Tech Companies, Innovation and the Future of Working Parents

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Major tech companies like LinkedIn, Facebook and Change.org aren’t just leading the digital revolution. They’re trying to change the modern work place with progressive parenting policies.

Mike Rothman, the co-founder and CEO of Fatherly.com (@MJRawth) led a Dad 2.0 Summit panel Saturday on tech companies helping dads be more present in their children’s lives. It starts in the work place where companies are starting to offer more equal treatment of parents when it comes to paid leave policies.

Speakers from the aforementioned companies shared how their policies help employee parents and why those decisions impact more than just the bottom line.

Dad 2.0 Summit co-founder Doug French introduced the panel, declaring the ensuing conversation would reverberate far beyond the ballroom’s walls.

“These are innovators … these are people who will ultimately make the innovation the norm. You will have heard about it here first,” French said.

Nina McQueen, global head of benefits at LinkedIn, says the culture is caught between the present and the past. McQueen says fathers sometimes take but a fraction of the lave time allotted to them.

“It’s changing dramatically over the past five years, but we have a long way to go,” she says.

Tech giants are helping leading the way, but it’s a slow process.

“Now you’re seeing 50 percent of the high tech employers offering paid leave,” she says. “We should really be seeing a lot more companies doing this.”

Kevin McSpadden, director of marketing at Facebook, says his company has unrolled “unconscious bias training” to help create an equal opportunity work place. That lets workers take a more proactive role in creating more balance in real time, he says.

Few companies, though, have policies that help parents be plugged into their children’s school programs, McSpadden laments.

“It is super hard to be a participating parent when your kids are in school and you’re working,” he says. “Schools cater to the old model … the stay at home parents.”

Tim Catlin, VP of engineering at Change.org, says some of the required change has to happen at the top.

“As leaders we don’t always practice what we preach,” Catlin says, admitting he once rushed back to work after the birth of his child.

“My wife would crucify me if I didn’t admit I did the wrong thing,” Catlin adds. More executives should take the lead and openly embrace parental time outs.

Some will argue that increasing parental rights policies will negatively impact the company’s bottom.

Catlin has a direct answer to that concern.

“It’s much more about, it’s the right thing to do,” he says.

Julian Redwood of fullfrontalfatherhood.com asked about the current need to throw out 40-hour work weeks and simply work as much as possible.

“We’ve lost it. Is there any chance to get it back?” Redwood asked.

“I’m not convinced you change this en masse. You change this in small ways and build on that,” Catlin says.

So what happens next?

The panelists addressed the next 10 years with a note of cautious optimism.

McSpadden predicts more equality in the workplace “purely on the grounds of competition,” while Catlin says the home/work separation will continue to blur.

“We have to figure out how to carve out more time in an intentional way that allows us to be present with our families … the technology will force that issue,” Catlin says.

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Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist and film critic who covers entertainment at HollywoodInToto.com and fatherhood at Daddylibrium.com. Follow him on Twitter at @daddylibrium.