Donald Trump’s potential parental leave plan leaves a lot to be desired. First off, it’s not even a parental leave plan—it offers six weeks of paid leave to new mothers and nothing for fathers, and emphasizes language about mothers who have “given birth,” which potentially alienates mothers who’ve adopted, didn’t give birth, and same-sex male parents.
Ivanka Trump has been a vocal advocate for her father’s plan, writing an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal and defending the policy to Cosmopolitan (albeit, poorly). But now a former executive at Ivanka Trump’s clothing company says it too offered a terrible policy.
Marissa Kraxberger said she was two months pregnant when she interviewed for the job and was told by Ivanka that she would “think about” whether to offer her maternity leave. Ivanka herself said she took just one week of leave. “Our team—the ones who created #WomenWhoWork and the ones who the hashtag really stood for—fought long and hard to get her to finally agree to 8 weeks paid maternity leave,” Kraxberger said.
The #WomenWhoWork campaign was started by Ivanka and her team as a community of “thought-leaders from all industries and spheres of influence” who would “share their diverse viewpoints, skills, and expertise and equip the modern professional woman to be her best self,” according to Ivanka’s website. It’s one of those vague “movements” that mainly serves to sell Ivanka’s clothing and get women to Instagram selfies with the hashtag.
But Kraxberger points to the hypocrisy behind even claiming to care about women who work without providing them with the support they need. “I am however saying that if you truly support parenting and children, then you actually have to support it fully… and that also means supporting maternity leave for adopted children and paternity leave as well.”
Kraxberger said she doesn’t blame Ivanka, and that it was probably easy for her to return to work because she had a lot of help at home. However, most parents don’t have that available to them, and even if they do, they may want to take the time to let their bodies recover after birth, or just spend time with their new child.
Many high-profile, professional women have adopted the “lean in” mentality when it comes to maternity leave. Yahoo!’s Marissa Meyer famously took two weeks of leave after giving birth to twins. Other executives spoke to the New York Times about their plans to work during their leave. And ultimately, it is an individual’s choice (give or take any financial burdens or work expectations). If the way you relax after putting your newborn down for a nap is checking the office Slack and answering a few emails, it’s easier than ever to do so.
However, working is not only impossible for many new parents (if your job can’t be done remotely, you’re SOL), making it the expectation harms parents. Not taking leave becomes a bellwether of “commitment” to one’s job. People who do take it are easily perceived as not dedicated, the same way employees are low-key punished at certain companies for taking their full lunch breaks or working “only” nine hours a day.
Parental leave is a matter of codifying our values. If we think having women in the workforce at all levels is valuable, if we think both parents having an equal hand is raising children is valuable, and if we think it’s important for anyone who is pregnant to have time to physically recover, then it makes sense to institute comprehensive parental leave policies. Based on Ivanka’s former and her father’s proposed policies, those don’t appear to be the values the Trumps are going for.
Update Oct. 12, 10am CT: A brand spokesperson for Ivanka Trump has issued the following statement to the Daily Dot about its benefits policies, but doesn’t specifically refute Kraxberger’s allegations: “The team at Ivanka Trump is saddened by this mischaracterization of how our company developed its industry-leading culture and benefits package. In addition to paid leave, we also offer all employees flexible work schedules and unlimited vacation and sick days. As a company for women, run by women, we spent a considerable amount of time in the early days of building our business developing a unique corporate culture and engaged in meaningful dialogue about the benefits that would be most impactful to the people working at Ivanka Trump. While we respect differing political views from employees, past and present, we are steadfast in our belief that we have built a culture and a brand to be proud of and are deeply committed to supporting and empowering women.”