how to advocate for paid leave

Photo courtesy of Angela Romei

Photo courtesy of Angela Romei

We sat down with Ladies Get Paid member, Angela Romei to learn more about her advocacy work for paid family and medical leave at Panorama,  non-profit action tank working to solve global problems. 


Tell us the story of how you got the job as the Director of the Paid Leave program at Panorama.

This is a testament to the value of networking. And continuing to dream big.

I’ve always worked on solving huge problems at large corporations. I’ve also always looked for ways to make a significant difference in the world. Last fall, I was meeting weekly with a group of friends to network. In one meeting, I shared about my career hopes and dreams. A few weeks later, one of the group members heard about Panorama starting up and led me to this. Panorama wasn’t even official yet, so I took a leap of faith when I reached out. I never thought they would hire me because I don’t have a public policy background. It turns out that’s exactly why they did hire me – they wanted my business background for this role! And they hired me because of my passion.

 

Why are you passionate about this issue?

I’m passionate about paid leave because I’m passionate about equality and 21st century workforce issues. As a female who’s been in the corporate world for more than 20 years, who’s often been the only woman at a table/ meeting/ retreat of all men, I’m motivated to get everyone a seat at the table regardless of gender. I see the same lack of equality across all facets of business. While yes, a mother who gives birth, needs time off for medical reasons, that’s different than parental bonding. Most children have two parents – I believe both parents, regardless of gender, deserve an opportunity to take time to care for a new child. Why? Because that child needs its parents!

But this isn’t only about parental leave.

There are all these workforce realities that the workplace needs to open its eyes to see. While most people can plan for the arrival of a new child, few can plan for their own or a loved one’s medical emergency or illness or when eldercare will be needed.

That’s why we are talking about paid family medical leave – there are additional needs. Society has evolved. The workplace needs to evolve. Innovative, forward thinking businesses who want to attract and retain the best talent and keep employees productive do an excellent job of supporting their people, and paid leave is one way they do so.

Corporations are making more money than they were 20 years ago, they need to reinvest this profit in their people to keep the economy going. Paid leave isn’t just the right thing to do, as nice as that sounds. Paid leave makes business sense. When you have more people in the workforce, as we do today, you need to support the whole person, personally and professionally.

 

What advice can you give to those who want to advocate for better paid family medical leave policies at their companies?

 

1. Check out The Paid Leave Project. We have all the resources you need to build a business case. Collect data. Collect stories. Build a team of employee advocates.
 

2. Show your company what’s in it for them. Few companies will offer this benefit because it’s the “right thing to do”. But any company leader will listen if you have a strong business case with data that will help them make or save money. Check out our presentation on Why paid family leave is good business. Attracting and retaining talent costs money; figure out what it costs if you don’t attract or retain your industry’s best talent. For example, do the cost-benefit analysis and determine the ROI.
 

3. Own your power. Employees have more power than they know. Employees are one of the primary drivers for a company deciding to offer paid leave.

 

How can we get involved in supporting the paid leave movement?
 

Speaking and listening.

Ladies Get Paid can give me opportunities to learn from large employers who do and don’t offer paid leave, so I can share that information with other companies looking to learn more. And LGP can help by giving me an opportunity to share our comprehensive playbook that guides employers considering offering paid leave anywhere they are along the adoption lifecycle from concept to implementation.
 

Our mission is to help women advocate for themselves at work. In reflecting on your own career, what are three things you've learned that can empower others?
 

1. Ask for what you need personally to be successful professionally.

2. Ask smart questions. Ask the question nobody else is asking. It shows others how you think. I guarantee if you’re curious, others are too.

3. Volunteer for visible projects. I’ve created roles that didn’t exist by not just telling people what I can do, but by showing them. I once used the holiday break in December to create an acquisition change management strategy, experience I had that nobody else did, and that opened a door to an entirely new role for me at the company.


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ActivismClaire Wasserman