Parental Leave

I am on the board of Etsy, which is now a public company, so I don’t blog about it much anymore. But I’ve been involved in a discussion at Etsy over the past few months that is both important and raises challenging issues. It is the subject of parental leave. Who should be entitled to parental leave and how much leave should be given?

Etsy announced to its employees today that it is making several fundamental changes to its parental leave policy. The new policy is:

Etsy employees will be eligible for 26 weeks of fully paid leave in the two years after they become a parent through birth or adoption, regardless of their gender, country of residence or family circumstance.

Etsy is not alone in making these changes. Other big tech companies like Facebook have made similar changes to their paternal leave policy. And so some of this is reacting to the competitive market for talent, particularly female talent. But our discussion at Etsy actually focused on other issues.

Etsy is a marketplace where creative entrepreneurs, many of whom are women, can create a more fulfilling and flexible way to support their families. An important goal of this policy change was to align the internal company values with the marketplace values.

Etsy is a global company with significant operations in countries with parental leave regulations that are more generous than what exists in the US. It was an important goal of Etsy to align its parental leave policies across the entire organization.

But most importantly, as Etsy’s CEO Chad Dickerson said to the company when he announced this change, “The well-being of employees & their families is not just good for people, it’s good for business.”

I fully support Etsy’s parental leave policy and am proud that Etsy is at the forefront of a movement in the tech industry for more family friendly employee policies.

However, I am not suggesting that all startups or all USV backed startups should do the same. It is easier to do this sort of thing when you have a workforce in the thousands or tens of thousands than when you have a team of four people working from a co-working space. Each company needs to decide when and how they can consider such a parental leave policy. But for those that have the scale to consider this approach, I am strongly in favor of it and share Chad’s belief that what is good for employees and their families is good for business.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Yes! This is fantastic. Etsy is an important leader and will pave the way for other companies to follow.

    1. William Mougayar

      There are many other progressive US companies that have generous policies. I think it’s more a case of Etsy following, then leading, IMO. Netflix, Adobe, Twitter, Google, J&J, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Reddit, Microsoft, Bank of America. (see my other comment with link). I think the greater a company becomes, the greater the employee benefits can be.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Good point. Add Automattic to the list 🙂 But, for whatever reason, Etsy is viewed by many as a leader on issues of diversity. And Netflix kind of has a rep for being great on paper, not so great in practice, fwiw.

    2. ShanaC

      you use of gifs is wonderful *bow*

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Merci, Shana 🙂

    3. fredwilson

      nice gif. disqus should have giphy integration the way twitter and kik do

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        It’s so funny, I was thinking the exact same thing when I was grabbing this one 🙂 I would use that so hard!

        1. Kim

          I ask for it all the time 🙂

  2. Rohan

    What is nice is that moves like this will gradually change the “default”.. and that is great.

  3. andyswan

    What ETSY does is up to etsy.That is an absurd amount of time to take off. Good way to separate the players from the moochers.Opportunity cost is real–don’t be surprised when you come back 2 quarters later to find the opportunities, and the teammates that used to count on you, have moved on.Congratulations, you’ve reinvented the pay gap

    1. andyswan

      Anyone wanna fund my startup? We offer 1 year full paid leave for anyone with a family.We only hire unemployed people with families.We are socially progressive, in it for the greater good.

      1. slowernet

        Congratulations on revealing your discriminatory hiring practices on a high-profile blog.

        1. LE

          Throw me in for agreeing with him! Go call the feds!

          1. slowernet

            I mean, you guys are providing the ammunition to the hires you discriminate against yourselves – this site has pretty good SEO!

          2. andyswan

            I don’t discriminate because I don’t create benefits for one group that don’t apply to another

          3. Joe Cardillo

            Am curious, how do you feel about gov’t provided parental leave? Guessing you think it achieves same effect..

          4. andyswan


          5. slowernet

            Wait, government mandated parental leave was “disgusting” a minute ago, Andy. What happened?

          6. andyswan

            it still is…. “slowernet”

          7. slowernet

            Then additional good luck on your work to repeal the Americans with Disabilities Act.

          8. andyswan


          9. slowernet

            Ok, so supporting working mothers = communism, yeah?Talking with you is fun. Keep digging!

          10. LE

            What are you claiming?a) That the government has a program to enforce the law by reading blog comments?and/orb) That something that a person says on a blog can be used in a court of law against them, assuming either “a” or a hiring complaint is actually filed?

          11. slowernet

            Very much B! Andy has bravely deleted the comment in which he revealed that he would discriminate against a woman showing “a little bit of a tummy”, but the point holds. Good luck!

          12. andyswan


          13. slowernet

            An alternate explanation: you deleted the comment because it revealed your willingness to practice biased – and illegal! – hiring practices. Good luck with your startup!

          14. andyswan

            I don’t create non-merit based policies that benefit one group of employees and not another group. Sorry.

          15. LE

            Even a mediocre attorney could bat that one down.

        2. andyswan


          1. LE

            The lack of agreement and hostility by those who don’t have to meet a paycheck is mind boggling.You know in the real world you are only as good as the last work you did for a particular client. Don’t deliver? They have a reason to try a different vendor. They aren’t giving you do overs for your own hiring and/or personal problems. And for my commercial rental properties I am not waiving late fees because someone decides to implement social policies. Last I check my wife still wants me to bring home a paycheck and take her out to dinner. And my kids still need me to pay for their college. Oh wait? Maybe I will simply not buy a nice car that I busted my ass for every day since college to be able to buy so someone else can have babies?

          2. Elizabeth Spiers

            Those social policies also benefit you. Your decision to have children was only tenable because you were physically incapable of doing it yourself and your wife did the heavy lifting there out of biological necessity. So let’s not pretend that you are subsidizing women who want to have to babies. You’re also subsidizing men who want to have families.

          3. LE

            Well to start you are assuming that I wanted to have children at that point in time, correct? And you are assuming that everyone wants to have children as well.What I did after my first (ex) wife got pregnant was that I bought her a small business that she could operate on her own schedule so that she didn’t have to work for someone else and be subject to their needs and policies. So I used my brains to solve the “problem”. I didn’t rely on someone else or social policies to create a solution. Of course I recognize that most people aren’t me.

          4. Elizabeth Spiers

            Well i assume that if you really didn’t want to have children you could have, you know, used a condom. And it’s nice that you could afford to buy your ex wife a small business. Most people can’t. So unless you’re going to argue that only the wealthy should have children, I’m not sure where you’re going with that. And not every woman is capable or willing to run their own small business. (Not including myself in that, btw.) Be an entrepreneur or don’t have a kid can’t be the only option either.

          5. andyswan

            “if you really didn’t want to have children you could have, you know, used a condom” — damn! @le_on_avc:disqus she is bringing the pro-life talking point thunder at you!

          6. Elizabeth Spiers

            No, i’m just pointing out that no one forced him to have kids, which should be obvious.

          7. andyswan

            Just gave me a chuckle to see that phrase used by someone that wasn’t yelling pro-life talking points at a young woman.

          8. LE

            Jewish wife hocking me. Fred might understand. Was psychological warfare at it’s finest!

          9. ShanaC

            hey!!!!!(nice jewish girl here)

          10. LE

            you could have, you know, used a condom.You think the decision to have children is some kind of joint decision between man and women and if the man says “now is not the right time” the women says “ok whenever you are ready?”.And it’s nice that you could afford to buy your ex wife a small business. Most people can’t. Most people don’t work their ass off like I do. I worked 5 or 6 years of 10 or 11 hour days (mostly 7 days a week) in order to be able to do something like that. I studied for tests in college. I never didn’t show up for classes (the list is endless, actually). And I still work close to 7 days a week (although what I do is typically fun when it’s not boring so I guess it doesn’t count..) I am not “wealthy” by the way.

          11. Elizabeth Spiers

            Okay, then. I’ll just ask directly: did you knowingly and willingly contribute to your ex wife’s pregnancy? Or was she some sort of nefarious ninja sperm-stealer?

          12. andyswan

            this is the greatest thread ever Spiers

          13. Elizabeth Spiers

            Well, now I am genuinely curious about how LE got his ex-wife pregnant. I imagine it involved magic, unicorns and gamete teleportation.

          14. andyswan

            have you seen Bad Teacher?

          15. Elizabeth Spiers

            I have not!

          16. LE

            Elizabeth, do you think that only men can be verbally abusive and not women?Do you think it’s not possible for a man to be pressured into doing something that he doesn’t want to do?

          17. ShanaC

            very true

          18. Mark

            If people like you don’t support reproduction, especially of intelligent people, then who will create the businesses that ultimately rent your RE?The whole thing is more of a systemic problem than any. At least Donald Trump is actually talking about it.

