Parental Leave: Reid Strohmeier’s Journey from Skeptic to Advocate
As a Director of Digital Marketing and a member of SAP for almost a decade, Reid Strohmeier has accumulated a variety of skills and knowledge regarding integrated marketing strategies for SAP. But one aspect of SAP he had almost no knowledge of was our parental leave policy. He eventually learned that new fathers in SAP America can take up to six weeks of paid leave.
When Reid first realized he was going to become a father, he went to SAP’s corporate portal to do some research. Reid ultimately found the information he was looking for in his employee handbook, but he was still confused about certain aspects, so he put in a request for clarification through the help tool on the portal and received a quick response.
|“Have a conversation with your manager and absolutely take parental leave. It is time you are never going to get back.”|
Even after getting up to speed on SAP’s policy, Reid felt some hesitation to use his parental leave due to cultural stigmas and biases. Reid recalled, “While the leave was really helpful for me, I did feel a little odd taking it because in the U.S., men taking parental leave is not something that is culturally prominent. There was some hesitation initially because it felt odd being one of the first or only people I knew to take advantage of the policy.”
Reid noted U.S. employees are often expected to check their email while on vacation, and overall our work/life balance is more skewed towards work. Although, Reid was relieved to learn that his manager was fully supportive of his leave. She understood the need for a healthy work-life balance and importance of family. Reid’s feelings of hesitation were mitigated further by the support he received from his team. They offered to help while Reid was on leave and some even offered to check his email.
Outside of SAP, Reid became more confident about taking leave due to the support he received from his family and friends. While most family and friends didn’t know about the parental leave program like Reid initially, they were all jealous and supportive. Most said they wished their company had a policy like SAP’s, and Reid remembered the mothers he met were all especially supportive of his decision. His father told him, “You aren’t going to get this time back so use this time to focus on your family.”
Reid says he was relieved to not have to think about work and be completely focused on his child when his son came into the world in September. Reid thoughtfully mentioned, “It was nice especially because in the first six months most of the work is inside the family, and that’s when your baby is becoming a little person.”
Reid took the full amount of leave allotted. He used the first five weeks immediately after his son was born, and then took two weeks in the summer when his son was a little more mobile. His wife is a teacher in New York City, and her maternity leave package wasn’t as good as Reid’s. She would have had to use all her vacation days to get the same amount of leave Reid received from SAP.
Despite this, Reid was able to support his wife and share child-caring responsibilities without any outside help from either of their families thanks to SAP’s policy. When asked about how this impacted his wife, Reid remembered, “The support at night was great for her as we were able to rotate jobs and responsibilities. Mentally, she was able to take some breaks when she needed them. Definitely the most impactful benefits for her were being able to balance and share the workload in addition to maintaining her sanity and avoiding being completely overworked between our son and everything else.”
Reid feels much differently about parental leave now than he did before taking it. Instead of hesitating, Reid says he would jump into the opportunity right away again if he had another child. He remarked, “It was such a special time, and now I am proud to be a part of a company that supports fathers taking time off.”
When asked if he has any advice for new fathers considering parental leave, Reid said, “Have a conversation with your manager and absolutely take parental leave. It is time you are never going to get back.”
As part of our EDGE action plan, the Global Diversity and Inclusion Office is launching numerous campaigns to create awareness and change behavior that benefits both men and women. A recent Deloitte survey found 57% of men said taking parental leave would be perceived as a lack of commitment to their careers but a wealth of research shows men who take parental leave are more active and engaged fathers with stronger family relationships, lower divorce rates, and more successful partners. Parental leave is also associated with overall improved mental/physical health and well-being for new mothers and new fathers. SAP’s six weeks of paid parental leave for mothers and fathers takes us one step closer to gender equality as parents share child-caring responsibilities more equally and mothers, fathers, and SAP see the benefits with happier and more productive employees.