Today, Parents At Work officially launched the Kiwi Dads Photograph Exhibition in partnership with Global Women and The Embassy of Sweden. It was another inspiring and thought-provoking event with a range of representatives from all aspects of our community including government and our corporate business community.

Exhibited alongside the original and award winning Swedish Dads photographs by Johan Bavman, Kiwi Dads is a series shot by New Zealand photographer Sarah Weber backed by a collection of collaborators and corporate sponsors including Parents At Work, Global Women, The Embassy of Sweden, Deloitte, Scentre Group, QBE, HSBC, ANZ, Lion and Spotify.

Highlighting the Lack of Parental Leave Take

The MC, Rachael Smalley, kickstarted the event with some startling statistics – in 2017 there were 30, 576 parents who took Paid Parental Leave in New Zealand, of which 324 were men – that’s about 1% she clarified. What’s more less than 10% of Kiwi dads take the paternal unpaid 1-2 weeks leave they are entitled to.

“Globally, men’s take up of parental leave is stubbornly low. It is not increased at the same pace that women have returned to work,” said Emma Walsh, CEO of Parents At Work.

The Business Benefits for New Zealand

The Hon Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter highlighted that supporting fathers to share the caring load was not only great for women’s careers and dads bonding with children but that it has huge benefits for the economy and society at large – it’s about “recognising we’re human”, said Minister Genter.

Investing time to support parents to care for children is an investment worth making acknowledged the panel of guest speakers including Michael Kim (APAC Head of HR, Spotify), Declan Moore (CEO, QBE NZ), Dave Gascoigne (Kiwi Dad) and Emma Walsh (CEO, Parents At Work).

Spotify and QBE made a convincing argument about why their organisations haven’t looked back since implementing their paid parental leave policies that provide equal provisions for men and women to take the leave in a flexible way for up to three years. Most importantly they have removed the gender stereotype labels primary carer and secondary carer so that is inclusive and no longer forcing parents to choose who will be the primary care giver vs primary breadwinner. 

The cost of implementing a gender equal paid parental leave scheme is obviously a big factor for businesses to consider but Declan Moore pointed out “the cost is irrelevant in the scheme of things”, when he had taken in to account retention and attraction costs. “Yes, there’s a cost but we think it immaterial”.

Michael added “the day after they launched their [six month fully paid] parental leave program [for all parents] they saw a significant spike in the growth of job applications.” They now receive 47,000 applications per month –  reportedly from people looking for a family friendly workplace. Michael revealed how Spotify asked applicants why they applied and they explicitly said they wanted to work for a company that has this kind of ‘disruptive policy’.

Michael also advised employers that at the core of any policy change they need to “be authentic, really focus on the family . . . you need to write your [parental leave] programs based on your people’s needs.”

Declan added: “Don’t wait until you reach perfection. Be pragmatic and do what you can to make change happen.”

What does the Future Workplace look like?

“Employees want to work for a purpose driven business that cares about their family needs.” Emma Walsh summed up the sentiments that both Spotify and QBE had encapsulated in their research with their own employees and applicants.

The future workplace will be family friendly. People want to be able to balance their work and family more seamlessly and have time to do both well – and that includes being treated as a whole and rounded person in the workplace, a person who has varied responsibilities that exist both in and outside the workplace. As Minister Genter referenced from the onset, if we recognise employees are part of families and we can design workplace policies and cultures that support that the wellbeing outcomes would benefit everyone and the economy. 

Emma Walsh summed up by highlighting three key things that companies can do to improve parental leave equality in the workplace.

1) Remove the labels – Scrap ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carer language that assumes dad as the default support person. 
2) Flexibility – Encourage leave to be taken in accordance with how the family feels it will best work for them and their workload.
3) Promote it loud and clear – Awareness being one of the biggest barriers to men taking up parental leave means companies need to be extra vigilant when launching and nurturing a parental leave equal policy.

In Summary

You know it’s a great business event when the Honorary Consul for Sweden to New Zealand breaks out in song to finish off what can only be described as an eye opening and enriching day. Frank Olsson’s version of 🎶 Life is a Bowl of Cherries 🎶 summed up what is at the core of the parental leave equality campaign, and that is, life is for living and to truly live we need to feel connected to all aspects of life, from our work to our family life. 

We encourage all organisations to consider what improvements can be made to their parental leave and family friendly policy options. There are now a number of experienced organisations like Spotify and QBE who are offering their experiences having led the charge and are happy to share the benefits they are reaping.

Finally, we would like to thank our key sponsors and partners of the exhibition Deloitte, QBE, Scentre Group, Lion, HSBC, Spotify and ANZ in conjunction with the amazing teams at Global Women and The Embassy of Sweden. Without you, the message would not be so clear or impactful. Thankyou. 

What’s Next for Your Organisation?

If you would like to view the Kiwi Dads Photographic Exhibition, alongside Swedish Dads, it will be open to the public from the 6th – 15th September at the new Westfield Newmarket centre.

If you would like Parents At Work to consult with your leaders on how this can be of great value to your business please email

If you’re interested in learning more about the Parental Leave Equality Campaign visit

For more information about Kiwi Dads visit

“We all can play a role in how we take this forward . . . it’s time we invite fathers into the conversation more – both at work and at home.”

Emma Walsh