In my own household, my mother had to choose between a career and raising three children, a choice that left her unpaid and underappreciated as a homemaker, because there just wasn't support for both paths.
The memory of being in the city with my Dad is a particularly meaningful one since he was the sole breadwinner in our house, and my brothers and my time with him was always limited by how much he had to work. And we were an incredibly privileged family, our hardships were the stuff of other family's dreams.
The deeper into the issue of paid parental leave I go, the clearer I see the connection between persisting barriers to women's full equality and empowerment, and the need to redefine and in some cases, destigmatize men's role as caregivers. In other words, in order to liberate women, we need to liberate men.
The assumption and common practice that women and girls look after the home and the family is a stubborn and very real stereotype that not only discriminates against women, but limits men's participation and connection within the family and society.
These limitations have broad-ranging and significant effects for them and for the children. We know this. So why do we continue to undervalue fathers and overburden mothers? Paid parental leave is not about taking days off work, it's about creating the freedom to define roles, to choose how to invest time, and to establish new, positive cycles of behavior.
Companies that have offered paid parental leave for employees have reported improved employee retention, reduced absenteeism and on-training costs, and boosted productivity and morale. Far from not being able to afford to have paid parental leave, it seems we can't afford not to.
In fact, a study in Sweden showed that per every month fathers took paternity leave, the mothers' income increased by 6.7 per cent. That's 6.7 per cent more economic freedom for the whole family. Data from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey shows that most fathers report that they would work less if it meant that they could spend more time with their children.
And picking up on the threat the prime minister mentioned, I'd like to ask: How many of us here today saw our Dads enough growing up? How many of you Dads here see your kids enough now? We need to help each other if we are going to grow.
Along with UN Women, I am issuing a call to action for countries, companies and institutions globally to step up and become champions for paid parental leave. In 2013, provisions for paid parental leave were in only 66 countries out of 190 UN member states.
I look forward to beginning with the UN itself which has not yet achieved parity and whose paid parental leave policies are currently up for review. Oh, you're going to see a lot of me. Let us lead by example in creating a world in which women and men are not economically punished for wanting to be parents.
I don't mean to imply that you need to have children to care about and benefit from this issue, whether or not you have or want kids, you will benefit by living in a more evolved world with policies not based on gender. We all benefit from living in a more compassionate time where our needs do not make us weak, they make us fully human.