        3. JamesHRH

          Andy is simply saying that he doesn’t care if you are green, trans, Martian… have to contribute like crazy in the first 36 months. Missing a half a year of that, as a policy for everyone, while being paid, is economically impossible and eliminates most of the opportunity a startup represents, for those people who would use 26 weeks of leave (without exigent circimstances).

          1. andyswan

            you complete me

          2. ShanaC

            i really just want him to hire a martian, because, that would be interesting. Especially a green martian

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      I completely disagree. As a parent of a newborn (a preemie at that), I only had 12 weeks off, unpaid (this was 19 years ago). It was a horrible situation. For many factors, but also because I was breastfeeding. Preemies take longer to take to breastfeeding, and those first few weeks my son was being fed through a tube through his nose in the NICU unit at the hospital. I ended up only going back to work part time for the first six months. Then 3-4 days a week the following six months. The only reason I was able to do this was because my then husband was making enough of an income for us to afford this. For most families, there is no choice due to finances.I will tell you — and I am sure this is true for many women — I don’t feel any loyalty or obligation to a company that treats our roles as parents as negligible.

      1. andyswan

        And if you were a valuable member of our team I would absolutely support you during those difficult times. Ask anyone who has ever worked with me. We have tough times and good times together as a team.That doesn’t mean I’d make it a blanket policy, or suggest that anyone with a more “normal” situation take that much time off.

    3. Sondre Skaug Bjørnebekk

      I usually find your analysis and opinions to be fresh and to the point, but through Scandinavian goggles thinking 26 weeks off is absurd really _is_ absurd.In fact, I was first wondering if you were serious at all. Etsy must be considered a large company now, and doing things that are clearly not morally right and likely not legal in many places (your “newlywed with a tummy”-example below) is simply not OK. I am not trying to be overly politically correct and naive, though. I think it is close to impossible to take that kind of time off in a startup.

      1. andyswan

        Is this a factor in why we see less young women in startups?

        1. Mark

          There’s very few young women in startups because there’s a very toxic cultural problem in the entire tech sector that is just amplified when it comes to startups. Most tech hiring over the past 15 years has not been of US citizens, but rather, has been of foreign nationals on the H-1B program. Startups generally don’t use straight out of college people, but use people with 5-10 years of “experience”. The foreign nationals, primarily Indian men on the H-1B or OPT visas, have basically muscled out domestic tech talent in the entry level jobs. Therefore, it logically follows that there simply aren’t many US citizens nor women even available to hire in the startups. Additionally, because re-employment in the tech sector is so difficult (ie: typical firms receive thousands of resumes for a single position), women especially who manage to get into the sector tend to gravitate to employers where they have more stability in employment. The startup culture, where one day you’re working on changing the world, and the next, everyone is laid off, is completely incompatible with such. Fix the labour mobility and labour demand problem for US citizens, and most of the anti-women, anti-minority problems in the tech sector will disappear. This means banning the H-1B, L-1, and OPT visas, and restricting foreign workers to the TN-1 and O-1 visas.

    4. Joe Cardillo

      I think your point Andy reflects a common belief in both startups and larger business. But offering parental leave isn’t a short term game move. Basically de-incentivizes over a long period of time people to a) do worse work b) tune out instead of offering their best ideas (very bad for innovation in any size co) c) emphasizes that the company leadership is interested only in tradeoffs that benefit them, not their employees. I personally won’t work for a co that isn’t offering parental leave, and I regularly recommend to people I know to look at that as a criteria for working for or doing business with someone. But, you’ll find plenty of takers for that attitude! No doubt.

      1. andyswan

        Supporting team members when they need it and giving everyone 1/2 year off are two very different things.

        1. Joe Cardillo

          Sure, and I replied to LE about that…maybe a better Q is, how have you / would you address someone that worked for you that was having a child? Specific things…instead of just stirring the pot..

          1. andyswan

            “What do you need? How can we help? What will you be able to do from home? Can we throw you a party?”

    5. kidmercury

      i’m only quibbling with your “it’s an absurd amount of time to take off” point. i know A LOT of moms that would have loved to be home for 6 months — the amount of time etsy is offering — and felt that 12 weeks was too early to let them go a bit. let alone 6 weeks that some forced to.from a corporate perspective i do wonder how these companies can be such ballers and offer these outstanding packages. but if the numbers work, i think a lot of parents would appreciate it — and not because they are lazy or looking for a free ride.

      1. andyswan

        It’s absurd to me. I agree many moms would and probably should take more time off…I just think it is ridiculous to think doing so is without consequence.My wife is on year 10 of unpaid leave…

        1. kidmercury

          that she is on 10 years of unpaid leave illustrates the very point. many families do not have the luxury of surviving on one income. that is at the heart of all these issues.

          1. Mark

            Unless they’re on welfare. Which, given how poor tech sector salaries are, and the cost of housing in the Silicon Valley, actually represents a similar level of opportunity for overall standard of living and wealth creation. Its the ‘welfare’ crowd that’s doing most of the reproduction these days which is profoundly scary for the future of the nation’s tech workforce.

      2. Mark

        How can they “not” offer such packages? Who’s going to create the future workforce for the tech sector if tech workers, presumably some of our best and brightest, can’t afford to breed? It certainly won’t be the trailer park dwelling, guzzle-a-gallon-of-cola and smoke a pack of cigs a day, food stamp receiving crowd that shats out the next generation of tech workers from between their legs. I know that much. Yet that’s who is doing most of the breeding these days.

  4. William Mougayar

    Is it still true that the US does not mandate parental leave? This chart shows what some other countries are doing.

    1. Twain Twain

      Thanks, great share!Family-friendly is “good for business” because women, who can then return to work after having children and rise up the management ladders, deliver above-norm ROI. This is from McKinsey.

    2. Ryan Frew

      Ironically, as someone who is strongly in favor of long periods of parental leave (including paternal), I like the chart above. This is not an issue that the country needs to legislate. If they did, I think it would actually be disadvantageous to women. Let competition do its thing – the benefits will come.

  5. LE

    Policies like this are actually bad for new businesses (and business creation) particularly ones that don’t have venture funding and aren’t using other people’s money. The idea of having to give 26 weeks parental leave is absurd for almost all of those businesses, even established ones. Who has spare 1/2 year pay around? [1]The reason you hire someone is because you need them to provide a solution by way of employment and what they can do. Otherwise why did you hire them? The idea that there is enough money in a typical non-vc funded business to do this is ridiculous. I don’t know any other way to say this. It’s idiotic. A non-starter and it disadvantages any company that for whatever reason can’t have these policies.[1] And anyone who thinks this won’t impact hiring practices hasn’t lived in the real world that long.

    1. William Mougayar

      The bigger the company, the more generous it can be. You don’t think there’s productivity waste in large companies? Parental leave may be a drop in that bucket, especially compared to the other benefits it provides.

    2. slowernet

      It’s Etsy and Facebook’s responsibility not to disadvantage other companies with their HR practices?

      1. LE

        Not at all. They can do what they want to do. [1] I never said they shouldn’t do this I am commenting on Fred’s opinion of the practice.[1] As I would if something was legal and a benefit to my company.

    3. Joe Cardillo

      Agree w/raised points – pretty difficult for a new co to offer 26 weeks, but I think one way of thinking about this is to start with a deliberate policy, and evolve it over time. Maybe in year 1 or 2 of a business you offer a few weeks + flex time / telecommute (depending on the biz), maybe you find a way to shift someone’s role for a while. I hope people don’t get into an all or nothing (too late…=) discussion here, because the reality is that parental leave does matter, and should be prioritized. But how it gets executed is largely a matter of the leadership’s priorities (I don’t have kids, but my brother and sister do, and it’s something I’ve watched affect their lives).

      1. LE

        I’ll tell you something. Back in the day my best employees tended to be gay. You know why? No family to deal with and no childcare issues etc. (This was the 80’s btw.).When I hired the attorney that I still use (back in early 2000) he was older but single. He had no children. The first thing I thought was “this is great he will be around to answer questions literally 24×7”. And I was right. Call him on Friday night, he answers at home. (Had nothing better to do). He later met a woman (a Federal judge) and she lives in another state but is still not married.Did I hire him because of this? Of course not. Did I see it as an advantage that he was single? Yes I did and in this particular case I was right.Ditto for employees (once again back in the 80’s) that had stay at home wives this was great. Wife took care of the kids and employee was always at work. No bullshit no excuses. Once again, always hired the most qualified person but this was my experience after the fact. And quite honestly had I interviewed someone who told me they might not show up because of child care issues I would have to think twice before hiring them, depending on the job. If they were in bookeeping no big deal. If they ran time sensitive machinery, big deal. No way we can be in a position to lose the big account it took us 9 months to land.

