“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties,” she declared. “They should be the norm.”
The eldest Trump daughter, 34, has built her personal brand around this cause, penning a book called “Women Who Work” and leading the family-friendly policy charge on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Her own company, the Ivanka Trump brand -- a 12-employee business pitched as "the ultimate destination for Women Who Work" -- said it offers eight weeks of paid leave to new mothers and flexible work hours for parents.
But the contractor that designs her clothing line, including the $157 sheath she wore during her convention speech, does not offer workers a single day of paid maternity leave. Trump does not have managerial control over G-III and there is no public evidence that she advocated for paid maternity leave at that firm. Through a spokeswoman, Trump declined to comment for this story.
As Trump delivered her prime-time speech, a fashion designer for the G-III Apparel Group watched from her home in New York City and rolled her eyes. The employee of nearly four years, a registered Republican who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job, said she became pregnant last year and was dismayed to learn the company allows just 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the legal minimum for employers with more than 50 workers. So, she burned her vacation days, drained her savings and then relied on her husband’s income after giving birth to her son.
“It’s hard enough emotionally to come back to work right after having a baby,” said the designer, who works for another brand at G-III. “But to know you’re returning to a company that doesn’t value your choice to be a mother makes it harder.”
Through a spokeswoman, Trump declined to comment for this story. A representative for her own company, the Ivanka Trump brand — a 12-employee business pitched as “the ultimate destination for Women Who Work” — noted that her company offers eight weeks of paid leave to new mothers. The company also offers flexible work hours for parents.
Trump signed a licensing agreement with G-III in 2012, granting the company rights to design and distribute her clothing line, including dresses, suits and jeans. (Marc Fisher Footwear produces her shoe line.)
At the time, she released a statement saying, “G-III has distinguished itself as a trusted partner for some of the world’s finest and most visible brands. We are confident that they share our vision for the future of our brand and business and look forward to a long and successful partnership.”
In July, Sammy Aaron, vice chairman of G-III, told Forbes that Trump is “very involved on a weekly basis” in the design process. Yet, the company’s policy breaks from Trump’s public stance on how businesses should support working moms.
G-III did not respond to The Washington Post’s repeated requests for comment. However, five past and current employees separately told The Post the company has no paid parental leave. One provided a document that she identified as G-III’s employee benefits. “Family MEDICAL Leave,” the document states, becomes available “after 1 year of employment. Up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (in accordance with Federal and State laws).”
"I think parental leave is enormously important — and it’s a personal decision," Trump told Business Insider in March. "Part of building a company whose goal is to empower women in all aspects of life is that I’ve given my team some leeway to determine what parental leave looks like for each of them individually."
Ivanka Trump: A life in the spotlight
Trump announced the partnership with G-III after cutting ties with the financially struggling HMX Group, which launched her collection in stores in 2012. The mid-priced apparel sells at Macy’s, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor and other department stores.
Ivanka Trump clothing generated roughly $100 million in revenue last fiscal year, G-III reports show. The company — which also partners with Calvin Klein, Jessica Simpson and Tommy Hilfiger, among more than 15 other brands — recorded $2.3 billion in net sales this fiscal year. The Ivanka Trump contract is up for renewal in 2018.
When two businesses ink a brand licensing agreement, employee benefits aren’t normally part of the discussion. Trump, however, has dedicated her advocacy to what has since become her signature hashtag: #WomenWhoWork.
“It’s a celebration of women working at all aspects of their lives,” she elaborates on her website. “Women who transition between their various roles in professional and personal capacities: building careers, raising children, nurturing relationships and pursuing passions.”
She paints herself as someone deeply involved in all of her professional undertakings — while raising three children.
“Me and my peers, we’re working really hard at being moms and sisters and professionals,” Trump told Vogue last year. “There was a previous generation of women who rose through the ranks in an environment when work and life were highly compartmentalized. And I think now, because of technology, we’re always on. Where there used to be work life and home life, now it’s one life. And I think a lot of companies don’t recognize that.”
Her message starkly contrasts with past words of her father, who has blamed his wives’ careers for troubles in his previous marriages. In 1994, Donald Trump told ABC News, “I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.”
There is no reference to a paid family leave policy on his campaign website. When asked for his position during a Fox News Business interview in October, Trump said, “It’s something that’s being discussed, I think we have to keep our country very competitive, so you have to be careful of it.”
The Trump Organization did not respond to questions about how much parental leave it offers employees.
Ivanka Trump, who is executive vice president of development and acquisitions at her father’s company, told the New York Times that she took off eight days following the 2011 birth of her first child, Arabella.
“The nature of the projects I was working on required me to have a hyper-abbreviated maternity leave,” she told the newspaper. “Yes, there are times when I look back and wish that had not been the case. But it’s life, and it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
In the United States, employers aren’t required to keep paying workers who pause duties after giving birth. Still, G-III’s lack of benefits separates it from many firms of comparable size. About 58 percent of American companies with 1,000 or more employees fund maternity leave at full or partial compensation, according to a 2014 Labor Department study. G-III has more than 7,600 employees, according to company documents.
Companies that provide the benefit say it helps attract and retain talent. After Google expanded its paid maternity leave in 2007, for example, the rate at which new mothers quit fell by roughly 50 percent.
Sandra Sucher, a Harvard Business School professor with a focus on ethics, noted that today’s retail world is increasingly transparent. Anyone with an Internet connection can investigate corporate policies (“Maternity leave is unpaid,” one Glassdoor.com user wrote on G-III’s page last month). And business practices perceived as immoral or unfair can impact the bottom line. Nike sales, for instance, dropped in the ’90s after an activist revealed Indonesian workers who made the products earned less than a dollar per hour.
Last month, British newspaper The Independent revealed most of the Ivanka Trump brand’s clothing was manufactured in Vietnam and China. Donald Trump, whose apparel also is largely made overseas, has made decrying outsourced jobs central to his campaign.
“Business executives who are serious about their values actually know their partners,” Sucher said. “They know how they manage themselves and their business. They say, ‘This is what I believe in and stand for and, because of that, this is how you can expect to be treated.'”
Brand consultants said the fact that Trump's business partnership contradicts her platform, even indirectly, could hurt her reputation. Voters could have more trouble buying what she’s ideologically selling.
“Who she chooses as a manufacturing partner is telling," said Karen Leland, president of the Sterling Marketing Group in San Francisco and author of “The Brand Mapping Strategy.” “Her business practices aren’t consistent with her advocacy.”
Trump speaks often about harnessing the power of her family name. “The nice thing about the things I’m involved in is that they’re all complementary,” she told the New York Times in 2013. “We’re a family company. We’re a family brand. For me, at the ribbon-cutting of a hotel that I’ve been working on in Beijing for five years, wearing Ivanka Trump — that’s an image you can’t fake create.”
In her 2010 book “The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life,” she asserted, “Create a strong and consistent identity — your name and reputation are your best assets.”
Last year, Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising at Nordstrom, an Ivanka Trump retailer, told Vogue that Trump doesn’t just stick her name on a product and walk away. “She said, ‘I’m serious about this; I’m not just a name, licensing a product without any involvement.’ ”
Aides say she also advises her father on issues such as childcare, reciting input from policy wonks beyond the political realm. On the campaign trail, she advocates for #WomenWhoWork.
“Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out,” she said at the convention of her father's employment practices. “As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce.”
The next day, her Twitter account posted: “Shop Ivanka's look from her #RNC speech.”
More from Wonkblog: