A well-known organization just changed its parental leave policy: one year of paid time off. Really.

A well-known nonprofit organization recently made an announcement that's a little out of the norm for an American-based company.

Are you ready for this?


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is now offering new parents 52 weeks of paid parental leave.

Wait, how long?!


Yep, that's right. New moms and dads who work for the foundation can take up to one full year of paid leave after the birth of a baby or adoption of a child.

Steven Rice, chief human resources officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, made the announcement:

“Our new parental leave program will offer up to 52 weeks of paid time-off for both mothers and fathers during the first year of a child's birth or adoption. This will enable parents to participate more fully in their children's lives, while also allowing them the flexibility and financial certainty to meet the needs of their growing families. Ultimately, our parental leave program is focused on healthier babies, parents who are able to thrive professionally, and strong and resilient families. We have also announced that employees will be able to take unlimited time-off without concern about their accrued sick leave or vacation, returning to work more focused and able to take on the foundation's boldest aspirations."

Healthier babies, parents who thrive, and resilient families? Um, yes please.

Two things about the new policy really stand out.

Image by iStock.

First, it's being offered to moms AND dads.

In cases of birth, women are the ones who have the baby and often breast-feed, so they obviously need time off to recover and get into a routine of breast-feeding their babies. But this policy recognizes that bonding with a new baby matters, too. And bonding is important to both moms and dads.

Image by iStock.

Second, the policy offers the same amount of time off for adoptive parents.

Often, maternity leave policies offer less time to employees who create or grow their families through adoption, which makes zero sense. As an adoptive parent, I can assure you that the first year with each of my children was the most mentally and physically exhausting time of my life. (It was also wonderful! But ohmygod. It was hard.)

Plus, bonding is incredibly important for both the adoptive parent and the child, and having a full year away from the stress of work to do that is invaluable.

There's really only one problem with this whole thing: It shouldn't be so revolutionary.

Other countries are like...


GIF via "Parks and Recreation."

...cool story, bro. But, like, welcome to the ways of the rest of the developed world.

The United States lags so far behind the rest of the world in paid maternity leave that if we didn't laugh, we'd be crying right along with our newborn babies ... that we can't take care of because we have to go back to work.

Image by iStock.

Really. According to this in-depth In These Times article about the dire state of paid maternity leave in the U.S., "With the exception of a few small countries like Papua New Guinea and Suriname, every other nation in the world — rich or poor — now requires paid maternity leave."

In the U.S., we have no legally mandated paid parental leave policies.

That means we leave it up to companies to decide whether they want to offer it as a benefit. And not many do. 2012 figures show that only between 11% and 15% of employees have access to paid family leave.

A lack of paid time off after a birth or adoption is a serious problem. And it's about more than just quality of life. It's about — well — life:

The In These Times article mentioned above looks at the high prices we're paying — which include the actual lives of our children:

"Paid parental leave frees mothers and fathers from choosing between their careers and time with their infants. For women, still most often the primary caregivers of young children, this results in higher employment rates, which in turn translates to lower poverty rates among mothers and their children.

Research shows that paid leave can also be a matter of life and death for children. By charting the correlation between death rates and paid leave in 16 European countries, Christopher Ruhm, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Virginia, found that a 50-week extension in paid leave was associated with a 20 percent dip in infant deaths. (The biggest drop was in deaths of babies between 1 month and 1 year old, though mortality of children between 1 and 5 years also decreased as paid leave went up.)"

Yep. Having 50 weeks of paid leave actually reduces infant mortality rates.

So bravo to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for really hitting the nail on the head with its new policy.

Note to pretty much every other U.S. company (with a few exceptions, of course): your move.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."