Can parental leave break the glass ceiling?


Generous government-mandated parental leave is generally viewed as an effective policy to support women’s careers around childbirth, but we know little whether they also helped to promote women to the upper echelons of the corporate firms. We address this question focusing on a series of policy reforms that expanded paid maternity leave from 18 to 38 weeks and introduced a quota of up to 5 weeks reserved to fathers. Our estimates suggest that paid parental leave does not help to break the glass ceiling. We find evidence the reforms had no impact on mothers' chances to be at the top of their companies' pay ranking. The expansions had no differential effect on intra-firm pay success across a number of characteristics, such as maternal education, number of children, firm size, and industry. They also left unaffected other outcomes which could have led to a change in within-firm pay ranking, including hours worked, internal promotions, and job mobility. None of the reforms affected fathers' pay. Finally, the leave reforms had no effect on the gender pay gaps between mothers and their male colleagues whether at the top or across the whole pay distribution within their companies. The same null result emerges in the case of the pay differentials between mothers and their partners.

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