WASHINGTON, PA (Nov. 14, 2013)—A Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) junior served as a panelist at the Womenetics Global Women’s Initiative conference in Chicago on Nov. 13, presenting an essay that earned her a scholarship through a national competition.
Emily Payne, a Brentwood High School alumna from Pittsburgh, Pa., entered the Advancing Aspirations Global Scholarships (AAGS) contest with her essay titled “Parents + Career = Struggle,” which examines how American corporations support—or fail to support—working parents, particularly working mothers.
As one of five finalists in the contest, Payne received a $1,500 scholarship and presented her research at the conference.
“The essay looks at how successful companies are in efforts to retain working parents, especially mothers, and how investing in working parents is beneficial to the employees and to a company’s bottom line,” said Payne, a sociology and French double major.
U.S. Bank and Discover partnered with Womenetics to sponsor the scholarship. According to the Womenetics website, the scholarship was created “to encourage future leaders to think critically about the business issues affecting women today.”
Payne said she chose her essay topic because of a personal connection with the issue.
“I come from a single-parent household where it’s just my mom working, and as I got into researching this topic I saw more of what it must have been like for her,” Payne said. “This is something I see myself possibly facing in the future, where you have to think about how to deal with a culture where you feel like you should be responsible for childcare and a career.”
Payne’s research included a study of current newspaper articles on the topic, a study of programs offered by child care and family services organizations, and a study of government websites, including the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Her essay includes a comparison of American policies regarding personal leave to policies of other first-world countries. Payne said her research showed that although some corporations—notably Google and Yahoo—do offer benefits such as paid maternity or paternity leave, on-site childcare, and in some cases, stipends for family care, many companies do not offer such extensive benefits.
“A big aspect of the essay is about how at the international level, paid maternity and paternity leave is offered in many countries, sometimes for months, where in the United States, leave is about 12 weeks on average and is often unpaid,” she said.
At the Chicago conference, Payne was part of a panel where she discussed the ideas for improving corporate parental leave policies for both fathers and mothers, which she outlined in her essay.
“Pay and seniority can be lost when employees take time off for parenting reasons,” she said. “By supporting working parents, you create loyal employees who are working toward the interest of the company. It’s also economically beneficial for companies, which save on recruitment and training costs by retaining employees.”