Street Talk

Street Talk: On board with baby

An app for that.

February 23, 2018
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Data from a slew of recent studies are pushing some large companies to adopt more inclusive parental leave policies.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank, which has a large presence in West Michigan led by Regional President Tom Welch, last summer added a four-week paid “baby bonding leave.”

The leave allows biological and adoptive fathers to take four weeks of 100 percent paid time off to bond with their new child.

The bonding leave also is offered to biological and adoptive mothers, on top of their six weeks of standard maternity leave or eight weeks for C-sections.

As of this month, the bank said 75 percent of its male employees who are eligible for the leave have taken the time off.

Beth Oates, Fifth Third’s vice president and regional communications manager for east and West Michigan, said the benefit comes alongside the bank’s other family-oriented initiatives, such as a maternity concierge, flex time and programs for work-life balance.

“It appears that our attempt at creating a more family-friendly culture is working,” she said.

Mark Barnes is a Fifth Third employee who took advantage of the leave for the birth of his second child, Isabella Barnes.

“I was off four weeks from the day after Thanksgiving, and I came back the day after Christmas,” said Barnes, who is a personal banker at the Standale Fifth Third branch.

Barnes said the leave gave him more paid time off than his wife Vanessa Barnes got.

The couple’s first child, Jeremiah Barnes, was 21 months old when his sister was born. His dad said the leave gave him time to spend with his son and the opportunity to participate in nighttime care for Isabella alongside his wife.

Baby bonding leave is offered once per year for each eligible employee.

Oates said Fifth Third has seen national trends around the effects of not offering paternity leave.

“A 2016 Deloitte study showed that more than one-third of fathers wouldn’t take paternity leave because they feared it might jeopardize their position at work,” she said.

The same study showed half of male and female respondents believed spending time with their baby would be interpreted as a lack of commitment to their jobs.

Another study from the National Partnership for Women & Families showed both parents taking time off after having a new child improved the child’s health and created encouraged joint care responsibility.

Oates also cited a U.S. Department of Labor study that showed granting fathers paternity leave increases gender pay equity for their partners because they are less likely to miss opportunities for advancement from being the sole caregiver.

First ladies first

Each year, to honor and celebrate the legacy of first lady Betty Ford, her daughter Susan Ford Bales and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation host the luncheon presentation “America’s First Ladies: An Enduring Legacy.”

To commemorate what would have been Ford’s 100th birthday, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, will be featured guests participating in an intimate discussion moderated by national broadcast journalist Andrea Mitchell. The event will take place April 11 at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

“As first lady, mother never felt the constraints of politics when deciding to speak out about an issue,” said Ford Bales. “This year’s guests reflect the depth of support and respect that she earned as first lady. Our family is gracious that these strong women are celebrating mother’s centennial with our friends, family and community in Grand Rapids.”

As first lady, from 1993-2001, Rodham Clinton worked on creating a path to health care for all Americans and led successful bipartisan efforts to improve adoption and foster care systems, reduce teen pregnancy and create the Children's Health Insurance Program. She traveled to more than 80 countries bringing awareness to human rights, democracy and civil society.

Robb, who served as first lady of Virginia from 1982-86, is known for her work raising awareness for women’s and children’s issues. She served 50 years as a founding member and chair of Reading is Fundamental, the nation's largest children's literacy organization.

“The Ford and Johnson families’ friendship dates back to when both of our fathers served in Congress,” Robb said. “I am excited to share some of my moments as a first daughter during this special tribute.”

Mitchell said she is looking forward to the opportunity.

“There is no greater honor than being able to celebrate the centennial birthday of Mrs. Ford, a path-breaking first lady I was honored to get to know and greatly admired. It is a special privilege to be participating with Susan, Lynda Byrd Robb and Hillary Rodham Clinton,” Mitchell said. “I am excited to have this opportunity to talk about the role Betty Ford played, along with the other first ladies who have bought so many critical issues to center stage.”

Individual tickets for the annual luncheon go on sale March 5. More information is available by calling (616) 254-0393. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and the luncheon is scheduled for noon-1:30 p.m.

Beer run

The Beer Adventures app has added Grand Rapids to its portfolio of beer tours.

The free app gives users access to more than 150 beer tours in 85 cities.

Tours include information about the city’s history and its most “iconic” places.

Based in Manchester, U.K., the app recently launched in the U.S. and now has 25 U.S. tours.

The Grand Rapids tour brings participants to six establishments, beginning at Founders Brewing Company downtown and ending at Harmony Brewing Company in Eastown.

"I was lucky enough to visit Grand Rapids last year when researching our Beer Adventures tours, and it was an easy decision to include it as one of our new U.S. city launches," said Jonny Quirk, the app’s creator.

"The brewing scene is super exciting, and there are so many great beers available from the likes of Brewery Vivant, Thornapple and City Built — the food is also really special and pairs perfectly with the craft beer at the places we hit in the app."

Quirk “knew without a doubt” he would have to include Grand Rapids in the app.

“Everyone in the city involved with the beer scene, from the brewmasters to the beer fans, need a high-five," he said. “There's a real vibrancy to the city that you can feel as soon as you enter its bars and taprooms."

In addition to curating stops, the app allows participants to check in, offering information about the establishment, trivia about the area and drink offers at some locations.

The app features routes powered by Google Maps and the ability to link with friends for group adventures.

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