        1. Mark

          Where are the future intellectuals going to come from if people like you aren’t willing to pay up, and tolerate some downtime from smart people who happen to “do their part” in having kids?You don’t honestly expect the food stamp-receiving, trailer-park-occupying crowd, gallons-at-a-time cola guzzling crowd responsible for most of the breeding these days, to generate the intellectual titans needed by future society, do you?

    4. Mark

      If industry doesn’t step up to the plate and pay for their intelligent employees to have kids, where are the intelligent kids supposed to come from? They certainly won’t be shat out of the wombs of the welfare queens in the trailer parks and slums who guzzle cola by the gallon bottle and think the Kardashians are role models to look up to. I know that for sure. Kudos to Etsy for trying to come up with a localized solution, but a more systemic solution is required to restore health to the tech sectors’ labour market. Tech pay that is so low that dual income families are practically mandatory to have a half-way decent lifestyle in the Silicon Valley (or NYC) is a pretty major problem. Of course, to pay more, the revenue model of the tech sector needs to be overhauled severely.

  6. William Mougayar

    It seems there are progressive US companies, despite the fact the US itself doesn’t mandate leave. Netflix, Adobe, Twitter, Google, J&J, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Reddit, Microsoft, Bank of America.

  7. LE

    But for those that have the scale to consider this approach, I am strongly in favor of itNo it’s not it’s not good. It strongly disadvantages your other investments that aren’t in a position to do this, even Joanne’s angel investments. Playing field is not level (not that it ever is but you don’t have to add fuel to the flame)

  8. Sandi Lin

    Any data on typical parental leave policies at various stages of a startup?

      1. Sarah Jane

        Melissa- That is an awesome resource.Sandi, I’ve never seen one that delineates by fundraising stage and/or head count, but think that would be amazing to see broken out.

      2. ShanaC

        i want a fairy god boss.

      3. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Great share.

    1. Kim

      There’s also this repo on Github that I’ve helped contribute to (and is now easily-editable as long as you have a Github account)!

  9. Simone

    Imagine Fred would have suggested pay equality!! :)Another day, another ‘cafeteria food fight’

    1. Lawrence Brass

      Do you think pay inequality has to do with the probability of getting pregnant?

      1. Simone

        no :)I was noticing the comments in real time earlier, and I was smiling to myself thinking what would the (men’s) reactions have been if today’s blog would have ‘dared’ suggesting e.g. equal pay instead of more parental leave. it is funny to see some guys here ready to distance themselves so easily from the ‘process’ of having children. the lack of empathy must be justified almost entirely by the different roles played by parents in hetero families. Sure I understand the concern from a business owner point of view, but the ‘passion’ in replies.. there is a funny atmosphere here lately, polarised opinions. and more freedom of speech than I have ever expected.

        1. Lawrence Brass

          I think that ‘having a baby’ is a very profound and femenine thing, some guys can connect with the process, others can’t. But as Jim said, we can always help some way, specially on the supportive side. It is a bit hard for the first time dad to be placed in the background thoughts of his loved couple. Most guys are better off hunting mammoths as usual instead of being a nuisance at the cave, at least during the first year. Maybe it is learnt behavior as you say. I always helped raising and I value and respect bloodline a lot, but the real connection came for me when my kids began to talk. It happened the same with my grand daughter, our love originates from our conversations and adventures together.

  10. Val Tsanev

    ETSY is doing the right thing for WOMEN! Women most definitely need and deserve more than the standard 3 months paid maternity leave, they do in almost all the other developed countries. HOWEVER I am not sure paternal leave of more than a month makes sense. We, men are pretty useless in the first weeks/months of the life of the baby, we are just biologically limited, that is a fact not an opinion. Generally speaking the opinion that matters for that specific topic is that of women, men should shut up and sit back. Women are the ones who have to deal with all the complications associated with being pregnant for 9 months, if anyone deserves paid leave for long period of time are women, not men.

    1. JimHirshfield

      “We, men are pretty useless in the first weeks/months of the life of the baby”Do you have kids?

      1. Val Tsanev

        Yes I do have, and I meant in relative to the woman/mother. I don’t think anybody can argue with that point.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Women need support of their husbands after childbirth. So I don’t think men are useless when mothers want the fathers to help out…and help out big time.

    2. Twain Twain

      Mark Zuckerberg and his daughter would disagree with you. Men can DO A LOT during the first weeks+months of their babies’ lives.Mostly, they can simply be present and reassuring because, in this presence, babies can sense and feel LOVE.

      1. Val Tsanev

        Again in relative to the woman/mother, we can’t, the first weeks and months. I am not saying in general. Also to be present, reassuring and to provide love is the job of a father not only when a baby is born but for the rest of her/his life. I am sure Mark will agree with me on that.

        1. Twain Twain

          Guys can also DO THE HOUSEWORK because she’ll be exhausted after having a baby, being kept awake at night by baby’s crying and nursing.Also… this from academic research …

      2. LE

        Mark Zuckerberg and his daughter would disagree with you. Men can DO A LOT during the first weeks+months of their babies’ lives.My guess is Zuck’s father, the dentist never took time off like that. Just a guess of course. Zuck wouldn’t be where he was if his father didn’t bust his ass (once again a guess based on the average dentist out there).My daughter is off taking course in England for a semester and traveling to a zillion countries (just like my other daughter did). It’s total play play play. She is able to do that because both her father worked hard and her grandfather worked hard primarily (who came here penniless) . (I don’t approve of what she is doing by the way but in a divorce situation my “vote” doesn’t count as much as her mother’s).

        1. Twain Twain

          You don’t approve of what she’s doing?!!!She’s opening herself up to seeing and experiencing the world through different sets’ of cultural eyes, so that in her career:(1.) She’ll be better tooled to work with people from all sorts of cultural backgrounds.(2.) She may be able to speak French, Italian and Spanish — if she hops on a plane from UK to Continent — which will increase her employability.(3.) She will be able to problem-solve differently and more independently.Why can I do the things I do today? I spent my teens “working my ass off,” earning $$$ during my vacations whilst studying so I could afford a plane ticket & accommodation to visit the Accademia in Venice as soon as my parents let me travel by myself.

          1. LE

            She’ll be better tooled to work with people from all sorts of cultural backgrounds.Do you think that’s important for all careers? Of course it’s not.She may be able to speak French, Italian and Spanish — if she hops on a plane from UK to Continent — which will increase her employability.Of course any skill is a benefit as long as it doesn’t take away from learning another skill (which of course it does). In that sense there are things that for many people are more valuable than learning a second language.Why can I do the things I do today? I spent my teens “working my ass off,” earning $$$ during my vacations whilst studying so I could afford a plane ticket & accommodation to visit the Accademia in Venice as soon as my parents let me travel by myself.But that’s the exact opposite of what my daughter is doing. She didn’t work for this, her parents are paying for it. (Because I am not the custodial parent, it’s a divorce thing in short…)

          2. Twain Twain

            Aaah, thanks, now I understand.I’m in favor of my kids (I’m single & childless at the moment) working, earning & paying some of their own way as soon as they can legally do so.My grandmother started working at 14, my mother worked to pay for some of her private school fees when she was a teen and I secured myself a weekday+weekend job in a pharmacy when I was 15.My first paid job was when I was 4, though. My mother likes to recount that I got $2 every day for baby-sitting someone who was younger than me. This was in Hong Kong and there were/are no laws about how old kids need to be to be “home alone”.And I was a very responsible, sensible and organized 4 year-old.

      3. ShanaC

        i don’t know who I want to pinch more for cuteness in this picture, mark or his daughter.DAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I completely disagree 🙂 My husband has been an invaluable partner during the weeks and months after our two children were born.It isn’t just about feeding and changing diapers. Anyone can sooth a baby. Anyone can take the baby for a walk in the stroller so Mom can take a nap or a shower (or both). Anyone can cook, get groceries, pay bills, do laundry, etc.This doesn’t just matter for the female partner.

    4. Ana Milicevic

      Each family is unique in their needs. Perhaps you’d enjoy your parental leave more towards the tail end of the 2yrs since birth the Etsy policy specs out. Perhaps you wouldn’t at all. The beauty is in the flexibility.

      1. Val Tsanev

        I knew that a woman will provide the best response. I agree with you 100%! I don’t care what any man says women are much more useful than men in the early days/weeks/months of a person’s life eventually it most definitely evens out as it should. Women should get much more paid maternity leave than 3 months, for men the flexibility is more than enough. Every husband should support his wife 100% with the babies but no man should assume that he is as valuable as a woman in the early months of someone’s life.

    5. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Of course, not all families have a woman in them. There is such a thing as adoption for families where both parents are of the same sex.

