Nappies and economic development

An old friend of mine just had a baby in Virginia and only received three months of maternity leave.  She described her employer as not particularly family friendly and worried about staying late at work, etc.  The reality is that the U.S. has some of the weakest maternity leave policies of any western country.

The Economist magazine features stories every few weeks about women in the workforce, the lack of women in politics, the lack of women in the boardroom and the lack of women in engineer, etc. Usually the magazine encourages employers to adopt more family friendly policies to better access a large segment of the workforce.

A lot of very talented women run up against this issue and are forced to make hard choices – many end up in jobs not using their skills effectively but that offer more flexible work schedules.  Others leave the workforce completely until their children grow up and others struggle to try and balance family and work and hope they have an employer with family friendly policies.

I’ve been thinking lately that this could be an economic development advantage for New Brunswick.  We know that an increasing number of young families are moving here to have more time to raise their families (I met a couple more in the past two weeks) – if we could add to that employers (public and private sectors) that are deliberate about being family friendly, we could market this across Canada and beyond.

We have talked a lot about how the battle these days is coming down to people – that is what jurisdictions are about to attract and retain talent.  While the recession knocked this down a notch, raw demographics means it will be a reality moving forward.

Come to work, live and play has to be more than just words on paper.  We need good jobs, we need family friendly employers and we need strategic investments to ensure we remain a great place to live – whether you choose to live in urban or rural communities.