At Blackbird we want to be as ambitious as the startups we invest in.
To us, ambitious means supporting our people to do the best work of their lives, while also supporting their full and technicoloured lives.
When it comes to parents, we have family-friendly policies, including flexible working hours and locations, days off for special family moments (like the first day of school), and no emails or Slacks in the evenings or weekends.
We have leaders who actively and proudly role model the life of a working parent — from setting up a makeshift homeschool, to Zoom cameos from the little ones.
And we have been able to hear feedback and learn from parents at Blackbird, which has helped shape our new, supercharged parental leave policy.
Parental leave has historically differed depending on whether you’re classified as a primary caregiver or a secondary caregiver.
I dunno about you, but I don’t think most children think of their parents as a primary caregiver or a secondary caregiver. They’re mumma, mum, dadda, dadadada, or whichever amazing combination comes out.
So I’ve often struggled with the requirement that is often put on parents, to decide who is essentially more important as a caregiver for a new child. Or who is the “breadwinner”. By doing this, we create a false dichotomy that doesn’t reflect the modern family, and doesn’t reflect our values of diversity and equality. Especially when we know that only 12 percent of primary caregivers are men according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, and as a result, these distinctions usually disadvantage the careers of women more than men.
So we are getting rid of the primary and secondary classifications at Blackbird.
All parents will be … parents, regardless of gender, regardless of whether the child comes from pregnancy, surrogacy, or adoption.
Parents are parents at Blackbird.
Everyone wins from equal parental leave. Children are more likely to do better academically. Dads feel more empowered to take time off, are happier, and more likely to be involved in childcare in later years. Mums are less likely to need additional medical care, or experience postpartum depression, less likely to experience gender pay disparity (in some cases losing up to 37% of their earning power), and it neutralises negative career impacts of having a child.
By equalising parental leave, we are disrupting traditional norms to drive more equality both in the workplace as well as home.
We’re also increasing our parental leave entitlement to 20 weeks for all parents, with an additional 4 weeks for birth-givers to recognise the medical impacts of birth.
Babies start to recognise faces, smile and respond to sounds at 8 weeks. They start to recognise their caregiver’s voice and face at 12 weeks, and they start mimicking their caregiver at 16 weeks. These early periods of a baby’s life are precious and life-changing for parents. We want to support all of our parents to be able to share these special moments with their family.
But every family’s situation is different, so we’re giving parents two years to take their leave, with no minimum tenure at Blackbird to be eligible. And additionally we’re giving IVF, adoption and surrogacy leave to support parents who are going down those paths.
In addition to the financial certainty of paid parental leave, we still want to help our Blackbirds prepare for their financial future, by continuing to pay superannuation, and vest carried interest (our version of equity) for up to 12 months, whether they’re on paid or unpaid leave.
Once our Blackbirds are ready to come back to work, we’ll ramp them back in, with the first three months back being 4 day weeks, paid as a full week. With some of our Blackbirds already growing their families, we’ll measure their experience to make sure we can keep learning, tweaking, and making things better.
Trigger warning: discussion of pregnancy loss.
Tragically, sometimes planning for parental leave doesn’t go to plan. Stillbirth or neonatal death is one of the most traumatic experiences a parent can experience.
In these tragic circumstances, we will customise support for Blackbird parents, as no two experiences are alike. At a minimum, for stillbirth (from 20 weeks or pregnancy), or neonatal death (within 28 days of birth), people will still have access to the full 20 weeks of parental leave.
We are open-sourcing our Australian parental policy in case it can help others in the community who are going through a similar journey, or don’t have the time and resources to do it.
You can read the policy here.
Our ambition is to inspire more companies in our ecosystem to follow suit, whether that’s simply to start having the discussion about equalising parental leave, or using our open-sourced policy as the first step to take action.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think about this and if you have any feedback. You can reach me on LinkedIn or drop me an email.