It’s no secret that we believe that transparency is a key driver of change.
From advocating for pay gap reporting with our Champions for Change, masterclasses on the matter, to holding space for the power of salary transparency and banding, we’ve had many a kōrero on the power this level of accountability has in advancing equity.
Recent moves in Aotearoa show that transparency through reporting is gathering steam: Mind The Gap’s Pay Gap registry, launched this year, being one such example.
So, is it time to apply this lense to other matters of equity?
In kōrero with Stephanie Pow of Crayon, the answer is a clear yes. It’s time for paid parental leave policies to be sung from the rooftops — while being put under a spotlight.
Enter Crayon: Crayon is building the most comprehensive database of parental leave policies in New Zealand. The register will be a public and living resource for employees, HR teams, employers and thousands of passionate Kiwis who seek better support for working parents — plus the better productivity outcomes for the nation as a whole.
We talk to founder Stephanie on exactly what Crayon has in store for New Zealand, how we can help the cause gain momentum — as well as hear a personal note on what inspired Stephanie to bring Crayon to life.
Can you tell us more on what inspired you to start Crayon?
Three years ago, I welcomed my first child. Even though I had an MBA from the top finance school in the world and had worked in the industry since I was 18, I got a rude financial shock. Like many new parents, I realised you face a whole set of money-related challenges that traditional finance does not prepare you for.
If two parents, each earning the NZ median income of $56,000 per annum, take their full parental leave entitlement (52 weeks for the primary carer and 2 weeks for the partner) and receive the government parental leave payments, their household is $42,600 worse off that year pre-tax. As a result, 70% of women return to work before they want to, largely due to financial constraints (source). At the same time your income falls, your expenses shoot up. Baby-related costs on a medium-spend budget are $15,834 in the first year, based on 2018 figures (source).
Few areas of our lives are unaffected by financial stress, but the additional weight of being responsible for another raises the stakes. The reality is that money can influence many key parenting decisions, from the types of future opportunities a child has to the stability of the environment they grow up in. It comes as no surprise that finances routinely rank as the #1 concern for families.
Parenting is hard enough – I figured there had to be a way to take some of the financial stress out of it and that’s why I started Crayon.
How does Crayon benefit NZ as a whole?
We’re on a mission to reduce financial stress for parents.
First, as I discovered first-hand, it’s hard to feel like a successful parent when money concerns weigh on you. A growing body of research shows that parents who experience financial stress are more likely to experience parenting difficulties. Most of us are trying our best, and our philosophy at Crayon is to help you make smart money moves so you can be the parent you want to be.
“It’s hard to be a great employee when you’re financially stressed. In addition to the burden the employee wears, the employer also faces costs.”
Second, it’s hard to be a great employee when you’re financially stressed. In addition to the burden the employee wears, the employer also faces costs. Financially stressed employees lose 358 hours of productive work, take four extra sick days per year (source) and are twice as likely to look for a new job (source). The more Crayon can guide parents through this financially challenging chapter of their lives, the more they’ll be able to contribute to their workplace.
Our ultimate goal is to make financial decisions simpler and more intuitive for parents by creating financial roadmaps for every stage of parenthood. To begin with, we’re focusing on expecting parenthood because that’s where the rubber hits the road, financially. We’re helping parents navigate this chapter of their lives by building The New Zealand Parental Leave Register, launching a baby prep course (like antenatal class for your money) and offering free tools and resources on our website.
What has the response to Crayon been like so far?
The most common sentiment we hear is, “I wish Crayon had been around when I had my child!” It’s good to know we’re solving a real pain point for people. There are so many unknowns that come with parenthood, and it can really shake your confidence. The more we can demystify the financial ones, the more ready new parents will be to navigate this next chapter of their lives.
“Our overarching principle is to work constructively with employers to build a verified database. We’re not here to rank or rate employers based on their parental leave policy.”
What would be your advice to employers sitting on the fence to joining the register?
Our overarching principle is to work constructively with employers to build a verified database. We’re not here to rank or rate employers based on their parental leave policy.
Our goal is to make the information publicly available so Kiwis can make informed choices. In New Zealand, an employee has to be at the employer for 12 months before they’re eligible for full parental leave entitlements from the government, so it’s really important that prospective and current employees have access to this information.
We celebrate the employers who have a government standard policy and choose to join the register as much as the employers with market-leading policies because they’re all committed to transparency.
“There’s nothing better than reading notes from parents and parents-to-be that they’ve turned a corner in their financial journey or they feel really confident and relaxed going into parenthood.”
What are you most proud of, to date with Crayon?
We’re a small but mighty team, and we’re honoured to work with people through an exciting, personal and often overwhelming period of their lives. I’m proud that we’re able to provide tools and resources that genuinely help people make good decisions.
There’s nothing better than reading notes from parents and parents-to-be that they’ve turned a corner in their financial journey or they feel really confident and relaxed going into parenthood.
What are your hopes for all working parents?
My hope is that all parents can feel financially confident so that they can worry less about money and focus more on the people and passions most important to them.
With respect to the register specifically, my hope is that it becomes common practice and expected of employers to disclose their policy. Until that time, we want to provide the most comprehensive, up-to-date database we can and for as many employers to sign up as soon as possible.