Men and Women Use Parental Leave Differently. They're Judged Differently for It, Too

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Before Kate welcomed a new baby in 2022, she sat down with the HR department at her workplace to discuss expectations around communication with her temporary replacement during maternity leave. Rather than an explicit plan or guidelines, she received vague advice about doing only what she was comfortable with.

As researchers who study gender in the workplace and family economics, we saw interesting questions in this all-too-common experience: How does this lack of guidance actually play out in the workplace? Are there gender differences in what new parents decide is the appropriate amount of work? And perhaps most importantly, what are the effects of this decision for parents returning to the workplace after having a baby?