With women already earning just $0.87 to every $1 earned by men, with much of that gap attributed to women spending time out of the workforce to raise children, Kershaw said the policy as it stands could reinforce gender imbalance in some professions. Studies show that longer parental leave, especially for longer than one year, “corresponds with reinforcing occupational segregation and ultimately a gender earnings gap for women,” Kershaw said.
It is possible parents use more spatial language with boys because boys play more with blocks and building sets, which are spatial activities. Parents could also be providing boys with more opportunities for spatial play because of unintended stereotypes that suggest boys are better at those activities than girls. Whatever the reason, there is a point at which boys are exposed to more spatial language. Pruden says more research is needed to fully understand why this is happening.
Washington state’s recently passed parental-leave law could be a step toward enabling women with young children to remain in the workforce. The law, which takes effect in 2020, provides for 12 weeks of paid leave for each parent after a child is born, adopted or placed with a family. Though not as generous as Germany’s family-leave benefits, the new state law incorporates a key factor that the Germans also added relatively recently — incentives encouraging fathers to take family leave. Washington will offer the same paid leave to men as to women.