Why Those Headlines About Ivanka Trump's Maternity Leave Policies Are Bullshit

Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP/REX/Shutterstock.
On Monday, The Washington Post published a story with the headline “Ivanka Trump Champions Working Moms — Except Those Who Design Her Clothes.” The story explained how G-III, the second-party licensing company that designs, manufactures, and markets Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, doesn’t provide paid maternity leave for its employees. Post writer Danielle Paquette is quick to jump on this hypocrisy — Ivanka, after all, spoke very passionately at the Republican National Convention about the need for women to have access to paid maternity leave. In that speech, she went so far as to promise that her father, should he be elected, would provide working mothers with policies that would allow them to thrive. Paquette asks (not unreasonably): If Ivanka really believed this, why doesn't she provide her own employees with paid leave?

But here’s the thing: Ivanka Trump does provide the employees of her eponymous company with paid maternity leave. According to representatives of the brand, new mothers get eight weeks off, plus unlimited vacation and flexible work schedules. It's the employees at G-III — people Ivanka isn't responsible for hiring — who are screwed. The apparel company only follows the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires it to provide men and women with 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year. One woman whom Paquette interviewed, a registered Republican who asked to remain anonymous for fear she might lose her job, explained how she had to use vacation days, drain her savings account, and rely on her husband’s income in order to take time off after the birth of her son.

That is fucking unacceptable, but it's sure as hell not Ivanka’s fault. She’s one of a number of high-profile designers who work with G-III. Why isn’t Paquette calling out Calvin Klein or Kenneth Cole or Donna Karan? All three have expressed their political leanings at one time or another and are influential public figures with platforms for change. But how many of them were even aware of G-III’s family-leave policies? Do you think when these business people sit down and negotiate their contracts with G-III, they ask about the company’s employee benefits? I somehow doubt it.

In truth, you can’t even really blame G-III. The apparel company is complying with U.S. law, and the stories these women share, while upsetting, don’t suggest they’ve faced pregnancy discrimination. Not having access to paid leave is terrible, but, unfortunately, it’s not illegal. (We reached out to G-III for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.)

Paquette writes that one of the women was surprised to learn that she had no access to paid leave, and maybe that’s the bit about this story that gets me so worked up. Why don’t ALL women know how much paid (or unpaid) maternity leave they have access to before they become pregnant? Why aren’t we asking these questions before it’s too late?

I can’t tell you how many people (men and women) I meet who are shocked to learn that only 12% of women in the U.S. have access to paid maternity leave. It’s a stat I repeat over and over; it’s a story I write and edit again and again, but frankly, I’m getting tired of talking about it, because it feels like most days no one is listening.

It is absolutely embarrassing that the U.S. doesn’t have a federally mandated paid family-leave policy that benefits both men and women. We are the ONLY developed nation in the ENTIRE world that does not. Whether or not you are ever planning to have children, this should make you furious. I just don’t think enough people care. It’s not your problem until it’s your problem. By that point, you figure out a way to muddle through.

But back to Ivanka. Regardless of how you feel about her father — who is a misogynistic megalomaniac who might very well destroy this country if he’s elected president — this fucked-up parental-leave system isn't her fault. It’s not even her father’s fault. It's ours.

Most of us don’t stop to advocate for ourselves or others before or after the time we need the benefits. We think: It doesn’t apply to us. So nothing changes. I’d love to see all women and men inquire about parental-leave policies when they start a new job. You should negotiate paid leave the same way you do salary or medical benefits or vacation time. If more of us required these benefits, maybe more companies would be inspired to offer them.

Don’t wait until you’re pregnant to figure out what’s what. Because you’ll end up like that employee at G-III — screwed and angry at the wrong person.
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