We need to talk about the bias against child-free employees
As a senior HR professional working for an exceptionally forward-thinking company, I am proud to have helped implement policies that support parents in terms of flexible schedules, childcare, and parental leave. One of Patagonia’s hallmarks is our award-winning childcare facility, located in the building next to where I usually work, and I’m a huge proponent of this and other measures to make life as a parent easier and more fulfilling.
We’re starting to see more of these kinds of measures being implemented to support parents across the board—especially during the pandemic. I’m all for this. But how are child-free people being included and valued in their workplace? Which policies are in place to ensure their needs are met?
A senior lawyer working in the Bay Area told me how, prior to the pandemic, the parents of small children would file out at between 5 and 5:15 p.m. each day to collect their children from childcare and head home, while child-free colleagues stayed at their desks until the work was, well, done. “I know many parents also log on later in the evening, but if they’ve missed an important call or haven’t had time to read the latest documents we’ve received, it falls to me and my child-free colleagues to pick up the slack,” they told me. “There’s a disparity in expectation as to when the working day ends and what gets done during it. I’m given the message that my nonwork life is less important—sometimes explicitly.”