The “Interstellar” actress spoke at the United Nations on International Women’s Day
Anne Hathaway wants America to Get Smarter about parental leave.
The “Interstellar” actress gave the keynote address Wednesday at a UN Women event commemorating International Women’s Day, urging U.S. lawmakers to adopt more generous maternity leave policies and create provisions for fathers. “I see the connection between persisting barriers to women’s full equality and empowerment, and the need to redefine and…destigmatize men’s role as caregivers,” said Hathaway.“To liberate women, we need to liberate men.”
The issue is personal for Hathaway, who gave birth to a son almost a year ago. The paucity of parental leave “landed differently for me when, one week after my son’s birth I could barely walk…when I was dependent on my husband for most things,” said Hathaway, who wore a red lip and a custom crimson dress from Japanese designer ADEAM in a shout-out to the “Day Without a Woman” strike.
The actress, who has a reported net worth of $35 million, acknowledges that her wealth shields her from the realities less privileged parents face. “One in four American women go back to work two weeks after giving birth because they can’t afford to take any more time off than that,” she said. There is no federal mandate for paid parental leave in America, though many parents are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to look after a newborn.
Hathaway, a UN Women goodwill ambassador, also notes that even in companies with generous leave policies, ambitious women feel pressure to get back to work quickly. Nearly two thirds of parents who are full-time employees don’t even bother to take parental leave. “Women who can afford to take the full 12 weeks often don’t because it will mean incurring a “motherhood penalty,” meaning they will be perceived as less dedicated to their job,” she said, recalling how her mother had to choose between a career and raising her children.
There is evidence that suggests that generous parental leave not only benefits young families, but also results in more productive employees. A 2014 survey published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis concluded that mothers were more productive at work than childless women, while fathers with two kids were more productive than those without.
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