Microsoft is Using its Purchasing Dollars to Reflect its Values — Here’s How

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Microsoft Chief Diversity Officer Lindsay-Rae McIntyre

Microsoft Chief Diversity Officer Lindsay-Rae McIntyre. Photo courtesy of Microsoft

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The U.S. has a parental leave problem. Because there’s no federal law requiring companies to provide employees with paid parental leave, new parents often have little to no paid time off when they have a child. This is bad news not only for parents or expecting parents, but also for companies: employers that fail to properly support their employees risk attracting and retaining top talent.

 But Microsoft is doing its part to mitigate the effects this parental leave problem. In addition to recently enhancing its own parental leave policy — which now provides both mothers and fathers with 12 weeks of fully paid leave — it’s also requiring Microsoft suppliers and contractors to offer their employees at least 12 weeks of maternity leave.

Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, who joined Microsoft as Chief Diversity Officer in July 2018, recently spoke to Fairygodboss about this groundbreaking new policy. Having led HR and diversity efforts at IBM, where she worked for more than two decades, McIntyre is now using her expertise to help ensure Microsoft employees are supported and valued as their full, authentic selves. McIntyre shared how and why Microsoft decided to implement this policy — including what the approval process looks like — what the company hopes will happen as a result.

Tell us about your new program that requires Microsoft suppliers and contractors to offer at least 12 weeks maternity leave.

We rely on a wide array of other companies to supply us with goods and services that reflect their core competencies. The people who work for our suppliers are critical to our success, and we want them to have the benefit of paid time off. 

That is why over the next year, we will work with our suppliers to provide paid parental leave to their workers. Microsoft will require that suppliers provide 12 weeks of paid leave, at 66% of pay, with a cap of $1,000/week.  

This policy will apply to suppliers with 50 or more employees in the United States and will apply to their U.S. employees who have worked for them for more than nine months (1,500 hours) and who perform substantial work for Microsoft.

What was the genesis of this new policy? What are you trying to achieve through it?

We thought about this in the context of the broader supplier relationships on which we rely. From building maintenance to management consulting and campus security to software localization, we rely on a large group of outside companies to do what they do best. 

By taking this new step, we will focus our resources on doing business with companies that share a commitment to providing these types of strong benefits for employees.

Companies like Microsoft are in a unique position to create a positive impact on workers and we hope other organizations will consider similar changes to their policies. 

What was the process through which it moved through the company? Who had the idea for it, and how was it approved and executed?
The decision to implement this new policy builds on several recent steps Microsoft has taken to focus its resources on doing business with companies that share our values to increase workforce inclusion and support employees and their families.  We believe this is the right step for our business and that paid parental leave benefits our entire community.  

This policy could potentially increase costs in some ways. How did you overcome that hurdle?
This announcement is an example of us intentionally using our purchasing dollars to express our values. We’re looking to work with suppliers who share our values and are interested in taking these steps in the interest of their employees. 

Do you hope other companies will follow suit?
We hope other companies will consider similar changes and that they will engage in the important discussion around creating a national standard so that all American workers, regardless of where they work, have access to paid parental leave. We will continue to explore the best ways to partner within our broader community.

What can we expect to see next?
We continually recognize our success depends on the success of others. We are listening and will keep looking for ways to engage with our communities to broaden economic opportunity.