There’s a story of an American tourist visiting Stockholm. After an afternoon walking around the Swedish capital she turns to her Swedish host and asks:
- Hey, what’s up with all the gay nannies!
NO, this story is probably not true.
But YES the sight of a lot of DADS pushing buggies in broad daylight in Scandinavia can seem exotic to foreigners.
I am bringing this up because it seems like The United States is at risk of remaining one of the only countries on the planet that does not offer paid leave to people who have just had babies. If so, mothers recovering from childbirth (personally I lost half the blood in my body the first time I had a biological child) will have to keep choosing between quitting their jobs or going back to work leaving their infant at home.
This doesn’t exactly sound like “family values” to me, but hey I’m European!
Sweden, where I’m from, gives new parents 240 days off work between them and at least 90 of these days need to be used by the father. It’s all very civilised and the system pays for itself because when you offer women the opportunity to combine work and family you’ll also get higher female employment levels, which leads to increased tax revenues.
BUT there’s another lesson from Scandinavia that I think the world needs to hear. When it comes to everything else, having amazing parental leave and affordable childcare in place DOES NOT TRANSLATE INTO GENDER EQUALITY.
According to a recent report by the Swedish/German thinktank Allbright, when it comes to women in senior management the UK (and the US) is actually doing better than Sweden
The Nordic countries do NOT have the smallest gender pay gap in Europe.
When it comes to investment in female founders the US is doing better than the oh so hyped startup city of Stockholm. Sweden might not have VCs who openly say that “any man in an important job who takes parental leave is a loser”, BUT the nice Swedish VCs somehow end up investing even less in women….
So yes, getting men to push buggies in broad daylight is great.
But it doesn’t solve everything else.
The lower status of women in society goes a lot deeper than the very real (economic) problem of who should look after the children.
Ps. I have some fun news from Canada. My book Mother of Invention has been chosen by Indigo (the biggest book retailer in Canada) as one of their top 10 business books of 2021!