In an effort to keep talented women from leaving the engineering firm, PAE, a Portland-based engineering firm that specializes in sustainable design, created a new paid-leave policy that the firms says is “unique” in the nation’s engineering industry.

With 40 percent of all female engineers leaving the field by mid-career, PAE worked with the Center for Parental Leave Leadership to form a new Wellness Leave policy that provides up to six weeks of full salary for any PAE employee welcoming a child through birth, adoption or foster placement or for those dealing with a serious health condition of their own or a loved one.

“We are proud to offer an equitable leave benefit to help sustain our employees at home and at work,” says Shiloh Butterworth, PAE’s director of employee experience. The plan, Butterworth believes, encourages men to take caregiving leave equal to that taken by women in an effort to help level the playing field when it comes to women’s career advancement.

A recent study from the University of Wisconsin confirms what many in the industry already believed: STEM careers struggle to not only recruit female talent, but also falls short in retaining that talent. PAE says that by creating a new industry standard regarding leave, families can have more flexibility and financial stability that allows them to avoid having to make choices about career or family.

Sue Campbell, communications director for the Center for Parental Leave Leadership, says they worked with PAE to craft and implement the new policy that they hope will “inspire others” to move in a similar direction.

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