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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ricarda Engelmeier

The business case for founders to take parental leave

Thousands of tech founders from the world will be descending on Munich for Bits & Pretzels these days, and speaking to some of them this week, it struck me how often VC contracts discourage/don’t allow parental leave for the founders team. This means that female founders can still take what we call “Mutterschutz” here in Germany, but male founders can't take any leave!? I find that a really unsustainable approach that serves neither the founders themselves, nor the the investors and VCs.

So I want to outline the BUSINESS CASE for FOUNDERS TAKING PARENTAL LEAVE for those founders out there who want to be an active parent:

It’s the mental load- stupid! A lot of people, mainly fathers, think that parental leave is about taking a month off and cruising through Portugal in a van. That’s also true, but what it really is about is to understand what it means to be a parent in normal life and become an equal partner in shouldering the mental load that comes with the job of being a parent. Now here are the calculations:

➡ Not sharing the mental load fairly has been shown to be #1 reason for a divorce!

➡ Looking at divorce-rate statistics, couples are most likely to get a divorce four years after the birth of their first child, with mental load cited as the main reason.

➡ Two thirds of those divorces are initiated by financially independent women, who are fed up of shouldering the care work and mental load themselves.

➡ After four years, the VC's exit is in most cases not yet within reach. Having a founder who’s able to function is still essential for the success of the business at this point, and if their world is crumbling around them, they’re not going to be able to reach their full potential at work. If they’re divorced they’ll also now most likely be managing their kids alone every second week. 

As I see it, a happier CEO means a better functioning company!

It’s good for company culture and talent retention too - because if the founder / CEO leads by example and takes parental leave, that family-friendly culture will be reflected throughout the company - they will pick up parenting skills that make them more empathetic and team-oriented leaders - and they will be more open to the flexible work culture that’s needed to attract and retain talents who have families.

I think it’s high time we called for parental leave among CEOs and founders to be normalised. If you want your business to become more parent-friendly, check out our brand new package for start-ups at 

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