The news came to him in a work email. “Sixteen weeks, that’s a lot of time,” he says.
Brett Feldman, a manager in the transaction advisory group with global consultancy EY, was an expectant father when he realized that he was able to take advantage of a still-rare benefit: Extended, paid paternity leave. He still marvels at the time he had with newborn daughter Ariella, who is about to turn 13 months. “Every day is a miracle, every day is memorable as well,” he tells Fortune.
Feldman and baby Ariella are the stars of the first in a new series of poignant videos designed to highlight how a variety of EY employees are faring inside and outside of work.
EY is part of a growing number of companies that are targeting their inclusion efforts on “belonging.” Karyn Twaronite, EY’s global diversity and inclusiveness officer, says via e-mail that its part of their long-term plan to “increase focus on fostering an environment where all people can truly develop and thrive professionally and personally.” Last year, a group of senior leaders meeting as EY’s Americas Inclusiveness Advisory Council (IAC) decided to let employees inspire each other by opening up about their lives in short form. “Belonging is an experience and we wanted our people to describe it in their own words,” she says.
But the debut of Feldman’s story, which coincided with Father’s Day this year, is also an opportunity to talk about equality thinking as it relates to parenting.
EY equalized their parental leave policy in 2016 to include both parents. (Benefits also include same-sex couples, non-married committed partners, and anyone having children through adoption and surrogacy.) Today, the average number of days off taken by new fathers at the company has increased from 15 to almost 40. This year, some 200 dads are on track to take the full sixteen weeks – twice the number from 2017. “We are pleased that our dads are doubling down on daddy duty,” says Twaronite.
That attitude remains rare, as this Esquire report on the experience of leave-taking men makes clear.
Now that Feldman’s back at work, he’s been eager to support other fathers. He was the only man on a recent parenting panel sponsored by an internal women’s networking group and agreed to stay in touch with the five expectant fathers who showed up. (All networking groups are open to all employees.) Feldman is also considering creating an internal listserv to help others dads work through some of the unique challenges of parenting a newborn. “There’s still a real stigma,” he says.
Here’s one thing that Feldman hadn’t been prepared for: In a world of mommy-and-me bonding classes, it can still be challenging being the outlier dad. “The expectation is that it’s always going to be the mother or grandmother that comes to these things,” he says. “It’s hard to break into the clique.” One of the rare times he ran into another man at a library event, it turned out to be another EY dad. “That was really cool.”
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