  11. Dana Hoffer

    Why not create an payroll withholding “tick this box” option for funding this for people that want to have this benefit? How could this be considered fair to people actually working for income? Even small companies would come out ahead with a payroll withholding option. It should be enough of a benefit that one’s job would be “held”. The intent is right. The implementation, like many of the best things, is that those who use it should pay for it. And if that doesn’t work, call it out like health care where people can opt-in to different levels of benefits. Any way you cut it Etsy is redistributing is payroll budget away from those who don’t use the benefit to those that do. Certainly this is Etsy’s prerogative but give it a few years and check the Etsy employee surveys. I think it will be clear there is resentment by those that do not use the benefit and satisfaction by those that do.

  12. Elizabeth Spiers

    If you want to actually recruit female executives, this is a great policy. (Everyone says they do, but most companies fail to support them if they and when they decide to have families.) I had a baby in June and had both a c-section and some serious postpartum complications that landed me back in the hospital, and I went back to work at 12 weeks. If I had gone back any earlier, the complications would have been worse and lasted longer. 26 weeks might seem like a long time to those of you who haven’t physically had a child yourself, but pregnancies don’t always go smoothly and not everyone’s in good shape to go back after a few weeks. And in my case, only 25% of my maternity leave was paid for, and I’m the primary breadwinner in my family. I had to save funds just to be able to take the time off to have the baby. But one other point that never really gets discussed is the fact that a woman taking off to have a baby is rarely taking off to have the baby by herself. There’s usually a spouse on the other end of the equation who also wanted a child, but faces no repercussions at work because he’s having one. It needs to be acknowledged that family leave for women benefits both spouses but most of the time, it’s the women who pay a price economically and in terms of career advancement that men don’t. (So these men talking about opportunity costs? Here’s one: an inability to recruit experienced, talented women.)

    1. andyswan

      Absolutely. Executive compensation is a different animal. In fact, I’d say “unlimited time off” is the best way to approach executive leave/vacation/illness, etc.People become executive level for a reason… you don’t have to babysit them.

      1. JamesHRH

        The commitment level of executives is underplayed in modern media.Totally agree.

      2. awaldstein

        Took on a new project. Time off of any sort is simply open for the exec team.

        1. LE

          Open time I believe ends up net-ing out less than saying “you can take 5 weeks”. At least for anyone who wants to keep their job long term.Same with running your own company. I have pretty much been the boss since college (with the exception of 2 years or so). And I almost certainly take less time off than anyone on this blog I am guessing.

          1. creative group

            Stop guessing!

          2. Donna Brewington White

            Self-employed when my last two were born. Took my laptop to the hospital both times. We are not very good bosses to ourselves, LE.

          3. fredwilson

            none of us are. men or women. great comment.

          4. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I did too! (I was running my own startup then.) But I wouldn’t change that for anything, really.

          5. laurie kalmanson


        2. Ana Milicevic

          I like open time off policies as long as they come with a ‘minimal recommended’, ‘suggested’ or ‘encouraged’ amount.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            I think I read somewhere that people in companies with unlimited time off tend to take less time off. But I also wonder if something about the attitude of the types of founders who have this policy attract a certain type of person to their teams. People tend to work hardest for the boss who trusts them most.

          2. Dan Moore

            But “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” and long term vacation and time off is a win for both employee and employer.My favorite take on this is…They’ll pay for your vacation, as long as you disconnect. As far as I know, this is still the policy there.

          3. Donna Brewington White

            The first thing I did when I saw the date on the blog was check their career page to see if they still have that policy — and they do!That is really impressive and inspiring.I love that the post ended with… and we’re hiring! Good on them.

          4. Anne Libby

            I think I read somewhere that people in companies with unlimited time off tend to take less time off.This is true.

          5. Ana Milicevic

            Yeah – everything from peer pressure to company culture and misplaced sense of self-importance can have an effect here. Smart work is long-term better than hard work and part of that distinction is knowing when and how to unplug, recharge, go do something else. I’ve seen folks in their mid/late 20s (!!!) who are so burned out it’ll take them years to recover.I was interviewing someone recently who proudly pointed out that he hadn’t taken a single day off in the last 5 years. He wasn’t a good fit.

    2. ShanaC

      first question1) are you currently ok?2) This is why gender neutral leave policies are better, especially at the federal-legal level, and why requiring men to take off some of the time or risk having the family lose time seems to work

      1. Elizabeth Spiers

        Hey – yes, much better now. Thank you for asking. re: 2) agreed!

    3. Mark

      Realistically in the tech sector, how many “executives” really are of child bearing age? Workers need to be hired out of college (which generally they haven’t been — hiring of American engineers in the tech sector has been scant since the 2000-2001 collapse), and given access to such policies up-front. The number of 45-55 year old women (ie: the tech executive demographic, if even) having kids is miniscule. The H-1B visa is at the root of a lot of the mess. It should be cancelled so that the tech sector is forced to deal with the way that they treat skilled professionals, both men and women. Instead of leaving so much of the labour force sidelined, and making women especially terrified of the impact of pregnancy on career prospects.

      1. Elizabeth Spiers

        In my experience, quite a number of them. In fact I could rattle off a few friends in Fred’s portfolio companies that are expecting as we speak, or have recently had children. Tech exec demo is mostly 30somethings, in my experience.

        1. Mark

          I’ve yet to run into any. 45-50 year old is pretty much the minimum for an ‘executive’. Anyone who claims to be an ‘executive’ at less than that age is usually a sort of glorified secretary.

          1. Elizabeth Spiers

            I’m talking about people with C-level positions. No CTO or founder is a glorified secretary.

  13. Susan Rubinsky

    If you can bring your dog to work then you should be able to bring your baby to work. If you play ping pong at work, you should be able to breastfeed your baby at work. If you play MMOG at work, you should be able to take time to take your baby for a walk at work. I could go on. But I did see male co-workers at some of the startups I worked at bring in dogs, go walking their dogs, play ping pong, play MMOG, etc.. Why are those things acceptable but parenting is not? It’s a culture issue for sure.We Moms are effective and in many ways far more productive than some of the men we work with. Having a baby teaches you to prioritize your time like never before. The companies that treated my parenting needs as negligible didn’t win my loyalty. I left those companies in a heartbeat. I’ve worked for some great and some no-so-great tech companies over the years, including startups. I only value those who value me.

    1. Anne Libby

      Lol, or carry on active conversations in blog comments.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        Ha! Well, being self-employed now, I work when it suits me 🙂

        1. Anne Libby

          Me too. My point wasn’t to troll you, but to agree.And also to say, we all balance our priorities during any given workday. Why can’t we (openly) add our families to this mix?(As long as we’re meeting our goals — and this puts the onus on managers to actually be able to evaluate how people are performing, vs. inferring “performance” based on how many hours people spend at the office.)

          1. Susan Rubinsky

            I absolutely agree. Productivity is far more important than being at the desk at a given time.

          2. Susan Rubinsky

            (Also, I knew you weren’t trolling me 🙂

          3. Anne Libby

            Oh, good!

    2. ShanaC

      Babies > DogsImportant for human survival and are usual cute > usually cute(I like dogs btw. No offense to dogs out there! But dogs aren’t new humans)so why only usually cute allowed in the office.Besides, I think a meta-office parenting experiment could be good for the kids..takes a community to raise kids…

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        I think so too. At one of the startups I worked for I used to bring my son into the office with me on snow days or when his daycare was closed. He loved it and so did most the people at work. My son was ages 4-6 when I worked at that one. They also allowed any employee, male or female, to work from home if their children were sick. Not only does my son clearly recall “Mom working at that tech startup,” but people from those days still send me little messages asking how he’s doing. He is 19 now.

        1. ShanaC

          That is also the undiscussed issue hereExactly how do you want to raise kids as a society.Group creche environments? Close to work? Nuclear families with a core person for kids at home for chunks at time?As a society we haven’t really made a choice. We pushed the choice away by calling it “choice feminism” and also never really looked into what was actually good for kids, especially in the context of their entire lifetimes and how they will grow into adults in society.IE: some of the broader implications of the question are weird if we don’t ask that question

          1. Susan Rubinsky

            You know these are all things I think about. I think my son benefited greatly from being exposed to tech workplaces. In fact, Tech should look at it as an investment in the future. If a kid grows up seeing his Mom (or Dad) at work first hand in Tech then that child is being exposed to a future career path. If that child grows up thinking the Tech community values him/her, then that child is going to value that kind of community.

          2. ShanaC

            not every parent is in tech. There is where it gets sticky. Because then we do have to talk about important is that parent bond as opposed to broader social bond for that child’s long term happiness and health

          3. Susan Rubinsky

            Of course. And it won’t work in some jobs/settings.I have been a single Mom since my son was four. I created my own community, my own village so to say, with other single parents (Single Moms mostly. We all had each other’s backs. We all would pitch in for someone else when needed.).But imagine if our workplaces cared about building these communities?

