Today I spoke at a committee hearing in Washington D.C. with the National Partnership for Women and Families to advocate for a national paid leave law; the U.S. is the only industrialized country without one. Following is what I had to say--as a business owner and a mother of two. Congratulations to the National Partnership on the 25th anniversary of the Family Leave Act and thank you for continuously moving this important issue forward.
Beth Monaghan Capitol Hill Statement
Good morning. My name is Beth Monaghan. I’m the CEO of InkHouse, a bi-coastal PR firm with 100 employees. I’m also the vice chair of The Alliance for Business Leadership, a group of business leaders that’s working hard to pass a paid leave bill in Massachusetts.
We know that paid leave is good for families. But accounting practices make it harder to see how it’s good for business. Employee retention doesn’t show up on the P&L. But when we dig deeper the benefits are clear: it costs 150 percent of someone’s salary to replace them, and paid leave improves retention.
Another reason to offer paid leave is workplace bias. Women still bear the burden of care, which matters to me because I am a CEO in an industry that’s 70 percent female. I offer paid leave because I need a workplace for the people who work there, not one handed down from the Mad Men era when men worked and women cooked.
Paid leave is not easy to offer though. It’s expensive. I offer 12 weeks of parental leave at full pay and disability only up to 8 of those at 60 percent. Now, there’s a new paid leave tax credit, but we did the math.
For an employee earning 40 grand a year, InkHouse pays $6,812 out of pocket, and gets back $852. That’s kind of like the annual tax-free holiday we have in Massachusetts. The discount is too small for me to run out and buy a couch unless I was already planning on it.
The other hard truth is that leave is inconvenient. I hired a woman who got pregnant a month later and had to go on bed rest for her whole pregnancy. Another adopted a baby, took leave and then came back only for her father to get sick. Today, these two women run practice areas at InkHouse. I stuck with them, and they stuck with me.
But I’m not normal. We need a federal standard because we can’t rely on the good intentions of a small group of progressive employers. It’s time to stop separating what’s good for humanity from what’s good for business.
Beth is the CEO of InkHouse, which she co-founded in 2007, and has grown into one of the fastest-growing PR firms in the nation with 100+ employees and four offices. Named one of the “Top Women in PR” by PR News, Beth is working to reinvent the PR agency model to bend it toward the kind of culture that catapults great ideas and jettisons the rules that no longer work. At InkHouse, Beth focuses on inventing and implementing the new strategies that shape the agency’s work. In addition to changing the PR profession, Beth is working to change workplace culture as an advocate for equal opportunities. A frequent contributor to Forbes and Fortune, she is widely cited in outlets ranging from NPR, to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Bloomberg and The Boston Globe. Beth was an appointee to Governor Patrick’s Women in the Workplace Task Force, and currently serves on two boards of directors as vice chair for the Alliance for Business Leadership and the vice president of the Massachusetts Women’s Forum. Beth spent six years learning the ropes in startup technology PR at Schwartz Communications and then moved on to venture capital firm Charles River Ventures before she went to The Castle Group, a generalist PR firm, for which she was a vice president. She studied PR, creative writing and journalism at Syracuse University and graduated from its SI Newhouse School of Public Communications.