Closing The Gap

Best-selling author Joanne Lipman says taking this simple step could help companies close the pay gap

Watch CNBC's full interview with author Joanne Lipman

Author Joanne Lipman has an idea she thinks will help close the gender gap: force new fathers to take family leave.

Her argument centers around the fact that men don't take advantage of paternity leave because they think it will harm their careers. Women take the time off after having a baby, and it does set them back.

In fact, working moms suffer from what's known as the "motherhood penalty." They make $16,000 less a year than fathers, according to an analysis of Census data by the nonprofit advocacy organization National Women's Law Center in 2018.

"Men get that kind of wink from their supervisor that says 'ah you know, you don't really want to do that. It will hurt your career,'" Lipman said on CNBC's "Closing Bell," referring to paternity leave.

I'm getting frustrated because there's a lot of talk and there is simply not enough action. We're not seeing enough movement.
Joanne Lipman

There is no mandate for paid parental leave in the U.S. New parents can take up to 12 weeks off from work, unpaid, under the Family and Medical Leave Act. However, some companies offer it as part of their benefits package. According to the Society of Human Resources Managers, 35 percent of U.S. organizations offered paid maternity leave and 29 percent offered paid paternity leave.

That doesn't mean men necessarily take the benefit. Deloitte conducted an online poll of employed adults across the nation in 2016 and found that one in three male respondents claimed their position could be in jeopardy if they took time off. Of those surveyed, 54 percent said their colleagues would judge a man more than a woman for taking the same amount of parental leave.

Lipman, who wrote about her ideas on closing the gender gap in the book "That's What She Said" hopes that by making leave mandatory, it will change the work culture.

"If leave is normalized for new dads as well as for new moms, it's difficult to stigmatize either one," she wrote in a 2018 Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Mike Kemp | Blend Images | Getty Images

That said, she's not suggesting that forced paternity leave is a cure-all for pay inequity. The latest analysis from the Pew Research Center shows that women earned 85% of what men earned in 2018.

Lipman also likes the idea of "returnships," which are similar to internships but are for women returning to the workplace after taking time off to raise children. Goldman Sachs first adopted this concept in 2008, and the idea has "exploded" in the last two years, Lipman told CNBC.

Another suggestion is that companies hold "blind auditions," in which they interview candidates with no names or gender identifying information revealed, and that they perform gender wage gap analysis.

Ultimately, men need to get involved to help bring about change, she said.

"In the wake of #MeToo there has been a lot more conversation," Lipman said. "That's very encouraging, but I'm getting frustrated because there's a lot of talk and there is simply not enough action. We're not seeing enough movement."

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