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Talk about an unlikely hero.

Last months Games Industry reported that the computer game developer Unity would start offering all its US employees (and soon all employees worldwide) who are the legal parent of a child 12 weeks of fully paid leave. They will also offer the parents an additional eight weeks of part-time work with full-time pay.

A computer games company in the USA is championing parental leave!

Wait? What?

A company that help create computer games like “Hitman Sniper” and “Lara Croft: Relic Run” (not your typical “family entertainment”) is pushing ahead to get fathers to spend time with their toddlers.

I am still trying to wrap my head around this.

But when I think about it a little bit more it starts to make sense.

The computer game industry is a relatively young industry which still has a bit of a “rebel label” to it (even tough it is by now a almost 100 Billion (!) dollar industry). This means that the industry is not stuck in how things “used” to be done.

It is also an industry that is extremely trend sensitive (The computer game industry is notoriously fickle and a hit yesterday does not mean you are guaranteed a hit tomorrow so you need to constantly feel where the wind is blowing.) This means that the computer games industry is probably one of the best industries in the world right now at seeing and understanding trends.

Finally the industry that Unity is in is very male dominated and there is a huge competition for the best talent. And unity has probably understood that offering paternity leave to dads (and maternity leave to the mothers) is a great way to retain staff, especially more experienced staff who is coming into the “getting-ready-to-have-a-kid-years.

So I guess it makes sense that a computer games company is pushing for better paternity terms for it’s employees.

But then I read a quote from the HR director of Unity, Elizabeth Brown, where she explains why they are doing it.

She said:

“It’s a common occurrence (in Scandinavia) to see men walking around with strollers in those cities as an example but that’s not the case in the US, and we want to change that. We want to help make it the social norm here in the US, and eliminate the stigma of taking time off to take care of children.”

Wow. Blown away.

A gaming company pushing to change the social norms in the USA of what it means to be a man.

Respect.

And no, I do not think that Unity, by itself will change any social norms about fatherhood in the USA, but I do think that small changes like this matter.

And attitudes in societies can change.

In 1983 only 23% of Americans stated that they knew someone who was gay, lesbian or bisexual. In 1983 that number was 24%, in 1993 it was 55%, in 2000 it was 62% – and in 2001 it was 73%.

If you ask how many Americans who know of a father who has gone on paternity leave, I am guessing that the number will probably be even lower than the 23% who knew a homosexual in 1983.

But if you ask in Sweden today I think you will probably hit 95-100%. And 20 years from now you might reach 73% – or more- in the USA as well.

All thanks to small changes like the ones introduced by Unity that creates other changes that create other changes and then suddenly the tipping point is reached.

As anyone who plays computer games knows: there is only one way to beat the high score – and that is to slowly collect more and more points until you have reached your goal. Unity just collected some new points for the daddy’s of the world.

For that I salute them.

(Picture Credit: jordannypoo (Creative Commons.)

Fredrik Haren

A blog about the magic of fatherhood and paternity leave. Written by Fredrik Haren, professional speaker and author who is now on semi-paternity leave with his three children.


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