Where are all the lady lawyers? Noticing a dearth in the female talent pool, U.S. law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe beefed up its parental leave benefit. The company now offers 22 weeks of paid leave off for its attorneys, ThinkProgress reports.
It’s the most generous policy ever offered to employees among large U.S. firms. The company’s new policy is a significant increase from its initial offer, adding four more weeks of paid leave and two more weeks of unpaid leave. New mommies and daddies can now take almost six months off — paid, of course — to take care of their newborn.
According to Mitch Zuklie, Orrick’s CEO, the law firm changed its policy to attract more female talent.
“Women are thriving in U.S. law schools at the same rates as men. But they are not thriving—in the right numbers—in law firms. Law firms have a problem inspiring women to stay and lead,” Zuklie wrote in an op-ed for Fortune.
Women account for 47 percent of law school graduates, but just 17 percent of equity partners are women, according to the American Bar Association.
Quoting a 2007 study, Zuklie added that the No.1 reason why women step off the partnership track is the cumbersome challenge of balancing long hours and being a mother. Law firms are notorious for being inflexible and inconsistent with work arrangements and Zuklie believes its time to make accomodations for the givers of life.
“Firms should know that millennials have no interest in making work/family trade-offs. They look at the sacrifices the generations above them, even their own parents, have made, and reject this path fully,” Zuklie wrote, quoting professor Kellie McElhaney, founding director of the Center for Responsible Business at Berkeley-Haas School of Business.
If a job does not allow flexibility for motherhood, many women will not accept the offer. McElhaney asserts that women are not being less ambitious than their male counterparts. Rather, this is a clear indication that they “expect their male partners and their employers to help support this success.”
On top of the expanded leave policy, Orrick will introduce a new program called “Leave Liaison,” which helps parents transition back to work.
Orrick joins the likes of Apple, Morgan Stanley, and Google who have enhanced their paid leave benefits.
“Parenting is a long journey and we need to make changes both institutional and individual to enable parents to thrive professionally and care for their families,” Zuklie said.
Maternity leave the flexible work schedules have been identified as one of the top issues for both mothers and fathers. The US and Paua, New Guinea are the only two countries in the world that don’t offer time off to new mothers.