Levi Strauss marks the next phase in corporate paid leave policies

February 27, 2020, 1:35 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Maria Sharapova retires, Mulan faces challenges releasing in China, and Levi Strauss introduces a new paid leave policy. Have a lovely Thursday. 

– Levi’s paid leave. For years, The Broadsheet has covered the U.S.’s woeful lack of paid family leave, which, of course, remains the case today. But over the same period another storyline has emerged, that of corporations stepping in to provide what the government does not.

Initially, it was an arms race among white collar, progressive employers that one-upped each other in offering gold-plated parental leave policies. But that trend had dark side since it reinforced the phenomenon in which access to such benefits fell starkly along income lines. Well-off salaried staffers received the benefits, while hourly employees were left out. Netflix’s year-long parental leave, you’ll remember, created an especially egregious example of such a workplace divide: it applied to salaried employees in its Internet video service and exempted hourly employees in its DVD distribution unit.

The next wave of new policies seemed to acknowledge the problem of haves and have-nots, as companies like Ikea and Hilton introduced benefits that treated hourly workers and salaried employees identically.

That leads us to today. Emma has the exclusive story on Levi Strauss’s new policy that gives eight weeks of paid family leave—not just parental leave—to all corporate employees and retail workers. Reports Emma:

The benefit is industry-leading for retail, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, which worked with the company to develop the policy. “Folks who are employed in retail are unlikely to have basic benefits, let alone paid family and medical leave,” says National Partnership president Debra Ness. “The retail industry tends to lag behind other industries.”

Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh told Emma the company was motivated to introduce the benefit after hearing from employees who are part of the “sandwich generation”—those in midlife caring for both young children and aging parents.

Bergh says he struggled himself to balance his own family needs when his wife’s parents got sick, and he’s arguably as well-positioned as any to cope. He told Emma: “I’m a CEO—I’ve got a massive support system around me. And it was challenging to juggle it all.”

All things considered, the corporate trend on paid leave remains encouraging, even as U.S. action on the matter remains—at best—frustratingly slow.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Game, set, match. Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova is retiring from tennis at 32. For 11 years, Sharapova was the highest-paid women's athlete and her estimated career earnings total $325 million, according to Forbes. She's struggled in recent years to come back from injuries and a suspension for using a banned substance. Today, she's the second-highest paid female athlete—behind Serena Williams. Sharapova wrote about her decision to retire in Vogue

- Let's get down to business. Disney's $200 million live-action Mulan is set to release next month; the plan was to open in China on the same day as the rest of the world, but the country's movie theaters have been shut down for weeks as coronavirus spreads. Star Liu Yifei is originally from Wuhan; "I'm really hoping for a miracle and that this will just be over soon," she says. Director Niki Caro also discusses what's at stake as she joins the handful of women to have directed big-budget films that cost more than $100 million. The Hollywood Reporter

- Winging it. The Wing co-founder and CEO Audrey Gelman writes about the challenges the co-working company has faced behind the scenes throughout its three years of rapid growth. The company prioritized business growth over cultural growth and made missteps in building an inclusive culture for employees and members, Gelman says. Fast Company

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Erika H. James, dean of the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, will be the first female and first black dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. LendingClub hired Annie Armstrong, former global head of financial risk for Uber, as chief risk officer. Pamela Thomas-Graham joins the Compass board of directors. WeWork hired AT&T president, Northern region Marissa Shorenstein as chief communications officer. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- On the front lines. The female health workers helping to fight the coronavirus outbreak in China are dealing with extraordinarily difficult circumstances, from wearing the same sweat-soaked clothes to being required to shave their heads. They're also having trouble accessing pads and tampons, and male superiors at one hospital in Hubei Province told nurse Zhang Wendan and her colleagues that they "lacked the spirit of devotion" when they asked for help. Only supplies approved by authorities enter quarantined cities; a volunteer organization finally sent the workers adult diapers to wear while menstruating. New York Times

- Punishment gap. Women in prison receive harsher punishments than men for minor violations of prison rules—like being "insolent," disobeying an order, or swearing—according to a new report from the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Black women get the harshest punishment, making up 23% of women in prison but 40% of women in solitary confinement. NPR

- Frequent fliers. Indian-American women and brides marrying into Indian families often travel to India before their weddings to find lehengas, or their bridal outfits. The New York Times' Sapna Maheshwari chronicles her own whirlwind trip, and the trend of Indian designers opening outposts stateside. Designer Anita Dongre has a store in New York's Soho, where lehengas run between $5,000 and $7,000—but customers are often factoring into the price the alternative cost of a shopping trip to India for the whole family. New York Times

ON MY RADAR

Katie Hill, who quit Congress amid ethics inquiry, will publish memoir New York Times

Replaying my shame The Cut

TV has a new kind of heroine: The Latina genius LA Times

The diet industrial complex got me, and it will never let me go New York Times

PARTING WORDS

"It was like the stock market. You’re on the phone, you’re selling, and then you put down the phone and you’re like, ‘I f***ing closed it!’ It was magical."

-Glowbar CEO and former Birchbox employee Rachel Liverman on the exhilaration of signing beauty brands in the early days of the startup. Marie Claire profiles the group of female founders who have come out of the company. 

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