Open Letter to CEOs Who Oppose Paternity Leave

Sometimes, a newspaper headline misses the point. So it is with a Miami Herald piece this week that reads at the top, "CEOs widely accept, support paternity leave for male employees." In fact, this article is a must-read for the opposite reason: It demonstrates that many business leaders don't understand the importance of paternity leave.

For everyone committed to strengthening businesses, families, and the cause of gender equality, this is what we're up against. It's what I write about in All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses -- And How We Can Fix It Together.

For the Miami Herald article, business leaders were asked whether paternity leave should be allowed. The responses include all sorts of depressing quotes. "Only for one week to support the childbearing wife," said Daniel Ades, managing partner of Kawa Capital Management. "Only when mothers with medical reasons are not able to take care of their baby," said Carmen Castillo, president and CEO of SDI International.

It gets worse. Victor Mendelson, co-president of HEICO, replied, "No -- and we don't offer it." He added that his company allows new fathers flexible schedules when possible. And Marlon Williams, founder and CEO of Fenero, said, "I personally do not think male employees need a paternity leave option."

Note to these business leaders: You're shooting your own businesses in the foot. Paid family leave that includes time for men as well as women is a proven good across the board. Allowing men paid time off is good for female employees as well as male employees. And when done right, it benefits the bottom line.

When families are allowed choices about which parent will stay home -- a choice that only exists with paid leave, businesses are able to hold onto their best employees regardless of gender. Paid family leave exists via a public program in three states, and businesses report that it has benefited them.

Numerous companies are creating or expanding their own paid paternity leave programs because they've learned how much it helps the bottom line. Among the latest are Johnson & Johnson and Goldman Sachs.

CEOs of America: Please learn the benefits of being All In. In addition to other proven benefits, it's crucial for the cause of equality. Fewer than 5 percent of CEOs in the S&P 500 are women because the American workplace has not kept up with the changes in the American family. It's time.