Insights (Blog) - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Bright Spot: Winston & Strawn’s Gender-Neutral Parental Leave Policy


In 2019, we will be sharing diversity and flexibility Bright Spots – those small or large successes that impact your organization in a positive way. We believe that important diversity and flexibility initiatives can truly impact your organization’s bottom line, recruitment and retention capabilities and employee satisfaction. 


One of international law firm Winston & Strawn’s Bright Spots is its Gender-Neutral Parental Leave Policy. After working with the Alliance to clearly identify employee needs and firm goals, Winston & Strawn was able to expand its parental leave policy to better support the demands of today’s families. Implemented in 2016, the policy allows 20 weeks of paid leave for attorneys regardless of gender to care for and bond with a new baby or child. Additionally, parents are not required to designate themselves as “primary” or “secondary” caregivers. The parental leave can be taken at one time or in two increments within a year of the birth or adoption of a child.

Winston also developed a Parental Leave Transition Support Program that includes a Parental Leave Liaison, an external, confidential career coach, and “ramp down” and “ramp up” periods during which billable hours are adjusted to aid in the transition for new parents. The policy applies to all US-based Associates and Of Counsel attorneys. Improvements also were made to the policies for practice attorneys and staff.


By removing the primary and secondary caregiver designations, Winston & Strawn has been able to shift the focus of parental leave from one that focuses on just women to one that focuses on all parents. Since the implementation of the policy, the firm has seen a consistent year-over-year increase in the percentage of men taking parental leave, as well as the length of leave time taken by men. For example, the average length of parental leave taken by men in 2018 was more than double the average length of time taken prior to the implementation of the policy. In addition, in 2018, over 20% of men taking parental leave took 18-20 weeks, in either one or two increments.

The Parental Leave Liaison and coach have been instrumental in helping attorneys maintain their connection to the firm and feel supported before, during and after their leave, with many associates choosing to participate in the firm-provided coaching. The policy has allowed parents at Winston & Strawn to find long-term career success while also caring for their families. Winston received Family Leave category honors in Yale Law Women’s “Top Family Friendly Firms of 2017,” an honor that will undoubtedly impact recruitment.

Since receiving the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s 2017 Flex Impact Award, Winston & Strawn has been seen as a trailblazer in the field. The firm is helping to drive innovation and inspire other firms to reevaluate their policies to better meet the needs of today’s families. The Alliance has seen an increase in these types of Gender-Neutral policies which can have a significant impact on the culture of flexibility and can clearly impact recruitment and retention.

Please share your Diversity & Flexibility Bright Spots with us by downloading and completing THIS SHORT FORM and emailing it to Jane Caldeira at

Achieving Flex Success®

In this article, our President & CEO, Manar Morales sums up her advice on achieving Flex Success®. It’s not too late to register for our Flex Success Institute, which provides detailed and personalized advice on successfully navigating your flexible schedule.

Over the years, I’ve counseled countless professionals on how to successfully transition to and manage a flexible schedule while maintaining a strong career path. While many professionals can’t imagine cutting back their hours in the office without jeopardizing their careers, I can attest that with the right strategies in place, anyone can achieve Flex Success®.

At the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, we have developed our Seven Strategies for Flex Success® to help professionals working a flexible schedule to overcome challenges, seize opportunities and advance their careers.

Define What Success Means to You

The first step to ensuring that you will be successful while working a flexible schedule is to envision your future plans and define what success means to you. Take the time to clearly map out your one, three, and five-year vision for your personal life as well as your professional life. Include financial and professional development obstacles and needs, as well as personal goals.

Identify What Makes You Special

The second step is to identify what you bring to the table and then capitalize on it. It’s all about self-reflection and self-esteem. The best way to feel confident is to know your strengths and identify what makes you unique. By developing an area of expertise that’s in demand, you make yourself uniquely valuable to your firm or corporation, regardless of your schedule.

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Don’t Forget to Choose Your Responsibilities Wisely & Make Time for Yourself

This is the last in our series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. We’ve covered Defining Your SuccessOwning Your ValueActivating your Mindset and GritCreating Your BrandBuilding Your Network and Expanding Your Business Development Efforts.  Finally it’s time to focus on enhancing your work life control and making sure your life in the office functions along side your life outside the office. To learn more about successfully navigating your flexible schedule and maximizing your career potential, register for our virtual Flex Success® Institute.

The first six strategies in our Seven Strategies for Flex Success® focus on getting your day to day flexible schedule in order to set yourself up for success in your career. It’s essential to acknowledge that this is not possible unless you can also find success and happiness outside of your career.

When launching a project at the office there are certain steps you take to ensure all responsibilities are assigned and all goals will be met. You negotiate and decide to which responsibilities you can add high impact and high value and which responsibilities you can delegate to others. You clearly articulate what is expected of your team and you make sure that your commitments are met. Ultimately you know that you can’t and shouldn’t do it all alone.

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