to all employees; now it’s explicitly adding unlimited maternity and paternity leave.
Unlimited leave, however, can come with its own complications. Without a clear policy, employees may feel they need to take less time off in order to work the same hours as their colleagues or to appeal to their managers. Others might opt not to take any at all.
At the same time, US law only requires that eligible new parents who have been at a company for a certain time be provided 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Compared to companies that offer limited time off to new mothers or no paid paternity leave at all to new fathers, Netflix’s policy seems to show a commitment to treating their employees equally and fairly.
Diversity in tech remains a problem, but Pinterest is among those working to solve it. Today, the company unveiled new programs designed to improve diversity in its ranks, and the plan looks rather promising.
By next year, Pinterest hopes to have more full-time engineer positions filled by women and underrepresented ethnic backgrounds, by increasing the hiring rate for full-time engineering roles to 30% female and to 8% underrepresented minorities. It plans to increase the hiring rate for non-engineering roles to 12% for underrepresented minorities. And the company says it will work to ensure that at least one woman and one underrepresented background candidate is interviewed for every open leadership role.
To get there, Pinterest plans to expand the group of universities from which it recruits and launch intern programs for students from underrepresented backgrounds. “Over the past year we learned when we double down on a particular area—like hiring women out of college—we see movement,” the company said in a statement.
The company is also setting up an “Inclusion Labs” with Paradigm, a strategy firm focused on diversity, to experiment with better ways to create a more diverse staff. They will offer a workshop on unconscious bias, host events like Blacks in Tech and Future Female Founders, change hiring practices that may put some candidates at a disadvantage, and continue to collect better data.
While several tech giants, such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, have publicly shared their diversity numbers—largely driven after Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou began collecting numbers about women in tech in 2013—not all that much has changed. But Pinterest thinks that with specific goals and programs it can finally move the needle.
“Despite new initiatives tech companies are putting in to place, they have showed virtually no progress or movement,” Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., said in a statement. “Pinterest’s approach stands in stark contrast, combining aspiration with concrete measurable intention, and is one that other companies would do well to emulate.”
Facebook—like so many other tech giants—still hasn’t managed to make much progress in terms of diversifying its ranks. But the company insists it’s pushing hard for change. Today, the social network published a series of anti-bias training videos online, which it hopes will help all sorts of companies address the problem of the lack of diversity in tech.
Unconscious bias training has become fashionable among tech giants like Google and Facebook. The thinking is: in order to attract diverse talent from outside the organization, it’s critical to promote and foster diversity within the organization.
As Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a press release announcing the decision: “Managing bias can help us build stronger, more diverse and inclusive companies—and drive better business results. At Facebook, we’ve worked with leading researchers to develop a training course that helps people recognize how bias can affect them, and gives them tools to interrupt and correct for bias when they see it in the workplace.”
The problem is: not all companies have the time or resources to develop this type of in-depth training. By putting their courses online, Facebook stands to make it easier for other companies to start similar programs, while also positioning itself as a leader in its diversity efforts, even though it clearly still has a lot to learn.
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