Jessica Dimmock demands change in Director Guild’s parental leave policies

Caroline Hendrix, Contributing Writer

New mothers in the United States are not guaranteed paid maternity leave, and for directors like Jessica Dimmock, this harsh reality cannot continue.

Using her social media platform, Dimmock created a petition which has banded together a powerful force of females in Hollywood, all of whom are demanding change alongside her. Instrumental players in the Hollywood scene such as Reese Witherspoon, Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay, Amy Poehler and Amy Schumer have already shown their support for this cause. Dimmock and others who have signed the petition hope that the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) will alter their parental leave policies to ensure that new parents are able to take time off work to care for their newborn.

One of the DGA’s most controversial moves to this end is a form of reverse-means-tested parental leave policy, which has deprived health benefits from directors and their family members who earn below a certain wage. How can the DGA stomach taking health benefits away from a woman and her newborn? Birthing a child produces a variety of health risks for both the child and the mother; if their care isn’t covered for, they may not receive the treatment they need. According to the New York Times, Dimmock’s daughter had to undergo regular X-rays and sonograms due to health problems since her birth in 2017. Without insurance to cover those appointments, the costs of using expensive hospital equipment and receiving multiple treatments can add up to a fortune — costs that are simply not in the budget for most families in the United States.

It is no secret that the entertainment industry still has a steep hill to climb before equality for men, women and gender-nonconforming employees can be guaranteed. According to one New York Times piece, nine out of every ten directing jobs go to men. If women are not getting the opportunity to work, then they cannot be expected to receive the minimum earnings to keep their health benefits. If anything, they should be given a longer period of time to earn that wage requirement – one possible outcome of Dimmock’s petition. Another possibility is that the DGA lowers the minimum earnings that directors are required to meet in order to keep their health insurance.

Women in Hollywood are demanding change, but the entertainment industry is not the only workspace in the United States which needs to amend its maternity leave policies. Parents both in and out of this country are punished for having to take time off from work to care for their newborn. The New York Times introduces a shocking truth: women who appear to be pregnant are less likely to get a job in the industry. While this prejudice might be unconscious for some employers, that does not make it acceptable. Directorial jobs and many similar professions require traveling and putting in long hours, which employers think pregnant women cannot do – and which they often have to in order to keep their health benefits, especially for those in situations similar to Dimmock’s. Hopefully, with more women like Dimmock raising awareness, substantial – and necessary – change can be made for women in the workforce.

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