          4. laurie kalmanson

            active word, “community”bring your kid to work day could be anyplace that encourages involved parenting

        2. laurie kalmanson

          spring break starts next week here — several parents will have their kids in the office for a day or two, an afternoone or a morning, and it’s totally okay.

    3. Mark

      A big chunk of the problem is employers have been able to avoid dealing with these issues because they’ve had access to the H-1B visa — able to staff their workforces with Indian men. Rather than dealing with the domestic workforce which demands things like maternity leave, proper re-employment upon return, the practical problems associated with childcare, etc. In theory, with the demographic that the tech employers need on their teams, and the sort of commitment demanded, they should basically also be in the daycare/nursery business. Yet very few are.

  14. Salt Shaker

    I think this is a very generous policy. However, it works as long as it’s not at the expense of benefits for the masses. For example, if underwriting this policy cuts into a company’s 401K (including employer match), healthcare, vacation, etc., then it can create an imbalance and potential ill will among the larger labor pool, and that’s a big problem. The devil is in the details, but company benefits needs to be equitable and balanced, as affordable.

    1. JLM

      .There is a fair likelihood that this may give rise to an ERISA equal benefits problem.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. LE

      The money has to come from somewhere. So it will create an imbalance, that’s obvious.

      1. Ryan Frew

        Will it create an imbalance, or yield balance that didn’t previously exist? It’s not obvious at all. Plenty of people would be willing to shave a point or two off their 401k match in exchange for more paid parental leave or vacation time. I’m one of those people.

        1. LE

          If you are young you need to work your ass off now and get your excess vacation time down the road. Suffer now, enjoy later. Not saying not to take any vacation and not saying to worry only about retirement either.

          1. Ryan Frew

            Early on in my career (it’s still early on), I made it a priority to never work somewhere where the whole office is empty at 5:01pm. This will always be a priority of mine. Places where people aren’t willing to work hard are toxic. It’s 7:15pm here. I’ll be in the office ’til at least 10, as I have been for the past week, including Sunday.HOWEVER, the only reason I’m doing it, is because I work at the kind of place that will encourage me to take off when I need it. I love giving back to this place. What “old school” thinking misses, is that people who don’t love where they work don’t have high productivity and the company experiences higher turnover, which is very expensive.This conversation isn’t about being “nice” or about lazy employees. It’s about ROI. There is a positive ROI in offering free food/beverages, gym memberships/equipment, extra vacation time, parental leave, etc., to employees. It’s simply difficult to measure exactly how much/many/long for any company.

  15. JLM

    .In the end, an employer owns their employees’ problems. The more of their employees’ problems they solve, the more productive their employees, arguably, should be.Like most things, the issue is one of degree. The pinch of spice v the handful of spice analogy.ETSY should do what they think works for them.I might be tempted to suggest that an artful CEO would have some kind of measurement metric to test the effectiveness of the new policy. This should be done for any new initiative.In a couple of years, ETSY will know whether it was a good idea or not. That is why it is often a good idea to introduce large initiatives as “experiments” with the mandate to evaluate its effectiveness at a future date certain.It would be interesting to see what shareholders would say if given the chance to opine as is required by the SEC on other issues.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Rohan

      Agree 100% on experiments.I wonder if a lot of the benefits of such a move would be intangible though..

      1. JLM

        .Sure but you can measure the impact of intangibles by using the right survey techniques.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Rohan

          That’s totally fair. I guess where I was heading was that measuring intangibles is very hard to do. For the most part, it is done wrong. And, then, folks spend the rest of their lives running after the wrong metrics…..

          1. JLM

            .A well run company has an annual anonymous company survey in which employees can be asked their reaction to the policy and its effectiveness.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. JimHirshfield

      I agree with you more than you agree with yourself.Note that Etsy, while public corp, is a B Corp, which means they care about more than shareholder opinions/value…Or perhaps more to your point, shareholders know Etsy is not a traditional company.

  16. Robin

    This discussion is near and dear to me as a start-up employee who just took 12 weeks unpaid leave for my first child a year ago. Up until I had my baby I was obsessed with the unpaid part – but I was shocked to realize that when I was on leave what was really important to me was the option to take more time off. I didn’t even have the option to extend my unpaid leave due to laws and company policy where I work – and I came back mentally unready. Even I as a woman did realize how essential these options are to us until I was there in it, so I don’t expect a lot of CEOs to prioritize but when I do see companies doing it, I actually get emotional and smile for all the moms who will have it a little better.

  17. LIAD

    Let’s be pragmatic. Leave the dogma at the door. It’s just another employment perk. Like free massage and pizza, but has the added bonus of providing the firm additional value along several vectors at comparatively little material costDownside primarily is for startups. This helps incumbents run the table. It’s winner takes most 2.0 –…”We already got busted with a wage-fixing cartel, how else can we work together collectively to retain talent against upstarts.”#fight

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Exactly! Why are pizza and dogs valued over babies?!

      1. LE

        Pizza, dogs and ping pong tables are easier to get rid of than parental leave.

  18. Susan Rubinsky

    Interesting to see all the male resistance on here. Until companies can offer women what they need — as a policy, not as an exception — women won’t feel like they are a valued part of the team, nor will they even want to be part of the team. They will join the team reluctantly to put food on the table. You want great team players, treat your women like they are a valuable part of the team.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      +100Not to mention, Etsy’s policy is for mothers *and* fathers.

      1. LE

        Etsy’s policy is for mothers *and* fathers.I had a vendor (software) who told me that when I needed an important change done that the project lead was on paternity leave and therefore we’d have to wait unfortunately to get the work done. How do you think I felt about that Kirsten? Do you think I was “oh that’s great good luck to him” or do you think I thought “fuck what kind of shit is this?”.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I can’t see the value into getting into specific anecdotes about your vendors that I don’t know anything about. There’s always an anecdote to prove someone’s point of view.

          1. LE

            You know when people are at the airport complaining about the security line taking to long or if they are on a plane sitting on the tarmac for hours on end they don’t care the reason at all. Period. They just bitch and complain and hold people accountable. The anecdote means I have experienced the downside of people who have caused problems or aggravation of which I have to clean up the mess in the end.I don’t know enough about what you do but anyone who has to rely on others knows what I am talking about.

        2. Ana Milicevic

          Your vendor was clearly bad at managing expectations, ensuring business continuity, client communication, etc. Wonder what their explanation would have been if the person had resigned (as they inevitably would in the face of such poor management).

          1. LE

            The “vendor” is Indian (thick accent) who lives in Virginia and also does some government work. He has great work ethics and values. When he had a baby for example I never had any issues with,or any excuses from, him. [1] The guy working for him works and lives out of Brooklyn. In the non-startup VC funded world people scrap by with what they can get. “managing expectations” is something that HP or large vendors get to do the rest of the world is making do with what they have.[1] And he travels quite frequently as well. Type of guy who will answer my call when it’s 3am his time.

          2. ShanaC

            He still may not have expected men to take paternity leave and didn’t plan.We all got cultural hangups

        3. meredithcollinz

          I think your beef should have been with the vendor, not the guy on paternity leave. They had 9 months to plan his absence and clearly did nothing. I dont care how small my company is, I would never leave my customers hanging like that.

          1. LE

            My beef isn’t with the guy on paternity leave. As far as the vendor I do not believe he knew about this for any length of time. And in terms of the software skills he is lucky that he even had this guy.

          2. Ryan Frew

            I’m confused. Your beef isn’t with the guy on paternity leave, nor is it with the vendor. Who is it with?

          3. LE

            Hey! Just mad at the world that things like this happen and I have to clean up the mess as a result.I guess maybe I am mad at both parties as well in some way perhaps. However since I don’t know the exact circumstances of how all of this went down (until it was to late) I can’t justify being that angry.I find that things like this happen frequently in other cases. You don’t know vacation schedules or other shutdowns and people that you are dealing with don’t think to say “hey I will be out from x/x to y/y so please make sure to get me before I leave”.Another example is I wanted to order some end of year things for the office (cabinets). I was told essentially that the company shuts down starting the first week in December and that I couldn’t get the ordered processed until the next year which means I was at a tax disadvantage. (Inquiry was made mid November let’s say …)

      2. andyswan

        Good lord I felt ridiculous on the 4th day being home after our 1st.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Next time ping me. I’ll give you some pointers on how to be useful when a new baby is brought home. I’d hate for you to feel ridiculous.

        2. ShanaC


          1. andyswan

            Because my wife had things under control and I wasn’t working

      3. Anne Libby

        I’ve got a bunch of startup employees — male and female — coming over for pizza and beer tonight to talk about precisely this topic. The young men I talk with in the NYC community have concerns about this, too.And of course, this issue isn’t just about parents.Before I started working for myself (this time) I had a job, where one charming conversation with my manager was about why not having kids of my own meant that some of my non-work priorities didn’t matter. (This was an actual conversation.) And my my family, it was one of my dad’s single siblings who took on caring for my grandmother. Something I think about a lot as my own parents — thankfully pretty healthy — get on in years.

