It wasn't long ago that being a male front office banker or trader and taking a long paternity leave was not seen as advisable for your career. "You won’t be perceived as disloyal, but others may begin to question your commitment,” careers coach Roy Cohen informed us in 2018. Three years later, things seem to have changed.
Ranald Falconer, a Goldman Sachs sales trader in London, is three months into a five-month period of paternity leave that began around April and finishes around August. It's not clear what he's up to, but Falconer - who's worked at GS for five years and was at Morgan Stanley for six years' previously - is presumably engaged in childcare as he doesn't seem to be adding to his Strava profile or posting motivational messages on LinkedIn.
Insiders at Goldman say Falconer isn't the only trader taking protracted time off to be with his children. "It's becoming more common," says one trader in New York. It comes after Goldman introduced a new parental leave policy in 2019, giving all its new parents globally 20 weeks off - a new mother and a new father who worked for the firm could conceivably both be out for five months.
Senior women in banking have long argued that if the career opportunities of mothers and fathers in the industry are to be equalized, male bankers need to take paternity leave to the same extent that women take maternity leave. "It's paternity leave that will really make the difference," says a former managing director at JPMorgan. "The more that men take paternity leave, the more that it will become normal to take time out for childcare."
In the past, this hasn't always happened. The JPM MD says her own banker husband only took "five or six days off" when their children were born. Sam Kendall, the former head of investment banking at UBS in the Americas, did take six weeks' paternity leave when his wife gave birth to twins in 2016, but used them partly to go on holiday and partly to help him settle into a new role in Asia and attend an in-office bake-off.
A vice president (VP) in investment banking at one New York bank says he took four weeks' paternity leave recently, and that it's becoming more normal for fathers to take time out and look after babies. "It's not that we didn't want to take paternity leave before, it's just that we now feel we can take it," he says. When he took his paternity leave, he says his chief of staff commented on how nice it was to be able to spend time with a new child. "He said he didn't get any."
As with maternity leave, however, taking paternity leave can still be perceived as a career risk. - A recent study suggested that men who take paternity leave earn 2% less years later than men that don't (unless all the men take paternity leave simultaneously, in which case those remaining in the office aren't able to use the absence of their rivals to their advantage). However, the VP says there's a long way to go before paternity and maternity leaves are viewed equally. "A lot of people still think that a woman will have a baby and then not come back. For men, paternity leave is seen as a transitory phase. For women, maternity leave is still a visceral topic."
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