McDonough School of Business
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Professors Sign Letter of Support for Paid Family and Medical Leave Act

The balance between work performance in the office and family care at home can challenge business owners and leave a strain on workers; however, one proposal is looking to make this balance easier to achieve. First introduced in late 2013, a nationally paid Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act could be the answer to satisfying both employers and employees, offering 12 weeks of partially paid leave funded by payroll tax contributions. On September 15, more than 200 business school professors released their own letter of support for the act, citing evidence that the act will lead to happier and more productive employees.

Several professors at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business signed the letter, including James Angel, associate professor of accounting; Nataly Lorinkova, assistant professor of management; Bill Novelli, distinguished professor of the practice and founder of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative; Catherine Tinsley, professor of management and faculty director of the Georgetown University Women’s Leadership Institute; and David Walker, a John A. Largay Professor and director emeritus of the Capital Markets Research Center.

“Family leave strikes me as a good investment of the community,” Angel said. “As a business professor I’m well aware of the costs, impact, and taxes so I don’t recommend a situation very lightly, but I also think about it in line with Catholic social teaching and preferential option for the poor. This proposal strikes me as an example of a win win situation. It’s just the right thing to do.”

In addition to being morally sound, Angel noted that the act also could lead to “increased work productivity in the short term and an increase to societal productivity in the long term. I think it’s a positive net present value for society as a whole,” he said. “Since smaller businesses might not be able to afford such benefits, a government risk cooling plan, like this proposal, looks like a way to get these benefits in a cost effective manner. I would hope it would be easily crafted onto existing social security and unemployment programs.”

Tinsley’s support of the act comes from a place a lot closer to home.

“This was a very personal decision for me,” she said. “When I was pregnant with my twins, I had to go on emergency bedrest for 12 weeks. I was very lucky because it was the summer so I cleared my calendar to have the fall semester off; however, it made me realize that there was nothing I could do to control the situation.”

Once her children were born, Tinsley said work quickly transitioned from a job to a much-needed vacation.

“[Being a mother] was so much harder than I would have ever anticipated,” she said. “It was a luxury to go to my office and sit at my desk and have my arms free. Being a mom is the hardest thing. I want society to recognize that and value that and say, ‘Wow this is a really valuable contribution to the betterment of society.’”

As faculty director of Georgetown University’s Women in Leadership Institute, Tinsley’s research shows that despite the gains women have made in the workforce, including out earning their male counterparts, the stereotypical gender roles remain: males as the primary bread winner, females as the primary caretaker.

“I didn’t think I’d be the one staying at home [with the kids],” Tinsley said, “but that’s how it worked because I could get time off, not my husband.”

With the shifting of gender roles in today’s society, Tinsley sees this act as a necessary adjustment for businesses. Still, she acknowledges the concerns of the act’s critics.

“The benefits and costs are not going to be evenly distributed. People who are going to benefit are not necessarily going to be those who will be putting money into the situation and vice versa. But [the act] is not going to be all that ground breaking to implement. We already have human capital redundancies. We do this all over the place with supply chain flows. I think organizations just have to get more mindful about management and set aside some amount of resources.”

Novelli, a board co-chair of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-Tact), said that many companies and big corporations, such as Nestle, have already enacted their own versions of paid family and medical leave acts.

“[The act] accomplishes two basic things: good business and good public policy. There is evidence on both of these accounts if you look at states and companies that have already implemented some sort of paid leave. It’s obvious then, from a business standpoint and a national standpoint, to have a national paid family and medical leave act.”