        1. laurie kalmanson

          maybe the next generation will be smarter about carving out space for living, vs. committing everything to the job/career

      4. fredwilson

        yes, thanks for pointing that out. i thought it was obvious from the quote i shared but maybe it was not. that’s a big deal too.

    2. laurie kalmanson

      ^ this this this

    3. laurie kalmanson

      the comments are indicative of why women opt out, why women burn out, why women start their own businesses, and illustrative of how the responsibilities of parental care fall disproportionately on women.i applaud etsy’s actions; i have read, relatedly, that etsy is a leader in reaching out to women developers.

      1. fredwilson

        they are.

        1. laurie kalmanson

          one of many points on the axis of awesome.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Thankfully by the time I came to AVC today, most of the disparaging comments must have sunk to the bottom. Not sure I want to scroll down there.

        1. laurie kalmanson


    4. andyswan

      Would be interesting to find out if the reaction difference is “Male vs female” or based on which side of the paycheck the commenter generally signs.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I’ve been on both sides more than once. Viewpoint remains the same.

        1. Elizabeth Spiers

          Me too.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            You are killin’ it today. Respect!

          2. Elizabeth Spiers

            thank you!

      2. Ana Milicevic

        Been on both, currently on the front. Would rather support my employees should they decide to go down this particular path.

        1. andyswan

          If a dude came up to me and said “I’m leaving for 6 months because my wife is having a baby” I’d have some issue with that. Does that make me an unsupportive employer?What if it was a year? Three?

          1. Ana Milicevic

            No, man – to each their own.It’s a year minimum for women in most of Europe actually. It’s easily manageable given the right communication is in place (and actually a great oppty for more jr team members to step into a more sr role under the guise of a temporary replacement for someone on parental leave).

          2. andyswan

            Serious question. I’m currently hiring for our company. This will be employee #5, completely in charge of developing the sales pipeline.I will need productivity (sales) out of this person in order to meet their compensation. I can barely afford the position — it’s a risk.Now– how in the hell could I possibly hire someone who is expecting, if I were legally bound to give them 26-52 weeks of paid leave (zero productivity) if they wanted it?

          3. awaldstein

            You can’t.Rules for Etsy rules for the world are not the same.

          4. LE

            I can barely afford the position — it’s a risk.People who don’t run their own business or are using OPM and/or can move back with their parents don’t understand this concept. You are wasting your time. To them it will just “all work out” in the end.I actually wonder to what extent Fred (who is in a tough spot) knows this as well and has to walk a fine line in terms of how he discusses the issue.

          5. Ana Milicevic

            You’re usually not legally required while you still meet the criteria for a small business. As with everything I think it’s imperative to have an honest conversation with the person you’re looking to bring aboard. At the stage you’re at this sounds like a really pivotal role for the company that will require a lot of high-touch activity and perhaps a demanding travel schedule. Might not be the cup of tea for every new parent but I also wouldn’t automatically disqualify people, especially women, based on their circumstances at home.

          6. Donna Brewington White

            You crack me up liking your own comment. :)))I think if someone was wiling to take the job, knowing what you needed or expected and knew they couldn’t deliver that, there is a character issue.And… not every person will be right for every role or at every stage of your company.

          7. Mark

            If there was significant labour demand in the tech sector (today there is not — unemployment and underemployment is rampant and even minimally advertised jobs are scoring hundreds, if not thousands of qualified applicants — blame the H-1B visa and the poor economy for causing the glut!), then just being able to hire someone would be a real treat for your organization. In such a situation, startups would likely form insurance or risk-sharing pools to pay for the costs of maternity leave so that an individual company like yours wouldn’t be hit with the full charge. Large companies would self-insure, knowing that, 2.5 kids per worker, over 30 years of service and x weeks of paid leave = a certain percentage of their labour force would be on childbearing leave at any given time. It would just be a cost of doing business. But until there’s a true and meaningful labour shortage in the tech sector, I doubt anything like this would happen. Eliminating the H-1B and L-1 visas is critical towards tightening up the tech labour market, and forcing the employers to start examining these issues critically, namely, just “how” their employees are going to be able to reproduce to create the next generation of tech workers. Its certainly not going to be the welfare kings and queens in the slums and trailerparks on food stamps shatting out the next generations of tech talent, that’s for sure!

          8. andyswan

            Also– then if the JR employee does an awesome job, and the woman returns from her year off… you have to give her back her SR position, even though someone else is doing it very well (maybe better) already?

          9. Ana Milicevic

            A lot changes in a business in a year – I’d welcome the new perspective that my SR exec has as a parent, and work to accommodate the JR one if not within my own company then within sister companies, partners, clients, friends, elsewhere in the ecosystem (again, we’re talking about months here that you have for planning; this stuff doesn’t happen overnight and suddenly). Think of what you’re getting back vs. what you’re potentially missing out on for a relatively fixed period of time in the life of your company.

          10. Mark

            In a reasonably tight and liquid tech labour market, telling the temp employee to find a different job with their experience shouldn’t be a big problem. Or telling the returning woman to do the same. Problem is, we don’t have anything near a reasonably tight nor liquid tech labour market. Tech jobs are incredibly hard to replace once lost. Fix the labour market, and I think most of these issues will be subject to creative solutions by what is ordinarily a pretty creative industry.

          11. LE

            That’s because everyone in Europe does that, it’s legacy, right? Not like that in the US.What works in another place “tax return on a postcard” is quite different than unraveling a system that has been in place and is legacy.

          12. Ana Milicevic

            I’m sure the current system we have in the US works for some people and that this group has little incentive to change the system. It’s our loss as a country.

          13. Phil Chacko

            If you can offer women the same, you can offer men that for paternity leave. If not, you can’t. (If you’re a 5-6 person company, you can’t.)Every employer is going to be different, but the expectation that the mother bears most of the weight at home does no service to gender equity.

          14. andyswan

            Mothers DO bear most of the weight at home, naturally._____________________________

          15. Phil Chacko

            Only initially. I’ve had male coworkers who spent extended time as stay-at-home dads. Big company, different situation.

          16. andyswan

            OK but still women are much better at it.

          17. Donna Brewington White

            Well, the breastfeeding part for sure.

          18. Anne Libby

            And yet, women are also primary earners in 25% of American families. (I see this with my bschool classmates, and in my own family.)

          19. LE

            I’d have some issue with that.”some issue”? That’s a tame way to put it.

          20. Donna Brewington White

            I’d say that dude was working for the wrong person. 😉

      3. meredithcollinz

        Dickerson considered it a priority for the firm which means he thought it added value rather than cost him money.

        1. andyswan

          I’m fine with whatever ETSY wants to do. I would point out they are a B-corp or whatever so “money” isn’t always his primary concern.My main point is that I would advise anyone to contemplate opportunity cost prior to taking this kind of time off. It could cause serious damage to your career if done often or at the wrong moment.

          1. LE

            B-corp to mean means not bloodthirsty enough. Which is what it takes to survive unless you have some super unique competitive advantage and or big supply of money. It does not appear that way for etsy.This is all as a result of the funny money floating around. It is distorting everything and the way people have done business forever. This is really no different than the pre-housing bust except that it’s not fueled by as many players.

          2. Mark

            ” It could cause serious damage to your career if done often or at the wrong moment.”Leaving an established job in the tech sector unless you have another one lined up and you’re just transferring is basically the kiss of death. Smartest guy I know worked 7 years on some pretty high profile stuff at Apple, jumped to Lytro, got downsized there as the VC money ran out, and wham, it took him 6 months to find something else. And he’s top talent. Imagine the trouble middle-of-the-road or lower-end talent would go through in the same situation! Policy makers need to address the toxicity of the labour situation in the tech sector by eliminating the H-1B, OPT, and L-1 visas.

      4. ShanaC

        been on both for various reasons: I thinking forcing both parents to take leave is good for the kid.

    5. Joe Cardillo

      Agreed. Frankly, it’s probably just a shift in culture / perceptions of gender responsibilities. My brother (a pretty solid dev) was a stay at home dad, as was my brother in law. If I have kids then parental leave becomes a priority for me no matter what I negotiate with my partner. And until then I fully support it as a priority for others.

    6. JimHirshfield

      No resistance from this male.

    7. Cam MacRae

      This isn’t a controversial policy in most of the world; I would take this particular sample with a grain of salt.

    8. Mark

      No resistance from me personally, but the tech sector has basically been given a free ride on these issues because they’ve been allowed to import primarily men from overseas by the hundreds of thousands dramatically in excess of true labour demand on the H-1B visa. So instead of being forced to create accommodative policy for both men and women of childbearing age (and ability) to solve a labour shortage, they simply externalize the problem and tell their employees that they’re lucky to have jobs.

