Spain passed a law in 1999 giving workers with children younger than 7 the right to ask for reduced hours without fear of being laid off. Those who took advantage of it were nearly all women.Claire Cain Miller has a bunch more similar examples at the Times. It seems, as some people feared from the beginning, that such laws help push women onto the "mommy track" where they may have more flexibility but pay a high price in terms of salaries and promotions. Some women choose this path and are probably happy with the trade-offs, so there isn't much to complain about there -- you can't have everything. But some studies have found that these laws make corporations less likely to hire or promote any woman. Nothing reinforces a chauvinist's dismissive attitude toward women like a government mandate requiring special treatment of moms.
Over the next decade, companies were 6 percent less likely to hire women of childbearing age compared with men, 37 percent less likely to promote them and 45 percent more likely to dismiss them, according to a study led by Daniel Fernández-Kranz, an economist at IE Business School in Madrid. The probability of women of childbearing age not being employed climbed 20 percent. Another result: Women were more likely to be in less stable, short-term contract jobs, which are not required to provide such benefits.
I, of course, think that we are all too obsessed with work and salaries and promotions, and I am not sure women passed over for promotion have really lost anything. Certainly nothing that compares to a child. But plenty of women do care about these things, and it is only fair to note that laws benefiting less ambitious women with children can end up having major economic impacts, and may exact a particular toll on the lean-in crowd. Ranting about sexist male managers and hoping they all die is not going to help here; it would be nice if we were all more understanding, but there isn't any way to mandate that, and for the foreseeable future we are stuck with a lot of sexist jerks in leadership roles.