By Laura Colby
As explained on the campaign trail, Trump would give new mothers six weeks off with pay — less than the minimum 14 weeks recommended by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization and far less than what professional women get in Western Europe.
Yet as the U.S. moves closer to a national paid leave policy, research suggests that an overly long break isn’t ideal. Parental leave policies that extend to a year or two often set women back professionally, says Ariane Hegewisch, program director for employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington: “It seems to slow down both women’s career advancement and labor force participation.”
In Hegewisch’s native Germany, for example, women can take off as much as three years per child with partial pay. Sure enough, 73 percent of German women return to the workforce. But about half of those workers end up working part-time, earning less and advancing more slowly if at all.
In fact, while the World Economic Forum ranks Germany 13th for gender equality overall, when it comes to women’s economic participation, it’s 57th, behind Mozambique and Belarus. There’s still a generally conservative view of working moms, who are sometimes disparaged as “raven mothers.”
Annette Storr, a public affairs official for UPS in Germany, took a year-and-a-half of leave after her son was born. It was too much, she says: “I lost contacts on some projects and my network had changed.” Now she’s helping UPS set up an informal mentoring program for women on maternity leave to create “very loose, but regular contact on a voluntary basis,” Storr says. “It’s what I would have wanted for myself.”