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America, take note A European company is making life easier for new moms

Friday was a big day for women around the world — and I admittedly missed the memo.So I give my male colleagues and mentors a lot of credit for sending me emails to let me know.

I mean, it’s not every day that a guy will stop lifting weights at the gym to send an email about European gender quotas for the boardroom. Or that a busy father of five would be so psyched about a new maternity leave policy.

How’s that for #HeForShe?

So now that NJBIZ has stated (for the umpteenth time) that we believe in including men in on the conversations regarding women in the workplace…

Here’s what happened:

Abroad, Germany became the latest country to pass a law requiring its largest companies to give 30 percent of supervisory seats to women next year.

It joins Norway, Spain, France and Iceland (40 percent); Italy (33 percent); Belgium and the Netherlands (30 percent) in providing younger generations with more mentors and examples of female executive leadership than ever.

Click here to read more about women Breaking Glass

And in a country with just 18.6 percent of female supervisory board members (or directors) at the 100 biggest German companies, this was a huge leap forward.

Domestically (where U.S. women currently only hold 17 percent of board seats), the global telecommunications company Vodafone Group announced that by the end of this year, its 30 companies around the globe will offer 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, and — this is even better — the opportunity for new mothers to work for just 30 hours a week while continuing to earn full-time salaries within the first six months after returning from maternity leave.

There is no question that this will help women at the company return to work a lot less stressed without having to worry about cutting back pay or stalling their careers.

Previously, women who worked at Vodafone received a traditional maternity leave benefit popular in the U.S. — 60 percent of their pay for 12 weeks, with any reduction of hours to be reflected in their pay.

But 65 percent of women who opted to leave Vodafone following maternity leave did so within the first year.

So what spurred the change of policy? Europe. Again.

After studying maternity leave policies in Italy, Romania and Portugal, Vodafone decided to say, “When in Rome,” and commit to improving its recruitment and retention of female employees.

Now if only the rest of the U.S. would look to Europe for work-life balance fixes — perhaps Parisian 30-day vacation policies aren’t so far-fetched, after all!


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