Susan Wojcicki was the first Google employee to take paid maternity leave in 1999. Back then, the company had no revenue and had not yet claimed the internet dominance that it has today. Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page realized the risk but allowed it anyway.
Now Wojcicki is the CEO of YouTube, which is owned by Google, and she considers her maternity leave to be one of the most valuable experiences to her job, her family, and herself. She believes that offering maternity leave to all mothers would be great for employees and companies alike.
Mothers who return to work too early after giving birth have less time to spend with their child, putting the mother at greater risk for postpartum depression. Additionally, a lack of breastfeeding leads to higher rates of illness in babies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
There are benefits for companies as well. Wojcicki cites a survey from the Center for Economic and Policy Research that says 91% of employers found that paid maternity leave increased profits or had no effect at all. Other benefits include increased morale and productivity.
She also notes the turnover rate for mothers working at Google decreased by half when the company increased its maternity leave from 12 weeks to 18 weeks. Paid maternity leave is much less costly than recruiting and training new workers.
It’s even harder for poorer women to get the care they need. First, many low-paying jobs don’t offer their workers benefits such as maternity leave. Second, having a baby is very expensive. A mother can expect to spend at least $200 a month on diapers and food alone. One study from the U.S. Department of Labor found that 60% of mothers who took maternity leave struggled to make ends meet.
Unfortunately, the US is the only developed country that does not require paid maternity leave, according to the International Labor Organization. California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island are the only five states with publicly funded maternity leave laws. Wojcicki makes a strong case for the institution of maternity leave.