  19. laurie kalmanson

    i had been freelancing and consulting accidentally in the wake of the 2000 internet economy implosion economy in nyc when i was expecting; i am fortunate that my skills made it possible for me to be fully independent, remote and occasionally onsite, while my daughter was an infant. i continued to consult and freelance during her early childhood, after she started pre-school at 2 and into elementary school.and the longer i freelanced, the more i found it impossible and incomprehensible that this country doesn’t offer parental leave for those who have to punch a clock, stand on their feet, and do manual labor while pregnant and while parenting — mothers and fathers — young children. i eventually took a job at a smart technology company, and went into it senior and experienced enough to have flexibility for the random half days and sore throats, and the scheduled teacher conferences, winter breaks, spring breaks, and three month summer break that being a parent entails.related: human leave, for humans who have responsibilities beyond the office.the comments are indicative of why women opt out, why women burn out, why women start their own businesses, and illustrative of how the responsibilities of parental care fall disproportionately on women.i applaud etsy’s actions; i have read, relatedly, that etsy is a leader in reaching out to women developers.

    1. BillMcNeely

      I worked at a Target and I found it reprehensible that supervisors and mgrs were calling a female back to work at week 4 of a 6 week paid maternity leave

      1. laurie kalmanson

        low-wage pregnant women are routinely denied basic accommodations for their health; why would an employer deny a pregnant cashier a stool to sit on, other than pure wickedness?

  20. JimHirshfield

    Family Values, for realz

  21. LE

    At Etsy, CEO Chad Dickerson took nine weeks off when he and his wife adopted their son a few years ago. He’s also been an outspoken supporter of paternity leave.You see that’s at least part of the problem with ETSY right there Fred. Unless you have some kind of monopoly on a product or service you shouldn’t be taking time off in that way unless it’s an emergency. And having a child is a choice and not an emergency when your stock is trading at 1/3 the IPO value (or whatever ETSY stock is that).and share Chad’s belief that what is good for employees and their families is good for business.Directly against old school thinking, which has worked in business for many many years.

    1. fredwilson

      i own a ton of ETSY stock and i don’t agree with you one bit.

      1. LE

        We are disconnected on this type of issue. I think it’s a combination of the different worlds we operate in business wise. As well as perhaps a pay strategy for ETSY that makes sense given how they (and this is important) compensate their employees in other ways. (Unfortunately I don’t know what you know about this).

        1. Jaikant Kumaran

          I like your honesty of confessing your ignorance and yet the way you uphold your right to have an opinion. On the lines of – I disagree with what you say but will defend …

  22. Simone

    I always had this suspicion that men dream to have a son who they meet when he turns 25

    1. JimHirshfield


      1. Simone

        kids are great as long as they are the mother’s concern

        1. JimHirshfield

          Not my opinion. I miss my babies now that they’re older. I played a big part in taking care of them, and am glad and proud that I did. I still play a big role in taking care of them.

          1. Twain Twain

            Ha! I knew at the core of that acerbic wit is a gent.”Well played, sir. Well played,” to borrow JLM.

          2. JimHirshfield


          3. panterosa,

            I ADORED the 0-5, and miss it. Since you were there early, you know it and miss it too. It’s sad how busy and hectic that early time is – both kids and parents miss out.

          4. JimHirshfield

            Time flies

          5. Lawrence Brass

            You will enjoy being a grandfather then, if you are not already. For me, it is the most unexpected gift life has given to me, and I am enjoying it, I take grandparental leave every thursday afternoon to go for a walk, company bylaws.

          6. JimHirshfield

            I know I will. But not rushing it 😉

          7. ShanaC

            thank the lord. Don’t rush it, your kids will thank you for it.

          8. JimHirshfield


          9. ShanaC


    2. RichardF

      Ha that is funny!! and for many possibly true, for me I have an 8 year old and I just want him to stay at this age.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        8 already?How long have we been here?

        1. RichardF

          Hey Donna, I apologise for the late reply, my gmail puts disqus alerts in spam!Its been a while hasn’t it? But as Carl’s passing has proved we are a real community.I hope you and the family are doing well, I see glimpses of them growing up, you must be very proud

    3. Donna Brewington White

      Or at least skip ages 14 – 18. Although I have two teens who are Daddy’s boys.

  23. Ana Milicevic

    I love the flexibility and fairness of this policy. The US is so woefully behind other industrialized countries in parental leave policies that it’s always encouraging to see even the tiniest shift in perception towards an all together more humane work environment. I’ve passed on working with companies that didn’t have well-defined parental policies even though I wouldn’t be taking direct advantage of them (more like an indirect beneficiary of colleagues, especially female, who don’t need to stress as much over whether or not they can balance their kids and their careers).Slightly tangential but excellent party trick: try explaining to a non-US friend that pregnant ladies need to apply for short-term disability to be able to take some advantage of their maternity ‘benefits’.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Americans in rooms with people from other countries find ourselves with lots of party tricks. 🙂

      1. Cam MacRae

        And this is why I will sponsor your application for asylum in November, Donna.

        1. Donna Brewington White


  24. Salt Shaker

    The policy Etsy instituted is gender neutral. It’s interesting that commenters here, both male and female alike, immediately gravitated to gender biases, which is irrelevant to the policy outlined in Fred’s blog. Gender is not relevant in this particular equation. What’s missing however is the impact this policy has on the company’s overall labor pool, w/ respect to productivity, benefits, fairness, etc. Hopefully it’s a non-issue or they would not have implemented.

    1. andyswan

      It’s not gender neutral in terms of reality. Reality is that women will take the most time off (as they should).

      1. Salt Shaker

        If a company has a gender neutral parental leave policy I think many males would nonetheless be uncomfortable implementing that policy, even when entitled. Maybe over time that perception will change, but at this juncture it’s not a level playing field or gen socially acceptable behavior. Of course, acceptability will vary by company and its inherent corporate culture.

      2. ShanaC

        When my brother was born that would have been problematic. He was very ill, my mother had to have massive surgery (more so than the average c-section). I was 3, who was going to take care of me.Both parents and the extended community are in charge of the kids. It is very gender neutral. It is also fair, especially if you don’t know if someone is going to die, or something (and I am not kidding, there were 15ish doctors and residents at my birth for similar reasons to why my brother was so ill at his)

        1. andyswan

          I understand there are exceptions

          1. ShanaC

            My parents were bizarrely lucky they knew in advance that there were going to be risks going in. My brother’s birth was a huge curve ball (and at the time my paternal grandfather and grandmother were both dying as well. My dad was very stressed out…) I honestly would not be surprised if it came out to me that my parents miscarried either before I was born or between my brother and me knowing some other things about my birth.That said, my birth was typical! for my mother’s malformations and issues with fertility. my largest problem at birth was being one of those people born with hair on their heads.statistically, high risk pregnancy doesn’t always equal problems at birth, as many if not more normal pregnancies have issues. at 37 weeks (aka supposedly full term), somewhere between 12-15% of live births in the US will end up in the NICU. That’s a normal, full term, no complications pregnancy.Exceptions are extremely common. If you are already giving exceptions for 10-15% of all people you hire at some point, why not everyone lest you cause tension

    2. Stephen Voris

      It’s relevant to compare it to the historical alternatives of “maternity leave” and “no/minimal parental leave at all”; for obvious biological reasons, the latter makes it harder to hire women, but for business-continuity/productivity reasons the former also makes it harder to hire (childbearing-age) women.This approach shifts (some of) the bias away from gender and towards the unlikely-to-have-more-children.Susan Rubinsky points I think towards an approach that also reduces that anti-childbearing bias: making it more acceptable to bring your kids to work on a daily basis (rather than a “special-occasions” basis). Easier said than done, though, I suspect – how much more soundproofing (for instance) are your offices going to need for crying babies compared to screaming managers*?*If your company has the latter, I, for one, have no intention of working there.

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Exactly. I mentioned the same elsewhere. There ARE families with two male parents. Adoption exists. This isn’t just about giving birth. It’s about the critical first few months of any child’s life after becoming part of a family.

