There are a few ways to increase the number of women working at tech companies. Intel is offering referral bonuses, for example, while other firms are trying more inclusive hiring policies. However, many companies don't do much to accommodate parenthood -- how are you supposed to feel welcome when you might have to take unpaid time off (or worse, quit) just to raise your newborn child? Microsoft and Netflix are clearly aware of that problem, though, as they're boosting the level of paid parental leave offered to both mothers and fathers.
As of November 1st, Microsoft will up the amount of paid parental leave from 8 weeks to 12, with mothers getting both an additional 8 weeks after birth as well as more opportunities to use short-term disability benefits near their due dates. You can split that 12-week period into two, and return to work on a "half-time" basis if you're not yet ready to jump in with both feet. Netflix, meanwhile, is promising "unlimited" parental leave in the first year after birth or an adoption. You can not only take off as much time as you need, but dictate your schedule. Want a brief stint of full-time work, or a few months part-time? You're set.
It's too soon to tell how well these measures will help an industry where women face numerous other challenges, such as an educational culture that tends to discourage women engineers. With that said, the moves should help mitigate (and sometimes eliminate) the child-or-career dilemma that frequently crops up in the tech world, where the relentless pace and frequent overtime can make it very hard to have a family life. This doesn't do much to create time for your kid later on, but it at least gives you a chance to settle in to your parental role before making big decisions about your working hours.
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