Lots of folks are talking about the maternity leave decision by Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer, who is pregnant with twins. In her own words, Mayer said she was taking “limited time away and working throughout.”
The Mayer maternity debate centers on two issues: When top executives don’t take extended time off to care for newborns, does it set a precedent for lower-level workers? And when will we as a country truly support better and paid family leave policies?
Let’s start with the first question. The Washington Post’s Andrea Peterson wrote this week: “It’s hard not wonder if Mayer’s quickness to come back to work could make some female employees think twice about taking their full maternity time, lest they appear less than dedicated.”
As to the question of parents who have no choice but to return to work sooner than they would like. In a commentary for CNBC, Ellen Bravo, executive director for Family Values @ Work, wrote: “Even as I wish Mayer and her family the best, my heart is with all the other mothers in this country who also went back to work within two or three weeks — most of them not by choice. According to data analyzed from a Department of Labor survey by Abt Associates, an astounding 1 in 4 women in the U.S. return to work in that period of time — with disastrous consequences for their own health, breastfeeding and the well-being of their infants.”
Bravo adds: “Half of the nation’s pregnant workers, in fact, receive no pay whatsoever after giving birth. Many who do are using saved-up sick days and vacation.
“Having a baby is a great joy, but it’s no vacation — especially if it throws a family into financial chaos.”
Color of Money Question of the Week
Where do you stand on the issues of the pressure to return to work for both mothers and fathers and the lack of leave for workers who would take it if they had it? You can send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your full name, city and state. In the subject line, put “Lean Right Back In.”
Live Chat Today
Join me at noon (ET) for a live discussion about your money. Here’s the link to join the conversation.
And following the chat, I’ll be live streaming on Periscope. I’ll recap some of the best questions from the discussion and take some new ones from Periscope users. So if you haven’t signed up, please do, and follow me @MichelleSingletary.
College Tuition Insurance
Worried your kid won’t finish college?
Well, there’s insurance that will cover tuition and some other education expenses if your child has to drop out, reports The Post’s Danielle Douglas-Gabriel.
Douglas-Gabriel profiled a parent who paid $146.43 to purchase a one-semester insurance policy that would reimburse her for tuition and housing costs if her child became ill, injured or died. She would get up to 80 percent if the student left school because of a mental health condition.
I’m extremely skeptical of such policies, which, I’m sure doesn’t surprise you, come with a lot of caveats.
As Douglas-Gabriel points out: “Policies often exclude preexisting conditions and will not pay out in cases of self-inflicted injury, drug use or expulsion. And while insurers generally offer full reimbursement for medical withdrawal, most only provide a partial refund for mental health-related withdrawals.”
Tracking Your Teen
Would you buy an app that would help you track whether your child was going to his or her college classes?
It’ll cost you $199 for the Class 120 app to be sure your child is in class, according to Dan Griffin and Katherine Russell. Griffin is a clinical psychologist specializing in families of adolescents and Russell is associate dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland.
“Attendance is a great predictor of college grades, even more so than scores on standardized admissions tests,” Griffin and Russell write in a commentary for PostEverything. “If grades are good predictors of graduation, and if a parent is paying for college, isn’t it a great idea for parents to track whether their young adults are in class?”
Nope, it’s a bad parental practice, the two conclude.
“By the time a student packs up for the first year of college, parental wake-up calls and day-to-day tracking of classroom attendance and homework completion should be a thing of the past,” they write.
My children don’t have to be concerned I will be tracking them.
I was stopped cold at $199.
Ashley Madison Hack Aftermath
Some U.S. federal employees used their government networks to access and pay membership fees to the spouse-cheating Web site Ashley Madison, the Associated Press reported. Among the workers found to have used the site were “at least two assistant U.S. attorneys; an information technology administrator in the Executive Office of the President; a division chief, an investigator and a trial attorney in the Justice Department; a government hacker at the Homeland Security Department and another DHS employee who indicated he worked on a U.S. counterterrorism response team,” AP found.
One Justice Department investigator told AP: “I was doing some things I shouldn’t have been doing. I’ve worked too hard all my life to be a victim of blackmail.”
So for last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: Should federal employees lose their jobs for using Ashley Madison accounts on federal computers?
Here’s what some of you had to say:
“Of course they should be reprimanded in a way consistent with the policies of the company!” wrote Joan B of Medina, Ohio. “Anyone who uses the employer’s equipment on the employer’s time for personal business is stealing. I hope that’s still a punishable offense in the workplace.”
Kimberly Rotter of San Diego had some choice words for the Justice Department worker: “The only way blackmail can be successful is if you’re doing something very, very wrong. Sorry, bud, but the fault lies squarely with you. Have some integrity if you don’t want the consequences.”
Ann Eleanor of Greenville, N.C., wrote: “No, I don’t think they should be fired. I think they should be given extreme ethics training and then made to do the annual training.”
“Federal employees should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to see if termination (or downgrade of responsibilities) is warranted depending on their clearance,” wrote Jenny Lee of Jersey City, N.J. “That said, private companies set up firewalls to prevent access to sites deemed ‘non-essential’ to job. Access to restricted sites requires permission. Perhaps the government should adopt this format.”
“When I worked for a defense contractor we had it drilled into us that using company equipment for personal business should be limited and nothing done with that equipment should be considered private,” wrote Gary Johnson of Minneapolis. “Any inappropriate use was punishable by actions up to and including termination, depending on the nature and extent of the violation. I don’t think federal employees should be treated any differently. The extent to which they are punished should be proportionate to the extent that they used federal computers for accessing Ashley Madison accounts and the extent that those actions placed any security clearances they may have had at risk.”
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to washingtonpost.com/business.