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This startup has created an online database of maternity-leave policies

A woman uses an umbrella to shelter from the sun at Regent's Park in London
Reuters/Neil Hall
Pregnant and employed is no walk in the park.
  • Jenny Anderson
By Jenny Anderson

Senior reporter, Editor of How to be Human

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

When Georgene Huang was pregnant and looking for a job, she couldn’t find any information about different company’s maternity leave policies. So she co-founded a company that would gather the information for her and other women.

Fairygodboss, an online community where women share stories and reviews about current and former employers, has a crowdsourced database of maternity leave policies for about 700 companies. She and Romy Newman founded Fairygodboss in March after meeting at Dow Jones where Huang was head of institutional products at Dow Jones and Newman was head of digital advertising and integration at the Wall Street Journal.

“Companies should be more transparent but they are not,” Huang told Quartz. Though attention to insufficient policies has resulted in a spate of changes to some companies’ offerings.

On Nov. 3, Amazon announced a drastic expansion of benefits including 20 weeks paid parental leave for birth mothers, and a policy where employees can share up to six weeks paid leave with a partner. Netflix now offers 52 weeks paid leave, which is amazing for an American company. (In the US, companies with more than 50 employees are required to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, but only to those employees who have been with the company for a certain amount of time).

Other data resources exist, though none specifically for maternity leave benefits. Working Mother magazine compiles an annual list of the 100 best companies for moms to work (pdf) and charts what benefits each of those companies offer (pdf). Glassdoor lets employees review and rate companies including salaries and benefits while also working with employers with recruiting.

“It’s taboo to ask that [about maternity leave policies] in an interview process,” she said. “I found that a lot of women had the same fear of being mommy-trapped if they asked about it.”

The Maternity Leave Resource Center faces obvious challenges. It is based on anonymous and crowd-sourced data, with information about a company sometimes coming from one employee. Huang said they are transparent about this and disclose the discrepancies they find in their data. Also, as more “tips” come in, companies are calling to clarify their policies.

“It’s a messy benefit,” Huang said. Some companies offer short-term disability, with 100% of salary covered, others vary the percentage pay, the time it is offered or the amount paid based on tenure. Only five of the Fortune 100 have publicly disclosed policies. Of the 700 companies in the Resource Center database, about 50% offered six weeks or more of paid leave.

Until more companies are transparent about their benefits, sites like Fairygodboss will exist. It may be just the “inspiration” companies need.

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