      1. ShanaC

        Even if you are a straight couple, it is still a “so what” We often forget that birth is actually risky because we live with great medicine and antibiotics, but it is still a huge biological process with great risks involved. Especially if there is already High risk in the pregnancy.For both my brother and me, had my father not been working for himself, he would have HAD to take off. We were both extremely high risk pregnancies due to malformations in my mother’s uterus. Someone had to take care of my mother.In my case, my father was thinking of asking a college classmate of his, who was about to retire and go on disability for severe MS but before that was the BEST high risk ob/gyn on the east coast, to fly in for my birth. It turned out I had about 10-15 doctors present because I was born at a teaching hospital and they wanted the residents involved.My Brother, OTOH, didn’t initially end up so lucky. (He’s totally fine now, very healthy except that he dislikes vegetables generally.). Because of the risks going into the pregnancy, both of us had to be scheduled c-sections way before that became a thing. Because of my brother’s positioning and the malformations my mother had, they misjudged his maturity for the scheduled date, and his heart wasn’t as completely formed as it should have been, along with a hernia in the abdomen and clubbed feet?. He ended up in NICU, while my mother was having issues in the surgery from what I very vaguely remember (they wouldn’t allow her home and I was staying at a friends house, until relatives could come stay to live with us to primarily take care of me, I was three!). His heart ended up mostly closing on his own, along with his abdomen, and he was allowed home with funky shoe things.These things still happen today. Are father’s supposed to not take off? Even in regular births, women describe an immense healing process. What does the baby-part have to do with it, beyond the immense privilege of introducing another person to humankind

  25. BillMcNeely

    the lady that does admin support for the co working space PICKUP is at recently had a baby. Part of her time paid, others she has to run out her vacation days ( really?) and THEN she gets short term disability and THEN long term disability. ( Since when is having a baby a disability) The whole time I am thinking WTF. I lived in several other countries and they do better at supporting growing families. It’s part of the natural life cycle.

  26. jason wright

    i assume Etsy looked at the legal requirement for this in all the countries it employs people and set the mark at the country with the most generous provision.Does Etsy employ in Scandinavian countries? i’m guessing it does.There was no choice but to provide equality of provision across all territories. internal divisions are bad for team spirit.

  27. pointsnfigures

    One way companies compete for talent is via benefits Also signals what kind of person they want and kind of culture they have

  28. Phil Chacko

    If improving gender equity is a priority for folks is a priority, I 100% believe equal paternity leave is a critical component to allow men to bear more of the burden at home so women can continue building their careers if they so choose. Big fan of Etsy’s move.

  29. creative group

    Blog Contributors:First companies who are making this change we applaud the move no matter the excuse or how late.One of the many issues involves America’s equity market is based upon capitalism. That means companies misstating it is anything more than branding and it being good for business are selling a stale bill of goods. The issue all involved should be asking why wasn’t this paid leave offered on day one? Public companies are not giving themselves the flexiblity needed to stay profitible and flexible in this ever changing climate.The majority of Etsy’s users and sellers are guess what gender.

  30. Lawrence Brass

    Smart move. Bravo!

  31. Pete Griffiths

    Thank God.

  32. Zane Prickett

    As an American founding a startup in Australia I can say without a doubt parental leave should be a national policy. Here we can continue to build our team from 4 and not worry what our cash flow would be if we offered a parental leave scheme in the early days. Only two nations I know of dont have parental leave schemes Papua New Guniea and the States.

  33. Dan Moore

    I was very lucky to be able to take off substantial amounts of times (for a husband) and proceed back to work slowly (60% time, 80% time) at my previous position, but this was only due to some special circumstances and understanding bosses.While it is obviously much harder on the person having the baby, there’s plenty to do around the house for all parties. My wife didn’t have complicated births, but she was able to spend a few days on bed rest, a week or two not leaving the house, and that really helped her recover quickly. Beyond just bonding with the baby (or helping with the older child) there is plenty for a husband to do.That’s lots of preface to saying–I’d sure treat parental leave as a large factor in any company I was considering joining, and I’m glad Etsy is stepping out and setting a standard like that. (In both senses–saying “what is good for employees and their families is good for business” and putting cash behind it is just as important as the particular instance of this corporate benevolence.)

  34. Mortimer Singer

    I agree when it comes to larger businesses. But what do you think is the right parental leave for small businesses?

    1. Mark

      Working for a “small” business should not be a sacrifice to the employee versus working for a ‘big’ business. So small business should work, amongst themselves (ie: with a collective insurance scheme), to provide a benefits package similar to large business (that can presumably self-insure since they have a large enough workforce).Of course, unless its made compulsory, and unless the labour glut in the STEM sector (and more broadly in the economy) is fixed, there’s probably nothing workable that can be done.

  35. Chimpwithcans

    In South Africa as a new dad at a corporate i got the standard 3 days off….now starting my own company I work from home and can see the little munchkin grow new teeth and learn to crawl. My career would be developing quicker if I ignored her and went to work all day every day at a corporate, but my life would be worse off. This flexibility is a good thing to aspire to. An incredible thing.

    1. Chimpwithcans

      I should add that my wife works very hard to help give us this option too. I think often the woman in the household too quickly accepts the role of helpless caregiver, and the man the role of hard nosed provider – and the 2 don’t actually think about the options available to them. Legacy ways of doing things are not the only ways. Learning this first hand.

  36. Mark

    It would be nice if tech companies actually paid enough, and made hiring easy enough that taking time off, for any reason, not just having kids, would be easier. In the 1990s, I remember, getting a tech job at an appropriate ‘station’ for one’s skills was pretty much just a matter of knocking on some doors. These days, unless your former company is in a position to hire, good freakin’ luck, you’re stuck in some resume queue and competing with the hoardes of H-1B’s. Top grads also have a very hard time finding jobs in the IT sector.

  37. Lauren Brody

    Really appreciate the inside look at the thinking behind the Etsy decision, @fredwilson:disqus . Thank you for sharing. I blogged about your post today and also asked: What about the (mostly female) entrepreneurs that sell on Etsy? Not the company’s responsibility to cover their leaves at all, in my opinion, but society’s. For my upcoming book, I interviewed 100 new parents, and those who were running their own companies or working for themselves had the hardest transitions back to work, or even allowing themselves leave at all. A federal fund would solve so much. Here’s my case for it. http://www.thefifthtrimeste

  38. Sean Hull

    As a long time freelancer my thought is, allow people to take as much time off as they want, but unpaid. This is the way companies pay me, it works great. When I’m working, I get paid, when I’m not I don’t.Some people may not need as much vacation or leave time. Some may need or want more. Never mind the reason. People have different lifestyles, and different purposes for time off.What of the people (single or married) who want to take 12 weeks off to go on sabbatical? There are a myriad of reasons, besides having children, that are valid & legitimate reasons to take leave.A neutral policy supports all of these life directions fairly & equally.

  39. Joe Cardillo

    Filed under “people who are actually walking the walk” – interesting perspectives from a female CEO who just had her second child:

  40. Neima

    Great post and an issue that comes up regularly in discussions with female colleagues. The only way to really attack the gender issues is by equal opportunity for both parents to take care of their children, i.e. parental vs. maternity leave, allowing both parents to have certain days where they leave work early in order to pick up their kids (in Israel, where I live, its common for moms to pick their kids up from school 2-3 times a week).It’s also amazing that Etsy is giving paid leave, something that should be the norm globally.

  41. riemannzeta

    Nice post. I love the work Anne Marie Slaughter is doing in this area. It’s not just parenting that gets undervalued in our culture, it’s caregiving generally.…Baby steps.

  42. Mariah Lichtenstern

    Thought this was a good addition to the discussion (listening to this while preparing for tomorrow’s event on gender parity with the Meera Kaul Foundation:

  43. Julia Hawkins

    I am an investor based in the UK, I am a Kauffman Fellow, I am Swedish and have a 14 month old daughter.I have been following your blog, and this is the one which has made me most angry because 26 weeks parental leave should be a right – for everyone, not just employees who are lucky enough to work for larger Corporates like Etsy.From where I’m sitting, this goes to the heart of the problem with what is wrong with America’s changing political landscape. It is a fact that the first 2 years of a child’s life a critical for a child’s development, and that the child’s experience plays a fundamental role in how the brain develops and lays the foundation for all intellectual and emotional development which follows.If mothers are forced back to work after 4-12 weeks, when they are still breastfeeding, cramping from their uterus contracting, sleep deprived from trying to bond with and make another human being grow – how can you expect these mothers to function at work, and to an even lesser extent at home, putting stress on the child from the very first crucial months.The Nordics are the most advanced in developing family friendly policies, and individuals are happy to pay higher taxes, because they see the benefit for them. Great post about the concept here: http://uk.businessinsider.c… This should not just be a possibility of employees at larger corporates like Etsy, and smaller start-ups should not have to bear the cost of this. Governments should provide, for the benefit of families and businesses. And I am not just talking about maternity leave, I am also talking about paternity leave, and the importance of fathers in their children’s lives, the importance of ‘sharing the load’.I do believe innovative smaller start-ups find a way to retain key talent: one of 3 female co-founders in one my portfolio companies for example, is currently on maternity leave, and the team are finding a way to keep her engaged that works for her in this early stage of her child’s life.The key to success for business and society is to provide excellent work/life balance (including generous maternity AND paternity leave) to ALL employees of companies of ALL sizes. I believe innovative companies and amazing thought leaders like you and your readers can help lead the way in shaping policies that are required for a stronger, healthier, better America.